Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sojourner's candidate's debate

There are I suppose several reasons for not discussing things like religion and politics. Not the lease of those reasons would be that it's very likely to tick someone off. Another reason is that I may be setting myself up as an expert on things about which my understanding is seriously lacking.

But as well, to not talk about such things would not be good, either. I am a religious person, I am a Christian of a sort that would be considered conservative--I believe the Bible is the inspired and innerrant Word of God, in God as Trinity or Godhead--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being one God, faith and belief in Christ as necessary for salvation. I am also a citizen of my country, and as such politics must be a concern of mine.

The nature of a blog seems to me to be of a "public musings" sort, although I've also been around some that are more like debate forums. Consider these musings. There may be disagreement, and that is expected. My musings may even be wrong, and I may have misunderstood things. I am not an expert, only someone giving his own observations and opinions.

That being said, let us be off...

There is a certain 'progressive Christian' publication called Sojourners who has sponsored an event this past week, one part of which was a debate among certain presidential candidates. There were three candidates in the debate, and all three were Democrats--Edwards, Obama, and Clinton. For the record, I give those names in the order in which they appear in the transcript.

Here is a link to the transcript.


I want to give some excerpts from this transcript, and some thoughts on them.

O'BRIEN: But I will -- so I'll just ask it again, maybe more pointedly. Do you think homosexuals have the right to be married?

EDWARDS: No. Not personally. Now you're asking about me personally. But I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are. It is the reason we have separation of church and state. And there are very good people, including some people that I'm very close to me, my daughter who is sitting in the front row here tonight, feels very differently about this issue. And I have huge respect for those who have a different view about this. So I think we have to be very careful about ensuring that the president of the United States is not using his belief system and imposing that belief system on the rest of the country. So what that...

This is an interesting statement, I think. I suppose the broader questions would be something like this--What is the connection between laws and morals? Can we rightly make morality into law?

Let us say, no, there may be times when morality cannot rightly be made into law. Some moral standards simply cannot be legislated--we may rightly tell people to not covet, for example, but how could such a thing be determined, let alone enforced? Covetousness is not a thing, not even really an act.

But there is morality that can be legislated, and I would say that any law is to some extent based on morality. We have laws against theft and murder because we have a moral standard that says that theft and murder are wrong. Even in controversial cases such as abortion and socialistic economic policies, the contention is not that murder or theft are right, but that those actions do not fall under the categories of murder or theft.

Let me ask another question--can we trust someone who believes one way, but votes another?
I don't think this a simple question, either, but not as much. I'm not going to deny the possibility one someone going against their beliefs in making a decision concerning rules, but more often then not I think we expect leaders to make decisions according to what they think is right or wrong.

So, let's say that what Edwards is voicing is a conflict of interest of some kind, let's say between his religious beliefs and his views of personal rights.

I'm really not certain what to make of that, at this moment. I respect the rights given to US citizens in our Constitution, but I'm not certain that there is a real conflict here. I think that Edwards creates the conflict because what he wants requires him to take a position his beliefs say is wrong.

O'BRIEN: Do you think this is a Christian nation?

EDWARDS: No, I think this is a nation -- I mean I'm a Christian; there are lots of Christians in United States of America. I mean, I have a deep and abiding love for my Lord, Jesus Christ, but that doesn't mean that those who come from the Jewish faith, those who come from the Muslim faith, those who come from -- those who don't believe in the existence of God at all, that they don't -- that they're not entitled to have their beliefs respected. They're absolutely entitled to have their beliefs respected. It is one of the basis for which our democracy was founded.

I do not think that saying this is a Christian nation necessarily means that people of other beliefs are not allowed to follow those beliefs. The US has never been a perfect nation, and some of its faults have been ugly, but the influence of Christianity on the US is no secret, either.

EDWARDS:I think it's a completely achievable agenda. There are lots of components to that agenda. Making work pay, having a living wage, making sure that workers can organize themselves into unions, having decent housing for families that don't have it, having true universal health care, helping kids be able to go to college, which is why I started a college for everyone program for kids in a very poor section of eastern North Carolina. And I believe this is an agenda that should be the agenda -- one of the agendas -- part of the agenda of the president of the United States, so there's not much doubt about where I am on this issue.

This was in reply to a question about poverty, and these seem to be Edward's ideas. Getting into each thing he mentioned is beyond me for the moment, although personally I don't think his ideas are workable; for example, the places where universal health care has been attempted have shown that it has hardly been the panacea people like Edwards thinks it will be. It is enough for now to show how socialistic his ideas are.

OBAMA: Well, I think our starting point has to be based on the notion that I just expressed, that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, that we are connected as a people, that when, as I said in my speech at the Boston convention, when there's a child somewhere here in Washington, D.C., who is impoverished in a crumbling school without prospects and hope for the future, then that impoverishes me. If there's a veteran in Chicago that's foraging through a dumpster because he's now homeless because we did not provide him the services that he needed after he served our country, that diminishes all of our patriotism.

I think I can best both agree and voice reservations about Obama's statement here with a quote from G.K. Chester, from 'What's Wrong With the World'.

This is the arresting and dominant fact about modern
social discussion; that the quarrel is not merely about
the difficulties, but about the aim. We agree about the evil;
it is about the good that we should tear each other's eyes cut.
We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad thing.
We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy would
be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood;
but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one.
Everyone is indignant if our army is weak, including the people
who would be even more indignant if it were strong.
The social case is exactly the opposite of the medical case.
We do not disagree, like doctors, about the precise nature
of the illness, while agreeing about the nature of health.
On the contrary, we all agree that England is unhealthy, but half
of us would not look at her in what the other half would call blooming
health . Public abuses are so prominent and pestilent that they
sweep all generous people into a sort of fictitious unanimity.
We forget that, while we agree about the abuses of things,
we should differ very much about the uses of them.
Mr. Cadbury and I would agree about the bad public house.
It would be precisely in front of the good public-house that our
painful personal fracas would occur.

OBAMA: Well, we've got a bill in right now that says at minimum, shareholders should take a look at these executive pay scales, and they should be able to vote on whether these are appropriate or not. That I think would provide some constraint. I also would like to see executives recognize that when they're getting as much in one day as their average worker is getting in an entire year, that there is a moral element to that. That that's problematic.


OBAMA: But look, America is a land of success, and that's terrific. We just want to make sure that people are sharing in the burdens and benefits of this global economy.

I think there is something dangerous in this thinking of his. As he says, America is a land of success, or where people are free to succeed.

When I was on missions in Russia, my monthly support would have been at poverty level here, but in Russia it was enough to live fairly well. I do not apologize for that, nor was I the only one whose support was at such a level. We also had some who struggled, and knew people from there who struggled, not to mention those who begged on the sidewalks.

We did not have any kind of "maximum support" mechanism in our base to distribute what would be deemed 'excess support' to those who didn't reach that level, nor was it required that we give to others. But we did help each other, in obvious and subtle ways, and help others too. I'm not going into ways, but they happened.

To put up a "salary cap" (to borrow a phrase from sports), especially on a national level, simply doesn't make sense to me. For one thing, time in Russia is a good cure for thinking socialism is good--even after ten years, the mess communism caused was still evident. And let's be honest, what Obama speaks of is at least a low-grade form of socialism.

Shall we say, America is a land of success, but only up to a point? That we do not want people to have too much success? At which point, who decides what is enough and too much success?

CLINTON: And that is what I have tried to both talk about and reach out about over the last many years, going back, really, at least 15 years, in talking about abortion being safe, legal, and rare. And, by rare, I mean rare. And it's been a challenge, because the pro-life and the pro- choice communities have not really been willing to find much common ground. And I think that is a great failing on all of our parts, because, for me...


CLINTON: ... there are many opportunities to assist young people to make responsible decisions.

I read her comments about 'common grounds', and wonder--what common ground? One side sees the unborn as less-then-human (read Peter Singer if you think I'm wrong) and thus can be disposed of, while the other sees the unborn as human and in need of protection. There is little room for common ground' in those positions--one side is right and the other wrong.

CLINTON:The same with energy -- you know, we can't keep talking about our dependence on foreign oil, and the need to deal with global warming, and the challenge that it poses to our climate and to God's creation, and just let business as usual go on.

O'BRIEN: Senator...

CLINTON: And that means something has...


CLINTON: ... to be taken away from some people.

Such a statement as her last should be questioned, and questioned seriously. What is to be taken away from 'some people'? Why? What does this mean? What does this have to do with any of us? Who are these "some people"?

There is much more in the transcript, so please read it.

No comments: