One more word (promises, promises) on Sen. Obama’s speech last week. Or, rather, a word on what has come since. The blogosphere has seen a number of spirited exchanges on the virtues or failings of the Senator’s remarks. There have been reasoned and intelligent statements both for and against the Senator’s general argument. There have also been a number of harsh, unfairminded attacks from blog commentors. There’s no doubt that passions run high around issues of faith in politics, but precisely because the stakes are so high it’s important that the tone of these disagreements be on pitch.
It wasn’t an accident that Sen. Obama ended his address with a call for ‘fair-minded words.’ Surely he knew that his words would spark controversy on both the left and right. It may be a potential weakness of the blogosphere that the relative anonymity of the space allows for ad hominem attacks without the practical risks of doing so in person or the mainstream media (ie personal retribution, or a good ole’ fashioned knuckle sandwich). Because the task of honest, fair engagement is so difficult, and because part of our mission at Faith in Public Life is to broker those sorts of discussions both in the blogosphere and in the more concrete world, it seems appropriate to give hat tips to those who have done well with their criticism.
So in the spirit of encouraging those who know how to strongly disagree with each other, but in the right way, check out a few of these exchanges. Mik Moore over at Jspot, Pastor Dan at Street Prophets, Chuck Currie, and the Talk2Action crowd all have different takes on the matter at hand. But things don’t get personal, and you know that all involved (and I think Sen. Obama is included in this group) are seeking, to borrow Dan’s words, ‘the line from doubt to the need to humility to the need to come together.’ Bruce Wilson also left a strong but fair comment over on Alex’s last post. Those who fail to meet these standards of discourse get no particular calling out, because they don’t deserve any more attention.
I honestly believe that there’s something very out of touch with how the American people view religion in the divisive rhetoric of the Religious Right. A robust internal debate about the place of religion in progressive politics can be a great sign of strength rather than division, if that debate takes place within a context of shared common good goals, fairminded words, and the American democracy that we all treasure. I’d love to see some of these voices that know how to argue the right way model that for the blogosphere. What fertile ground to be tilling the week before so many of us are getting together for the Blog Con.
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Some bloggers criticize Sen. Barack Obama for saying that a few folks in the secular world need to tolerate religion in public life. The prolific Frederick Clarkson, over at Talk2Action, objects to this Right lingo from Obama, Wallis, and even Lerner, saying that they lose the frame game by using the secular label, a term that functions as a straw man in political rhetoric.
He is right to point out that the Right has abused liberals as secularists for far too long. But changing the topic, reframing, or saying: “hey, stop, no one here really hates religion” is not the only way. As Mother Jones recently published, the school of framing has its limits. Good frames are hard to come by, and until someone comes up with something better than Lakoff’s “freedom judges,” there are some religious moderates ready to convert progressive ideas into political action.
And the Political Animal blog shows that on this issue, some good progressives fear the frame more than the reality. Kevin Drum writes:
“But the plain fact is that he [Obama] was careful in his speech and also plainly correct: “some” liberals are uncomfortable with any mention of religion in the public square, and he thinks this is too bad. He also recognizes that just saying so isn’t enough.”
“It’s a funny thing. When I post about religion, I usually get two kinds of comments. The first is people telling me that I’m falling into a conservative trap by even entertaining the idea that some liberals are contemptuous toward religion. The second is snarky liberal secularists telling everyone else to take their stupid myths and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine.”
Attacking our team for using words like “secular” actually undercuts the good side. We need good frames; but we also must have good framers, and the people doing to the talking have to establish their creditability. This sometimes means that we will hear some familiar language.
In fact, what astute folks like Wallis and Obama do is give the growing number of moderate believers room to get progressive without losing their religious bona fides. Now the faithful say, with increasing confidence: If Wallis, Campolo, et al still see room for improvement for the Left, then maybe I can care about the environment, poverty, etc.
Merely fighting the “secular” shibboleth” often works to reinforce its presence in the minds of our opponents. When moving moderate minds, it helps to take control of a familiar term and then wield it for a higher purpose. Perhaps we can reframe not just words but the whole debate, and thereby acclimatize moderates to the heady ideals of progressivism.
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Talk2Action notes evangelical Christians are being offered two free tickets to see Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth.
On the site, Carlos writes:
“The tickets are available at the Inconvenient Christians website. The evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, is also encouraging its readers to go see the movie. It is good to see evangelicals broadening their list of social concerns and this should have political consequences for the Christian Right-Republican alliance.”
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On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News featured Jewish Funds for Justice Jspot as its blog of the week. Showin’ off why they are so good, Jspot investigates a NYTimes article about the Memphis Statue of Liberation Through Christ.
And over at Even the Devils Believe, Catholic blogger Chris reverses the interfaith dialogue and talks about a Jewish situation in Delaware. What a great community; everyone’s watching each others’ religio-political backs.
Blogging about Sen. Obama, Pearlbear gets a mention in Slate. She’s happy.
Not happy, Xpatriated Texan looks at the Republican reaction to the Supreme Court 5-3 decision reining in the Bush Administration on its treatment of the Git-Mo detainees. After hearing McCain’s “expression concern” with the decision, the ex-pat Texan writes, “This is the last scrap of evidence I need to declare John McCain has officially gone over to the dark side.”
At the Christian Alliance for Progress “Community Forum” page, the folks are sick and tired of progressives talking about framing issues without appearing to get anything accomplished. Ding writes:
“as a progressive woman of faith i’d like to see my fellow democrats stand in front of something without flinching when the crap starts to fly. as a progressive woman of faith i’d like to see some policies on the ground that demonstrate our progressive policies are the best for us and this country.
(hello, paid family & medical leave; hello, increasing the eitc; hello, increasing the minimum wage; hello, broadening access to higher education.)”
Taking some time off of politics and reflecting on the holiday, UU minister and blogger Seeking Sophia shares her personal reasons for mostly not enjoying holidays while Time’s Fool reports about the “luxury” of being at a small-town July 4th celebration.
Hitting it big in Dallas, Slate and now, the Catholic League: Over at Street Prophets, Frank declares victory with the news that the Catholic League has mentioned the “Religious Left” as an opponent in its support of government bans on gay marriage.
And finally, Street Prophets has some religious commentary on how a good person should respond to the news of Ken Lays’ death. Commenting, Betty Black shares her first three stages: 1) suicide?; 2) good riddance; 3) damn, he skipped out on justice. But she concludes: “. . . really the tragedy is that such an managerially capable mind was put to such spurious and nefarious use.”
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Feeling patriotic this weekend? Take some action to ensure that all of your fellow citizens have equal access to the vote. The Voting Rights Act is among the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation in our nations’ history. It enjoys broad bi-partisan support, but is being held up in the House by a determined group of GOP legislators. Check out this page to see how faith leaders are speaking up to break this Congressional logjam before the VRA can expire. For more info, check out www.renewthevra.org. Happy 4th!
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