Obama’s Plea for Civility



prayerbreakfast

I’m not really a fan of the National Prayer Breakfast.  I see it as a ecumenical politicized love fest that is so vague about faith that it means virtually nothing at all.  I’m also amazed at prayer breakfasts like this how little prayer actually happens.

President Obama in his remarks this morning gave a nod to everyone’s god (or lack thereof) when he said:

God’s grace, and the compassion and decency of the American people is expressed through the men and women like Corpsman (pronounced Core-Man, Mr. President, not corpse man) Brossard.  It’s expressed through the efforts of our Armed Forces, through the efforts of our entire government, through similar efforts from Spain and other countries around the world.  It’s also, as Secretary Clinton said, expressed through multiple faith-based efforts.  By evangelicals at World Relief.  By the American Jewish World Service.  By Hindu temples, and mainline Protestants, Catholic Relief Services, African American churches, the United Sikhs.  By Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.

Anyway, I guess this is par for the course.  I won’t deny that many different groups do good work, and the fact that faith gets boiled down to social justice.

He goes on to discuss civility.

And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens.  It poisons the well of public opinion.  It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other.  It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth.

Vague.  Measured.  He doesn’t seem to point to one side or another.  He makes a very postmodern statement when he said, “neither side has a monopoly on truth.”  Yes and no, it depends on what we are discussing here.  Abortion?  Anyway, I digress.  I cringed when I read what came next.

Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility.  That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions.  We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system.  It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God.  We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet.  We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda.  Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.

Do you catch the shift.  Talking at first to everybody in the room, but then shifts to paint liberals as being the ones who are noble, and conservatives who are not.  Do you notice what he does… who needs to step out of their comfort zone?  Well, conservatives of course!  He praises those who comprehensive immigration reform and climate change.

Of course progressives have a weakness as well.  They put too much emphasis on government (as if he doesn’t along with them).  And how exactly should talking about responsible fatherhood and health marriage be just a conservative message anyway?  Again he waters faith down to being just focused on an anti-poverty agenda.

He goes on:

We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system, but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth.  We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree on the need to lift our children out of ignorance; to lift our neighbors from poverty.  We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are…

Yes we could find some common ground.  But is he really willing?  Along with lifting people out of poverty are we talking entitlements or are going to talk about empowerment?  Are we going to discuss personal responsibility?  With health care are progressives going to be reminded that government can’t do everything?  Lifting children out of ignorance does that mean private and home education too?  With targeting gays and lesbians for who they are… while no one wants to see them assaulted or killed, but does this mean to go the way of Canada?  I wonder with hate crimes bills and the types of civil rights legislation that is being rammed through.

Again this seems, to me, to be hollow words and his remarks diminishes faith to what is political.

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  • Holly

    Very well said, Shane! I always look forward to reading Caffeintated Thoughts in the mornings!

    • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      @Holly, Why thanks Holly!

  • ECM

    @Shane:

    But is he really willing?

    About as willing as he is about setting up more nuke plants per his SOTU address, i.e. not at all.

    • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      @ECM, Good point. I’ll expect pigs to be flying outside my window if he follows through on that promise.

  • http://winteryknight.com/ Wintery Knight

    @ECM

    At this point I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth. He says what he needs to say to make people think of him a certain way, then he governs like Hugo Chavez.
    .-= Wintery Knight´s last blog ..Jennifer Roback Morse podcasts on declining males and the overpopulation myth =-.

    • ECM

      @Wintery Knight, Yep, the dude is a pathological narcissist that says whatever he thinks he needs to say at any given moment to curry the most favor with the largest amount of people, after which he resets to year zero and starts over.

  • http://www.bonejangles.com Guy Incognito

    Shane, what’s wrong with ecumenicism? I don’t disagree with you that the prayer breakfast is politicized and I have my own issues with the creepy “Family” that runs it, but is ecumenicism really something that is virtually meaningless? I think it’s important for Christians of all stripes to find common ground, and really beyond that it’s important for people of all faiths to find common ground. I think it’s a shame that that so-called interfaith alliance you mention calls itself “progressive” since conservative politics is necessitated by many religions beliefs. But when ecumenicism is hijacked by politicians on the left or the right it isn’t really about faith any more at all, but about what people of faith can do for a given political agenda.

    But I will always believe that ecumenicism is an end unto itself and something that ought to be fostered. It doesn’t threaten faith by any means! After all, it’s in the spirit of ecumenicism that I come to comment on your blog, and I certainly hope you don’t think I am attempting to undermine your Calvinism in any way, because my hope is only to strengthen both our faiths through a dialogue.
    .-= Guy Incognito´s last blog ..Too Close for Comfort =-.

    • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      @Guy Incognito, I agree that different Christian denominations need to learn to work together. I also agree that there is ways in which different faiths can come together for common good, like Haiti for instance. What troubles me about the ecumenicism is when their is an attempt to gloss over theological differences and in the postmodern spirit claim that all religions are just different paths to God.

      We can treat each other with respect without brushing those differences under the rug.