Thursday, June 29, 2006

Looking for faith in the Left

I am a conservative person. My faith in Christ pervades my life, and because of that, even my political views are shaped by the teachings of Jesus and the Bible.

I have voted for Republicans since I was able to vote, and I have supported Republican candidates since I first actively supported candidates. I have worked, as an intern, for a branch of the Republican Party, and I have worked (again, as an intern) for a Republican Member of Congress.

One of the reasons that I have been a strong suppporter of the Republican Party over the years is because that Party welcomes and takes seriously people of faith. The party stands up for issues that are important to me, and does not shun faith as a legitimate and (even) important source of political understandings.

At the same time, the Democratic Party never seemed, to me, to be as welcoming or to be as willing to engage me as a man of faith.

While I am a Republican, and intend to continue as a Republican, I have seen close friends troubled by Democrats' willingness to ignore or give token support to people of faith. That's why comments from Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) seem like a positive development to me.

Sen. Obama gave a speech to a group of Democrats and liberal persons at a convention this week, and what he had to say seems like something worth applauding. I still won't support his policies, and I will disagree with him on many important things (things that I feel many Republicans get right, where he gets wrong). But I admire his willingness to stand up to the pervasive secularism that has crept into the political left in our country.

Again, while I wouldn't support their policies, wouldn't it be wonderful if sincere people of faith -- people who took serious a commitment to Jesus Christ and the Bible -- were on the other side of arguments? Wouldn't the culture wars calm down somewhat? Indeed, if the secularists got the boot, would the culture wars even continue?

We can argue about taxes, immigration, and so on and still cling to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I pray that it will happen.

Follows is a sample of Senator Obama's speech, and a link to the complete speech, here. Both are worth reading.

* * *

"So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

"'Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.'

"The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be 'totalizing.' His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

"But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight 'right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose.' The doctor went on to write:

"'I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded....You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others...I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.'

"Fair-minded words.

"So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

"Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

"So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own -- a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

"It's a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It's a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you."

* * *

FEELING: Hopeful for our country
LISTENING TO: Some of the attorneys getting excited about the impending announcement of the verdict in the Siegelman (former governor of Alabama) corruption trial


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