samedi, janvier 12, 2008

A quadrennial mirror
Believers have a lot riding on their votes
By Elizabeth
Published: Jan 12, 2008 12:01 AM EST
The 2008 presidential primaries have only just begun, but it is by no means too early for people of faith to ask themselves how their beliefs will or will not influence the votes they cast.
One thing is certain: We will make those determinations in a social setting that has undergone a quiet but profound revolution, offering new hope along with entrenched challenges.
Watching the two leading Democrats as they are swept up in a wave of social change long in coming, it is almost impossible not to be deeply moved.
Regardless of who wins in November, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are powerful icons. Their very prominence is the fruit of our long national struggle for racial and gender equality, a struggle underlined and echoed in our country's religious history.
As joyful as it is to see us move beyond the racial and gender polarization of the past, let's not kid ourselves: We still have a long way to go.
Although a formal religious "test" for public office is prohibited by the Constitution, various factions will undoubtedly be applying an informal one.
Sorting out religious differences is more likely to be a concern for Republican voters, particularly evangelicals.
Mormon practitioner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has already come under scrutiny. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has an uneasy relationship with the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, also may have to field some uncomfortable questions.
Though no one questions the religious commitment of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, his decision to declare a Christian Heritage Week in Arkansas and his push to restrict abortions and get medical insurance for children living in poverty, among others, also are controversial because they seem to blur the line between church and state.
For various reasons, at least in this primary season, the specific beliefs of the Democratic candidates are not as likely to be hotly debated.
That is partly because Clinton, Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are comfortable — to one extent or another — talking about how their religious beliefs affect their lives.
Not only is their faith part of their campaign rhetoric, its threaded through their biographies.
Yet their party's sometimes-awkward embrace of belief and nonbelief, ardent secularists and equally convinced people of faith may prove nettlesome to some conservative Democrats and independents.
As believers grapple with how much their beliefs should influence their votes, they must move with discerning caution in seeking direction.
Shining a spotlight on Jesus and his relationships, the Gospels provide principles and guidelines rather than laws.
To the question: "How would Jesus vote?" the answer probably is: Jesus, who lived in an occupied land under the rule of an empire, wouldn't vote.
In the Gospel according to Luke, Luke told spies who tried to entrap him into just such a dispute about secular and religious power to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:25).
Yet as citizens of a democracy, we are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping our nation's course.
While we don't have Gospel specifics, we do see that Jesus' own standard seemed to be one of integrity, the coherence of belief and of action.
How salutary it would be for our candidates, as well as for ourselves, if we ask them to try harder to attain that particular standard.
How wonderful it would be if we demand that they cease the backbiting and snide attacks, bringing civility back to the public square.
If we were to do that, of course, we'd have to apply the same lens to our own behavior.
In this fluid cultural climate, we are forced to ask ourselves not only how we judge a candidate's character, but also how we see ourselves.
Will we be part of perpetuating the old walls of division? Or will we dare to reach across the boundaries that keep us from truly knowing each other, knowing that we will be changed in the process.
The presidential primaries are not solely about the aspirations of a group of fascinating but imperfect public servants.
It also is about our own.

vendredi, janvier 11, 2008

Hillary tears up-a defeat for American women?

There's a lot of hyperbole going around in this winter of our discontent. Perenially bewildered by the Clintons, political pundits have spent a good part of this past week examining a few minutes in New Hampshire, when candidate Clinton actually seemed to be close to shedding a tear.

Although she makes what I think is a very helpful point in her 'blog post from yesterday (see link), Judith Warner is also guilty of contributing to the plethora of navel-gazing essays and interviews on this fleeting phenonemon.

It's ok to feel empathy for a tired woman. I would hope that in this more enlightened age, we'd feel some empathy if John/John or Mike or even Rudy came close to tears. It would be darned good for the country if these very macho males felt secure enough to get a little emotional without worrying that they'd be watching themselves tear up (almost) for years afterwards on Fox or CNN...or Oprah.

If candidate Hillary cries again, the press will vivisect her.

Another wet-eyed moment would signal typical Clintonian artifice, they will claim. Weakness. An impending nervous breakdown.

I read Warner's piece right after a piece on the 20 year old pregnant Marine who complained about the alleged advances of a higher-up, and apparently paid the ultimate price. Two lives lost-a mother-to-be and her child.

Don't tell me women are playing on an equal field now, and we can examine a candidate on the merits. But also, don't assert that to be critical of her is to be unfair or sexist.

Fact is, I won't be judging Clinton by an emotional moment in a coffee shop in New Hampshire. I'll be wondering how she proposes to protect women much more vulnerable than her when they risk not just their careers, but their very lives.

jeudi, janvier 10, 2008

Moderation is sexy

I have to admit that I really like the New York Times columnist Gail Collins. She is funny without being snarky, like Maureen Dowd. This column about why Hillary won in New Hampshire tells us that the political press is just as clueless as we are-which is kind of fun. Heck, I think they are having the time of their lives.

But stuck in between the gentle jibes at Hillary, Fred, John and the state of South Dakota is a significant comment about Barack Obama and his exhortation to politeness.

This country is sick of the hostility of the past seven years. It continously seems, whether Democrat or Republican, as though one party would do anything to keep the other one from any legislative achievements. As the members of Congress achieve their petty little gotchas, the economy tanks, global warming surges, and the Middle East boils.

Learning to talk to, instead of around or behind one another, is actually a big part of the solution.
So, yes, in his own moderate way, Obama is bringing sexy back!

mercredi, janvier 09, 2008

A real race

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a horserace in both parties, which can only be good for the country.

On the Republican side, John McCain, who was left for dead on the side of the road a few months ago, is again a contender. Mitt Romney, who could pour $250 mil or so of his own money into the race (can you imagine the ego it takes to do that?) and Mike Huckabee are still in contention. More so than the Democrats, the Republicans are what my son would call "shapechangers."

Romney and Huckabee seem to be running on an anti-immigrant platform, pandering to the fears of Americans who are watching us topple into reccession and wondering how to retrain in a global economy. Guiliani keeps beating that old terror anthem-do you think he's got another song? McCain, who is perhaps a more honorable guy, also needs to be observed carefully-he isn't always consistent.

As to the Democrats? It's good for them that Hillary won last night. I still wonder what Obama really stands for, and I still worry about Hillary's paranoia and sense of entitlement. But watching Obama last night, I was touched by the power of his oratory and his talent for connecting with our better selves-the people we'd like to be.

As for Hillary? She's a less exciting speaker. She looks like your fifth grade science teacher. And her speeches verge on the wonkish. But I had to keep doing a double take as I watched the two candidates last night. Who would have guessed that our two strongest candidates would be a woman and a black man. After seven years, we have an opportunity-not just for pride, but for real hope.

dimanche, janvier 06, 2008

Hypocrite or holy woman?

Check out the story link-I was so happy to be in the Post (and, to be honest, so used to getting favorable reactions to my commentaries) that I was surprised when the reaction to this one has been unfavorable. The point of some of my readers? Because I'm not including the fact that I'm ordained in my dating profile, I'm being dishonest.

As I pointed out to one of the folks leaving a comment and accusing me of bad faith, I don't work for the religious establishment anymore. Thus I don't see a critical moral need to say in my profile that I'm ordained. Once I see if someone is really interested in me, not just my photos, then it's an appropriate time to fill them how my vocation and beliefs have made me who I am-and vice versa. That's sacred ground-holy territory.

I'm guessing that Ms. Brown, the woman who wrote, probably didn't include a lot of items that were important to her, but seemed too personal or sensitive for such a public document.

I have only seen, in my recollection, one profile where a clergyman alluded to his job-although one can figure some of the other ones out.

What do you think? Would you include that information on a dating profile? Have you ever had an occupation you didn't list? When is it appropriate to reveal these sensitive items?