Thursday

Two Commentaries

Today, my husband Mike and I published two complementary commentaries on the religion page of the La Junta Tribune-Democrat. We thought that they might be of interest to Yahbut's readers...

The Moral Incoherance of the Obama Administration
by Mike Steeves

First, I confess that the "moral incoherence" thing is lifted from columnist Michael Gerson's recent article in the Washington Post. Gerson notes that there is "one common thread" running through President Obama's pro-choice agenda: "the coercion of those who disagree with it." Gerson's article is about the manner in which the Obama administration runs roughshod over human life, relegating it to the status of what is politically convenient. Gerson notes, "It is the incurable itch of pro-choice activists to compel everyone's complicity in their agenda. Somehow, getting "politics out of science" translates into taxpayer funding for embryo experimentation. ‘Choice’ becomes a demand on doctors and nurses to violate their deepest beliefs or face discrimination."

Obama has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. She will implement the government's policies on human embryonic stem cell research - you know, where we take "leftovers" and poke 'em and strip them of cells for research, killing them in the process. Sebelius, a practicing Catholic, maintains that "my Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred."

Pro-choice extremists House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Biden are Catholics who assert the sanctity of life while defending government-sanctioned abortion. Sebelius has been rebuked by her archbishop for this. Pelosi earned a figurative backhand from the Pope during her visit to the Vatican. Gerson writes, "this appointment seems designed to provide religious cover. It also smacks of religious humiliation - like asking a rabbi to serve the pork roast or an atheist to bless the meal."

Then we have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to September 2007 Clinton was at best ambivalent about "torture" of terrorist suspects held in military facilities. Then she did a flip-flop, coming out against it. At that point neither she nor then candidate Obama had signed that American Freedom Campaign petition requesting all presidential candidates oppose torture. Obama said of Clinton, "There are folks who will shift positions and policies on all kinds of things depending on which way the wind is blowing."

Clinton's lack of a moral compass is nowhere more evident than her even more recent "flip-flop" on human rights. Long a highly vocal opponent of Chinese human rights violations, Clinton said during her recent visit to the Far East: "But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis." Amnesty International expressed shock and extreme disappointment over that comment. A Washington Post's editorial was more pointed: "Hillary Rodham Clinton undercuts the State Department's own human rights reporting," in direct reference to Clinton's gushing over Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The State Department reported on Feb. 25, "the [Egyptian] government's respect for human rights remained poor during 2008” and “serious abuses continued in many areas." It cited torture by security forces and a decline in freedom of the press, association and religion. Clinton responded with "We issue these reports on every country. We hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, that we all have room for improvement." The Washington Post fired back with "Ms. Clinton's words will be treasured by al-Qaeda recruiters and anti-American propagandists throughout the Middle East. She appears oblivious to how offensive such statements are to the millions of Egyptians who loathe Mr. Mubarak's oppressive government and blame the United States for propping it up."

These are odd behaviors for some of the most senior members of the political party that ranted and raved against President Bush over Guantanamo and the so-called "torture" of terrorist suspects. Some truths are apparently not all that self-evident.


Religious beliefs provide moral compass in political mire
by Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Do religion and politics mix? Coming from a Wesleyan holiness background, my first answer is an unequivocal "yes." However, the answer is not that simple.

As an American I recognize that the founding fathers fought hard to keep religion out of politics, or government, and vice versa. Memories of extensive religious persecution in the Old Country was fresh in their minds and they did not want to repeat it in the fledgling country that they were trying to create. I'm glad they did this. How would you like to be tortured or have your head mounted on a pike just because the President happened to be Protestant or Catholic, Jewish or Muslim and you did not share his or her religious views?

There is a group in our society that fervently believes that the founding fathers were all God fearing Christians whose intent was to "found a Christian nation." A simple review of their writings shows this is not true. In fact one of our most brilliant founders, Thomas Paine, often called The Father of the American Revolution because of his authorship of Common Sense, was at once a believer in God yet a disbeliever in Christianity. Others of our founders may have feared God in a reverent way, but what they feared most were people using God to promote their own agenda and persecuting others in the process. They feared religion taking over government and government taking over religion.

As long as government, people, religion and politics exist this fear will be rational. There is nothing wrong with zeal, the apostle Paul said, as long as the purpose is good. The zeal people feel about certain agendas should never leak into government and government should not regulate certain practices. The purpose of government is to govern, or to administer the law. The role of government is not to dictate. Faith should not dictate either.

Where religious belief comes in, and where my unequivocal "yes" falls, is when faith is used as a moral compass to guide decision making and is not forced on anyone else (Notice I said "forced." There is nothing wrong with reasonable discussion.). This is where I see many of America's political leaders failing miserably on both sides.

What we need is a return to values on which the majority of people can agree. Following the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule were not bad ideas for our society to follow. Incidentally, several religions incorporate these values as well and many people in our society try to incorporate these values even though they do not claim to follow Christ or Judaism. These age old values can be a moral compass, one which our society can lean upon so that everyone can live in harmony, freedom, and justice. Government should come in when people do not follow that law. Cannot people of faith lead this charge? I believe they can and should.