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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Apparently some in progressive Blogistan appear troubled by Sen. Obama.
You can see some of that at Hotline where the National Journal catches the confusion; as does MyDD:
Is it Bill Clinton’s fault? Or Lieberman’s? Or is it just common confusion over the demographic, best expressed at Pam’s House Blend whose term slippage in her title “Obama: Dems need to court the fundies” reveals the all too common broad generalization of faith in America?
Pam, what was that AP story title again?
But the most interesting debate occurs over at DailyKos spin off Street Prophets. Because many of the people leaving comments were actually present, and liked it. Chuck Currie posts:
“These days there are a lot of people on the political left who recoil at the mention of religion. Sadly, people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have defined for many what it means to be Christian. Secularists, said Obama, “are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.”
Here is Sen. Obama the next day, “So my point was that we need to have a more complex, more nuanced conversation about religion. And if we do that, then I think the whole country benefits.”
Oh, wait, a politician calling for nuance, is that how they usually court fundamentalists? See McCain in Lynchberg. By the way, Atrios et al, more nuance and complexity will only help with building a good wall of separation of church and state.
Here is Sen. Obama exhibiting some of that nuance:
“the history of the separation of church and state is what has allowed religious freedom to thrive in this country, and that when we talk about issues, it’s also important for us to recognize that there are folks who are non-believers, who are of different faiths, and we’ve got to translate whatever moral concerns or religious concerns that we have in a universal language that all Americans can talk about.”
Courting Destiny expresses that usual knee-jerk fear, writing, “Take away one little little piece of The First Amendment and the door opens for the entire First Amendment to be looked at and revised. Do most Evangelicals and other church going Americans want The first Amendment to be tampered with (sic)? I doubt it.”
As The Green Knight points out: “What he is doing is talking about long-term strategy for winning and for making positive change in the country.”
And I would add that the political chessboard doesn’t get smaller just because one disdains much of it. Over 250 million Americans believe in God and most of them even affiliate themselves with organized religion. The key to making America better for more people is to capture and control more the rhetorical ground. What Obama articulated is a progressive openness toward religion that will reduce the amount of value language available to the religious Right.
But most importantly, analyzing the rhetoric of Sen. Obama’s speech reveals that some folks are not reading it carefully. Read it again, he is on your side.
In fact, Sen. Obama, who admits to doubt, works to recontextualize the usual shibboleths.
The secular world needs to distinguish between means and ends. Usually, “separation of church and state” is their term, but Obama allows sharp evangelicals to see it as their term as well, raised as an historical wall against majoritarian pressure.
And now to the point that has many Kossacks boiling: “It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase `under God.’”
What Obama is really saying is that kids repeating “under God” is essentially meaningless, which is exactly what a good atheist believes.
Of course the state shouldn’t force us to say what we think is metaphysically meaningless, but on a functional (and tactical) level, the strict separationist actually infuses the phrase with meaning by directly attacking it. Much wiser to treat the term as meaningless, not just believe it. Instead, progressives win when they avoid making symbols out of what the Right can use to appeal to broad swaths of Americana.
Better to argue from the positive, by saying let’s mix mangers, dreidels, and sleighs because we are a diverse people and we respect everyone, etc., rather than pushing no mangers and crosses period. By diffusing the meaning of symbols, progressive pluralism brings the battle to our turf along with a foundation of values which appeals to the other 90% of people. I hate to argue from historical determinism but it is clear that the evangelical mind is opening and finding common ground with the rest of the world. Poverty, AIDS, the environment–if you are not aware of this, read more widely here!
Most of these kids graduating from Wheaton, Azusa, Westmont, BIOLA and Hope are bored with the old fights, and so are a new generation of Catholics. I know because I just sat in a room with several hundred of them, one of whom has been living on the Arizona boarder bringing water to migrants as they cross. She received a lot of applause. She may say “under God” but frankly her actions speak much louder than what those words symbolize to those on the far Right or left. Something is changing in the battle, and real liberal hope–an American government for the common good–just might materialize if we continue to welcome folks like her and Senator Obama into our “Democratic” process.
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EJ Dionne in the Washington Post is almost always worth one’s time, and this morning is must read material. He calls Sen. Obama’s Wednesday speech,
what may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican.
High praise, and almost certainly not the last time that the junior senator from Illinois will be compared to the man who was once the junior senator from Massachusetts.
It’s telling to contrast what made those two speeches groundbreaking. Kennedy was set to run for the presidency, to become our nation’s first Catholic president. Worried about anti-Catholic attacks on his loyalty to country like those that hampered Gov. Al Smith of New York in the presidential election of ’28, Kennedy delivers an address to Southern Baptist leaders that underscored the limits of his faith. It essentially boils down to, ‘I’m a Catholic, but I’m not going to take orders from the pope.’ Imagine that, a Democrat needing to convince voters that his faith wouldn’t matter TOO MUCH.
Fast forward almost fifty years to Wednesday at the Call to Renewal conference in DC. A lot has changed in the party of Kennedy, so much so that conservative Catholics like to make the near-blasphemous claim that JFK would have run as a Republican today. Sen. Obama delivers his address not to assure Americans that he’ll maintain the separation of church and state, but to reassert that progressives don’t need to advocate a public square stripped of all faith and values.
There’s a lot to say about the particulars of Obama’s speech, but the contrast between these two historic speeches makes it crystal clear how necessary the senator’s words were on Wednesday. If his call for fairminded dialogue is heeded, America and all working for the common good will be stronger for it.
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The headline in the Los Angeles Times screams at us, “War’s Iraqi Death Toll Tops 50,000.” But we may have become tone deaf. At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion! The toll is devastating. The documented cases show a country descending into violence, as the headline article elaborates. The tone deafness on our part to others’ suffering is due to the fact that we only focus on our own 2520 U.S. deaths. It’s only our blood that matters. This is a war to save the civilization, and damn those who oppose this administration, while the most threatened and hated Americans are Muslims.
It is not only death, but it is the fact that untold numbers of civilian lives are broken and fractured. There is a loss of the sanctity of life.
We in the religious community must stop courting death. We must sanctify life with our own weapons of respecting all and reaching out to our enemies, not destroying them. We must fight hatred for the rest of our lives. We must not be silent or indifferent to the intricacies and manipulations of government leaders, whether Republicans or Democrats.
Our religious vision of revenge must be in fighting hatred with the power that we bring in the interfaith community. We must lower the walls of ignorance that have allowed hatred to ferment to such heights. We must stand up to the rising cultures of hate, accusation, and deceit.
Finally, the sacredness of life was best articulated by the father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist beheaded and killed in 2002. Judea Pearl, sharing lunch with me last week, spoke of hatred. “Military battles,” he said, “are won in two parallel ways: by making your enemy weaker, and by making your troops stronger.” The same applies to battles of hatred. In addition to curtailing ignorance in the world at large, we must empower the troops of peace here at home, and our children and grandchildren to be the elite forces of these troops.
This is what the sanctity of life must be! There are powerful voices in our community who are speaking out against the immorality of war. It is time we come together to speak out.
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, Faith in Public Life Board Member
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