March 17, 2008

jeremiah was a bullyfrog

3/17/08

First up, yes, there will be another xtcian tournament pool, and yes, the winner will get to guest-blog about anything and everything they want for one day. So, all you regulars and lurkers, just do this:

1) Comment below. In the "email" field, please leave your actual email (if you don't do so normally). Nobody but me ever sees those addresses, and I'll email you the special invite with the password. Even dook grads!
2) The link will take you to our ESPN page where you can sign up and submit your picks. It's JUST that easy!

On a completely different note, very interesting stuff on yesterday's blog, even if you conservatives forced Matt to do most of the heavy lifting - personal emails to me don't count, kids. Ideas are always better in a big forum, right?

The way some Republicans (and some Hillary supporters) have gone after Obama on this Jeremiah Wright issue smacks of desperation, and I don't believe this story has legs. Sure, there will be an instant poll taken after hearing Wright say "God damn America" and there will be the usual righteous indignation, but most rational people come to their senses after a few days and blink: "Wright WHO?"

I think it taxes the imagination that six months from now there will be a grassroots viral video showing Wright's Kraziest America-Hating Sermons, and further, that it would have the slightest effect on anybody but evangelicals, who wouldn't have voted for Obama even if Jesus himself came back wearing a "Si Se Puedes" slim-fit vintage tee.

In the meantime, I'd hope people understand the vast chasm between the beliefs of your loved ones, and your beliefs. My Uncle Chris believes Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from reformed Egyptian on gold tablets using two rocks, but that doesn't mean I don't love him utterly and dearly, and seek to use his advice, his preternatural calm and unwavering good heart in my own life. One of my bestest friends in the world married an Episcopal priest named Cathie, and while I'm an asshole's agnostic, I adore her unpatronizingly, and the stunning influence she's had on Chip's life.

Besides, what part of Wright's comments ring false? That we've caused an inordinate amount of suffering in the world, and that black people are still hobbled by institutionalized racism? While the right-wing sensory-deprivation tank trumped up outrage and umbrage, I could barely summon boredom - Wright isn't a revolutionary anymore, he's a Shouter of the Patently Obvious. Frankly, all this hand-wringing by conservatives is actually kind of cute.

The reason I call Matt's question a high slowball is because Matt is a better study of history than he lets on. Jeremiah Wright's thoughts were forged in the hot molten iron of the 1950s and 60s, and knew an America that whispered death to socially and politically-charged smart black men. While George W. Bush likes to quote the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" (with the mindless sing-song repetition of a toddler who doesn't quite know what it means), Jeremiah Wright knew the ACTUAL bigotry of water hoses and war zones. That radicalization can turn someone into, as Obama says, "an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with."

Yes, in his 40 years at the pulpit, it's easy to cherry-pick some of his crazy shit. And his way of seeing the world in terms of unwavering tribalism, the ubiquity of "us" and "them", certainly doesn't jibe with me. But your ability to feel shock or dismay at his remarks rests squarely on a firmament of acceptance that people like Jeremiah Wright helped build. You're able to call him racist because people like him fought hard enough to make such a turnaround possible. We all live under the penumbra of our crazy uncles who occasionally say something insane, but god damn or bless America, they're still our uncles.


Posted by Ian Williams at March 17, 2008 10:51 PM
Comments
Posted by: xuxE at March 18, 2008 12:05 AM

i think Obama's dismissal of his pastor as some kind of crazy uncle is deplorable and he will become a real sell-out if he is not careful. i know he's probably just trying to make the real simple white folks in like Vermont or someplace, have some basis for understanding him, but fuck!

he shouldn't have to renounce what Wright says any more than he has to renounce being culturally black in equal parts as he is culturally white. he shouldn't have to fucking hide it.

it's like - news flash America - Obama is NOT a white guy who just happens to look like a black guy. thank god!! he's actually an authentic, genuine person who seems to actually walk in both cultural worlds comfortably.

so you can't apply your white cultural viewfinder on this black side and be like "aha! we see the black cultural side of you now! we have proof that you are black after all!" i mean, wtf???

it is really easy to learn about the role of the black churches in the civil rights movement and pretty easy also to learn that the rhetoric of this activism is not meant to be comfortable and and it's not meant to be sanitized for white middle class palatability.

but still we see the typical white viewfinder totally stuck on this idea that the discussion on race is only ok if it's a big fucking unity feel-good kumbaya. it's only OK, according to the white folks rule book, if it doesn't make a white person feel fucked up or somehow accuse them of being part of the problem.

well, guess what. that's actually the whole fucking point.

and now you have this white folks rulebook being thrown at this pastor. the white folks are not even there at his church and they are saying, 'not only is it not ok for you black folks to have that type of discussion on race with us - DON'T EVEN TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES!'

what's next? maybe black folks should be required to stop gathering in numbers? maybe they're getting dangerous and might start a rebellion?

it is so sickening to see Wright's words taken out of it's cultural context and held up to these bullshit white cultural standards. if Obama doesn't connect to his center on this one, kick the political spin to the curb, and be true to the people like Wright who have personally nurtured him, it will be a truly depressing sight.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 2:11 AM

It makes sense that Obama supporters would think (hope?) as much, and who knows, maybe you're right. As I said yesterday, America is a fair-minded people, they will decide at the ballot box.

But the 'lovable old uncle who says crazy things from time to time' doesn't cut it. We don't choose our family, we choose our friends, pastors, spiritual mentors, and political advisors, all of which Rev. Wright was to Obama. This is not deniable. He's written lots and spoken much on the subject. (Clip #1 in my YouTube ad)

"Besides, what part of Wright's comments ring false?"

Cue Clip #2 of the reverand calling HIV a government conspiracy to commit genocide against black people. Maybe a quick one or two quoting his often phrased "U. S. of KKK A." or any of his categorical condemnation of white people. Certainly blacks suffered historically at the hands of whites. Everyone does know this, but you can't help but think Rev. Wright is stuck in the 50s and 60s. This is damaging to Obama because his apparent acquesence to the charge runs counter to his narrative of having transcended race and being the candidate of togetherness (Cue Clip #3 of Obama's stump speech followed by Clip #4 of another of Wright's greatest hits). You can't credibly claim to be someone who bring people together in a hope for a better America when you embrace the worst kind of racial divisiveness that Wright embodies. (This is contextualizes his wife's comments about mean old America.) Obama needs to quit the church if he wants to carry more than three states next fall. It doesn't matter if every liberal in America thinks Wright is saying nothing false or controversial. But do you all really believe the majority of Americans will see it that way?

"You're able to call him racist because people like him fought hard enough to make such a turnaround possible."

No doubt Wright has done good things with his church. Nobody's all bad. But I call him a racist because he truly is racist. He makes Farrakhan look moderate. If Obama can't help his own pastor overcome racial animosity, what hope does he have of influencing greater America to get past "the things that divide us"? (Cue Clips #5 and 6, juxtaposing Wright and Obama quotes). Obama's membership in this church will haunt him the rest of the way.

If Obama follows xuxE's advice above, he doesn't have a prayer. American's don't want to be led by a man who harbors such hatreds, black or white. We don't really know much about the man, which is another reason this stuff will stick to him unless he categorically denounces Rev. Wright as well as the views he represents. Tonight's address by Obama may help him only if he completely throws Wright under the bus, as he should. If he doesn't, this scandal will become Nixonian for him.

My YouTube ad will need some editing, of course, but it will also include a clip of Obama speaking about the importance of Wright's role in his Christian faith and the one where Wright is making vulgar humping motions at the pulpit while schreeching "[Bill Clinton] was ridin' dirty [on Monica Lewinsky]."

As for the xtcian tournament pool, I'm in.

Posted by: cathie at March 18, 2008 3:03 AM

i hate having to pick georgetown (my alma mater) over unc, but sign me up for the pool...

Posted by: scooter at March 18, 2008 3:05 AM

i am chris and cathie's dog, and i want in the pool, too!

(i only teams with dog-related mascots, and *never* those with panthers or tigers or wildcats...)

and of course, no devils

Posted by: scruggs at March 18, 2008 3:07 AM

I'm in, too.

Posted by: jason savage at March 18, 2008 3:44 AM

"that black people are still hobbled by institutionalized racism"

see, that's the kind of rhetoric people can respond to rationally, even if they disagree (and I do agree with you). the problem is not that *some* of Wright's comments ring false, is that he takes the basic premise and ratchets it up to "looney" by throwing in the HIV government conspiracy stuff.

I would like to know more about Wright's preaching of the social gospel. Anyone have any examples of that? If the majority of his 30-plus years at the pulpit has been spent speaking, with passion *and* intelligence, on behalf of the aggrieved and downtrodden, then that would add some nice balance to the stuff making the rounds right now, which is lowest common denominator theater, which I usually associate with right-wingers.

Posted by: Ken H at March 18, 2008 3:54 AM

I'm in for the pool!

Posted by: Anne at March 18, 2008 3:56 AM

Hmmmm. Since the Rev. Wright bit* has been so successful in getting white people frothing at the mouth, I can't wait to see what other "OMG" dirt on Obama the Clinton operatives have in their arsenal.
(*Nothing quite so skeery as the sight of a black man on a podium or pulpit shouting about white racism! Well, unless it's a black criminal sprung out of jail.)

Posted by: Father Tim at March 18, 2008 4:21 AM

Matt-
You catch your boy over at Newsmax getting caught scrubbing Wikipedia re: his FALSE story claiming Obama was at the 7/22 sermon? Par for the course.

I'm in for the pool. Go Irish.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 4:33 AM

Good grief, Tim. You have a lot invested in this, don't you? I couldn't care less whether Obama sat in that particular sermon. He certainly sat in some of them and knew very well what his friend and mentor was all about. His own admissions on Wright's baggage tell us this.

Look, Rev. Wright's thunderous denunciations of America may elicit a chorus of yawns from you, Ian, and your fellow liberals, but it requires a special kind of political tone deafness not to appreciate the resonance it has with everyday Americans. When Obama burst onto the national scene in 2004 he was widely cheered as the first viable black candidate. He was viable precisely because he was not Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, fringe figures who feed off racial grievance-mongering. Obama's association with this hate church shows that he doesn’t represent "change we can believe in" but rather the same-old same-old. That's why this story has legs no matter how hard the mainstream media tries to sweep it under the rug. You can fool yourself into believing whatever you want, it will only help Republicans to another administration.

Posted by: Terri at March 18, 2008 5:10 AM

i wanna play!

Posted by: Father Tim at March 18, 2008 5:12 AM

Matt-
You cited this story yesterday chapter-and-verse (even including the line that had Obama nodding in agreement to the sermon). It turns out that the story was completely false (to the point where the author is now clumsily trying to scrub the internet of his connection to it) and now you "couldn't care less" about whether or not Obama actually attended this particular sermon? Then why did you cite it yesterday?

I'm fully aware of my beating of a dead-horse here but for you to tout this story so triumphantly yesterday as evidence that Obama hates freedom, America, baseball, etc., insist on sticking by the story (paraphrasing you: "newsmax is sticking by their story")and then to turn around and say you "couldn't care less" about this story is maddeningly frustrating for someone who (I'll admit) enjoys arguing with you.

Posted by: SandraP at March 18, 2008 5:38 AM

black people are still hobbled by institutionalized racism?

Obama goes to Harvard, his wife is making $300k at the hospital, Obama then enters the Senate and is now the top money-raising candidate for President. I do not see much institutionalized racism there.

Obama's father left Kenya and came to America where he went to the University of Hawaii and then to Harvard for a masters degree. Why would Obama's father leave Africa to come to the racist hateful institutionalized-racism country of America, unless maybe America is not the hateful racist place that the knee-jerk Obama-defenders are now trying to say it is...?

NPR, MSNBC, CNN, Kos... won't pose questions such as that.

McCain doesn't even need to campaign or raise money anymore, all he needs to do is just sit back and let all the Left-Wing Agents of Hate shout off their mouths. Obama's racist Pastor, Jesse Jackson lodging lies against the Duke lacrosse players and trying to deny them their civil rights, Louis Farrakhan calling Judaism a gutter religion, the left-wing parade of hate, intolerance, and bigotry is on full display this year and Obama saying he has somehow missed it for the past 20 years is making him look like a lying bigot, instead of just a bigot.

Posted by: noj at March 18, 2008 5:38 AM

"Cue Clip #2 of the reverand calling HIV a government conspiracy to commit genocide against black people" --- is this any more of a crackpot idea than Bush saying that he is doing God's work in Iraq?

"He makes Farrakhan look moderate" --- hmmmm. ya wanna do the Pepsi challenge on Wright / Farrakhan ("The Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man") quotes to see who sounds more moderate? say the word!

"this scandal will become Nixonian for him" --- do you really think that or are you just hoping? the comparison doesn't really seem apt. Obama, who is a smart man, will be able to diffuse this "scandal" with a few carefully chosen words and he'll do it without throwing his pastor to the wolves. Nixon, once the cat was out of the bag, was a sinking ship.

i hope that parsing your post like i did doesn't seem like i'm unfairly cherry picking your arguments, i just disagree with a few of your supporting statements. and most of the rest of your argument, too.


Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 5:40 AM

Father Coughlin,

I linked the story in response to Kent and noted in reply to you that they were still standing by their story WHILE also saying I would "gladly concede" the point. It wasn't central to my argument, it comprised a very, very small portion of thetotality of what I wrote, and I don't need it. Latching on to a minor detail and beating it to death is a standard tactic for those trying to distract attention from an... invonvenient truth, namely that Obama is in it up to his ears with this hate preacher.

Let's settle this like men... in the xtcian tournament pool!

Posted by: noj at March 18, 2008 5:42 AM

sandraP - uhhhh. just because obama and his wife have been able to thrive here doesn't mean that institutionalized racism doesn't exist in America. your logic gland needs treatment.

Posted by: Scott at March 18, 2008 5:43 AM

This will be the only pool in which I participate.

The only problem with this pool is EVERYONE will pick Carolina.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 5:47 AM

No, that's fair enough, noj. I guess time will tell whether he's a sinking ship. Tonight's address may help with that. Obama is smart and if anyone can talk himself out of this it's him. But I doubt it.

Posted by: noj at March 18, 2008 5:50 AM

this all makes me wonder about previous presidents and who their most crackpot associations were. would be a good book idea...

Posted by: Sean M at March 18, 2008 6:02 AM

Alright, let's see if lightning can strike twice and I can win this sucker again...

Sign me up!

Posted by: craighill at March 18, 2008 6:09 AM

in for the pool.

in the meantime i'll just try and live up to those awfully demanding "white bullshit cultural standards", if possible.

Posted by: Sharon at March 18, 2008 6:12 AM

Put me in for the pool. Go Heels!

I disagree that this Wright business is a one-day story. The media and blogosphere are not going to let it go because it plays to white America's fears. I'm waiting to hear how Obama addresses things today. He has quite the tightrope to walk on the toughest issue in our cultural consciousness. A lot riding on this speech.

Posted by: d at March 18, 2008 6:14 AM

I'm in. go heels!

Posted by: emma at March 18, 2008 6:19 AM

I'm in for the pool. I'll go ahead and start working on my guest blogging piece.

Posted by: Andy at March 18, 2008 6:20 AM

I'm in for the pool.

Posted by: ChrisM at March 18, 2008 6:31 AM

Interesting discussion about Sen. Obama and Pastor Wright. Whether or not you believe this ought to be a problem, I think it is a problem for his campaign. At a minimum, the situation raises questions about Obama's judgment in remaining at the church for 20 years. This will be big test of how Obama deals with a difficult situation.

Below is a provocative essay from the WSJ.


The Obama Bargain
By SHELBY STEELE
March 18, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro may have had sinister motives when she said that Barack Obama would not be "in his position" as a frontrunner but for his race. Possibly she was acting as Hillary Clinton's surrogate. Or maybe she was simply befuddled by this new reality -- in which blackness could constitute a political advantage.

But whatever her motives, she was right: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Barack Obama is, of course, a very talented politician with a first-rate political organization at his back. But it does not detract from his merit to say that his race is also a large part of his prominence. And it is undeniable that something extremely powerful in the body politic, a force quite apart from the man himself, has pulled Obama forward. This force is about race and nothing else.

The novelty of Barack Obama is more his cross-racial appeal than his talent. Jesse Jackson displayed considerable political talent in his presidential runs back in the 1980s. But there was a distinct limit to his white support. Mr. Obama's broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama's genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed -- an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.

How to turn one's blackness to advantage?

The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.

This is how Mr. Obama has turned his blackness into his great political advantage, and also into a kind of personal charisma. Bargainers are conduits of white innocence, and they are as popular as the need for white innocence is strong. Mr. Obama's extraordinary dash to the forefront of American politics is less a measure of the man than of the hunger in white America for racial innocence.

His actual policy positions are little more than Democratic Party boilerplate and hardly a tick different from Hillary's positions. He espouses no galvanizing political idea. He is unable to say what he means by "change" or "hope" or "the future." And he has failed to say how he would actually be a "unifier." By the evidence of his slight political record (130 "present" votes in the Illinois state legislature, little achievement in the U.S. Senate) Barack Obama stacks up as something of a mediocrity. None of this matters much.

Race helps Mr. Obama in another way -- it lifts his political campaign to the level of allegory, making it the stuff of a far higher drama than budget deficits and education reform. His dark skin, with its powerful evocations of America's tortured racial past, frames the political contest as a morality play. Will his victory mean America's redemption from its racist past? Will his defeat show an America morally unevolved? Is his campaign a story of black overcoming, an echo of the civil rights movement? Or is it a passing-of-the-torch story, of one generation displacing another?

Because he is black, there is a sense that profound questions stand to be resolved in the unfolding of his political destiny. And, as the Clintons have discovered, it is hard in the real world to run against a candidate of destiny. For many Americans -- black and white -- Barack Obama is simply too good (and too rare) an opportunity to pass up. For whites, here is the opportunity to document their deliverance from the shames of their forbearers. And for blacks, here is the chance to document the end of inferiority. So the Clintons have found themselves running more against America's very highest possibilities than against a man. And the press, normally happy to dispel every political pretension, has all but quivered before Mr. Obama. They, too, have feared being on the wrong side of destiny.

And yet, in the end, Barack Obama's candidacy is not qualitatively different from Al Sharpton's or Jesse Jackson's. Like these more irascible of his forbearers, Mr. Obama's run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson were "challengers," not bargainers. They intimidated whites and demanded, in the name of historical justice, that they be brought forward. Mr. Obama flatters whites, grants them racial innocence, and hopes to ascend on the back of their gratitude. Two sides of the same coin.

But bargainers have an Achilles heel. They succeed as conduits of white innocence only as long as they are largely invisible as complex human beings. They hope to become icons that can be identified with rather than seen, and their individual complexity gets in the way of this. So bargainers are always laboring to stay invisible. (We don't know the real politics or convictions of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, bargainers all.) Mr. Obama has said of himself, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views . . ." And so, human visibility is Mr. Obama's Achilles heel. If we see the real man, his contradictions and bents of character, he will be ruined as an icon, as a "blank screen."

Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama's political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday -- for 20 years -- in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage ("God damn America").

How does one "transcend" race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.

No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.

Posted by: Zel M. at March 18, 2008 6:36 AM

Sorry I was late to the show yesterday, and while I am not truly a conservative, I would hate to think that Matt did all the heavy lifting. FWIW, here is my answer to yesterday's question:

1. McCain has more combined experience between military service and elected office than Obama has on Earth.

2. McCain actually has a record and positions on which he can run.

3. McCain has actually participated in governance in the Senate, rather than using it as a springboard to the presidency.

4. McCain's experience in reaching across the aisle will be crucial in repairing post-Bush Washington. Obama, on the other hand (or Hillary, for that matter) will pull a Bill Clinton and try to swing the pendulum back the other way so sharply that government screeches to a halt and the Repubs take back Congress (see 1994).

I watched some of this blow up last week and on Hannity and Colmes (not a fan of Fox News per se, but Obama himself came on the show) the immediate response of the Dems was to equivocate, like Bush with the Bob Jones University speech in 2000. But there is a big difference between acknowledging a point of view, and accepting it, and subscribing to it. Bush spoke at Bob Jones in 2000 - that no more meant he agreed with their positions than he did speaking at the NAACP convention in 2000.

Jeremiah Wright is certianly entitled to his views - that's what makes America great. But this is not "cherry-picking crazy shit" - these are deeply-held views for this guy. And for Obama to say he had no idea Wright had these views is ridiculous, especialy if the man was such an advisor to Obama.

Matt is correct - one thing Americans can choose is their church and pastor. Most folks I know choose a church where they feel comfortable and a pastor with whom they feel comfortable. For Obama and his family to attend this church for 20 years must mean he has some degree of identity with Wright's views. Bush may have spoken at Bob Jones U, but he never cut a check or sent his kids there.

So to tie a nice bow on this - yesterday's question was why would you vote for McCain - and the base answer is he has views and values similar to your own. Obama's 20-year relationship with Wright and his church MUST say something about the views and values that are important to Obama. But those are not the views and values that resonate with America.

And one final thing - you don't think it was repubs that leaked out all those clips of Wright's crazy sermons, the you don't know Clinton, Inc. very well.

Posted by: Zel M. at March 18, 2008 6:43 AM

Oops - last sentence should read IF you don't think...THEN you don't know Clinton, Inc.

ChrisM - brilliant piece by another distinguished African-American, Shelby Steele.

Posted by: Chuck B at March 18, 2008 6:48 AM

I'm in for the pool. Hoya Saxa!

Posted by: Scott M. at March 18, 2008 6:53 AM

I'll play in the pool again this year.

Regarding the Obama stuff, unless he comes and says he agrees or supports any of the offensive stuff Wright says, it won't sway me at all.

Plus, I can't stand McCain - primarily because he's pro-war: doesn't want to leave Iraq in the next 100 years, and will probably try to get us into Iran as well.

And, while he claims to be anti-torture and anti-waterboarding, he supported Bush's veto of the waterboarding ban.
http://www.democrats.org/a/2008/03/mccains_waterbo.php
http://thinkprogress.org/2008/02/13/mccain-waterboarding-fail/

Posted by: LFMD at March 18, 2008 7:14 AM

Hi. I don't know what the BFD is about Obama's preacher. Perhaps it is because I am Catholic and tend to pick and choose the aspects of Catholicism that I want to follow . . . but I think most Americans realize that you cannot attribute all of the comments/beliefs of a pastor to each church member. Father Halligan is not my spokesperson, but I visit him at Mass each week!

If this is the biggest smear campaign that the opponents can come up with, it is good news for Obama.

"Shouter of the Patently Obvious" -- I like that!

Posted by: xuxE at March 18, 2008 7:18 AM

yeah at this point I hope Obama doesn't keep running. The vile disrespectful and racist shit that Matt and Company have been spewing up in this space are a disgusting reminder of how this conversation unfolds in White Amerikkka, as they say, much like the anti-muslim cartoon discussion did awhile back. So for me personally I do hope he quits now like Dave Chapelle and I can go back to dreaming about some other imaginary non-racist world my kids can grow up in where shit like this has no room to thrive.

Peace.

Posted by: wyatt at March 18, 2008 7:22 AM

throw me in the pool, por favor.

Posted by: kjf at March 18, 2008 7:33 AM

saw something on one of the talking head shows yesterday pointing out the media's obsession with pastor wright's statements while ignoring similar stuff on the right. rachel maddow from air america said that before a republican "values debate" (i missed that one!) there was a choir singing to open the debate and they were singing something like "god don't bless america".....saying god won't bless america until we outlaw abortion, condemn homosexuality....etc etc. how is that different from pastor wright saying god damn america?

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 8:08 AM

ChrisM, halfway through that piece I was ready to vote for Obama myself.

Anyone ever notice how xuxE sees racism in everything except Rev. Wright's sermons.

Oh well, I'm ready for basketball to distract me at the office.

Posted by: Zel M. at March 18, 2008 8:20 AM

@LFMD:

Yes, Father Halligan may not be your spokesman, but if he said so much crazy stuff that you had to come out and disavow knowledge of it and later repudiate many of his sermons, wouldn't you find somewhere else to go to church?

I agree - if this is the worst they have on him, then it's not much in the grander scheme. But also understand that it may cost him as well.

I would have had so much more respect for Obama if he had come out and said, "Jeremiah Wright is a man of God. He is my pastor and my friend. He cut his teeth on the civil rights movements of the 1960s and he is deeply passionate about both his faith and the plight of African-Americans. He has been a trusted advisor and a valued guide on my spiritual journey. I don't agree with everything he says, but we can all agree on his right to say it. That's what America is about. I have chosen to be a member of his church because this is about MY spiritual relationship with God, and not my relationship with Jeremiah Wright." instead, he has waffled just like any politician and it will be interesting to see if he ultimately throws Wright under the bus.

As for your view of Catholicism, that sounds a lot like the view many on the left - you choose what you want to follow. BJs in the Oval Office are "just sex" but hustling BJs in an airport bathroom means the guy has to be run out of town on a rail. The Constitution is great when it's the first amendment, but let's ignore that pesky second amendment.

Posted by: Ms. Four at March 18, 2008 8:26 AM

Password, please.

Posted by: jason savage at March 18, 2008 8:31 AM

to Zel's point:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/us/politics/18text-obama.html?pagewanted=1

i think he did a very stand up job today.

Posted by: Scott at March 18, 2008 8:53 AM

Zel:

I think Obama basically said what you were hoping he would say. The transcript of the speech is available on CNN. I got to watch most of it.

I think Obama's speech was the most important speech given by any politician in my lifetime. He ripped the scab off of racism (of all kinds) and forced America to look at the wound. Now, the ball is in our court.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 9:34 AM

I just read the text of Obama's speech. This line was particularly good: "I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible." Other similar parts resonated with me and I came away thinking, "no, this man doesn't agree with Jeremiah Wright. If that's all he needed to do with voters, then his speech was probably a success. He really is good at this kind of thing, and not just because Bush's oratory skills have lowered the bar so much.

[I'm breaking this comment up because I got the dreaded "Your comment was denied for questionable content" message.]

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 9:36 AM

Con't.

I felt he left something to be desired, however, in his defense of Wright and why he felt so comfortable in his church. He admits that he sat through some of the venom, which plainly contradicts his earlier statements. ("Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.") One can only wonder what they were.

[One more part to go]

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 9:45 AM

Con't.

OK, I don't know what was wrong with my last paragraph but I've scrapped it altogether since the blog's software won't let it publish. Basically I was saying Obama speech did all it could with me. Maybe he's not toast.

Posted by: cullen at March 18, 2008 9:48 AM

Cannonball me into the pool; much obliged. Should you have it come down to the wire b/w two or a few, perhaps you should include a politico tiebreaker of some sort among the presidential candidacy's "Final 3"--
Who will win?
Who did cast the first stone?
Am I an ass to still support Hill?
Who hasn't slept through or ignored a sermon or two?
Which candidate knew Spitzer was going to take a hard fall?


Go Heels!! And remember Eve.

(As an edit to a prior post from days ago, I remain relieved that law enforcement has collared the young men so reprehensibly responsible for the UNC and Duke student murders. Now I'm aghast (as are many) that the 'preventive system' in these cases failed so miserably. Alas.)

Posted by: jje at March 18, 2008 10:02 AM

Count me in for the pool! Go Heels!

How about a little levity? One of my good friends posted this on our "mommy board" today about her five year-old daughter:

So, we're asking Regan about her Sunday School on Sunday and this is what she had to say,

"We learned about how Jesus rode into the city. Everyone got big leaves and waved them around. Then they shouted, "Obama! Obama! Obama!"

;-)

Posted by: ben at March 18, 2008 10:11 AM

Can you believe Hubert picked Kansas to win it all!?!

Posted by: ben at March 18, 2008 10:19 AM

Every citizen in the U.S. of A. is a friggin racist, regardless of color. WE ALL KNOW what's said, or implied about others behind closed doors when no one is listening.

I can't believe everyone's going for this race-baiting shit. I guess it never fails huh.

Posted by: Brian from the Spanish House at March 18, 2008 10:33 AM

Please, please, please, I want into the pool.

Posted by: Neva at March 18, 2008 10:57 AM

Please add me to the pool, even though I know nothing about basketball, that doesn't seem to be required anyway.

jje - love your comment.

Posted by: xuxE at March 18, 2008 11:10 AM

that's right. i don't call it racism. i call it resistance.

too bad there's no "black muslim friend (TM)" around to call you on your shit, since i am clearly not going to be the one to do it.

so go for it. rage on with the offensive crap as you see fit. maybe you and craighill can figure it all out. like all white folks you have the luxury to treat racism like a theoretical debate, and i'm sure with your keen study of the topic on the internet you will have it all figured out soon enough. never mind that for millions of people, myself included, it's actually literally personal.

go ahead.

enjoy.

Posted by: tregen at March 18, 2008 11:13 AM

If there is still room, send the password.

Why McCain over Obama or Clinton?

Obama - Don't like him. He will be terrible for the country

Clinton - Don't like her. she will be terrible for the country.

McCain - Used to like him, don't anymore. He will be very bad for the country.

Posted by: Wayne at March 18, 2008 11:18 AM

I'll never pick *****town over the 'Heels... never, ever. Sign me up, Ian.

Posted by: craighill at March 18, 2008 11:39 AM

blah blah blah. let's get on with the issue that overrides all others during this election year----can the heels pull it off??

i say yes.

Posted by: Sean patrick at March 18, 2008 11:45 AM

Hi Ian,
Add me to the NCAA Pool, please!

What a fantastic speech this morning. I have MSNBC on in the background from 8-5 while I am at work here, and I couldn't believe I was actually hearing Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan compare the speech to the "I have a dream speech."

-Sean Patrick

Posted by: Rebecca at March 18, 2008 11:49 AM

I would love to be the ultimate loser in your pool again this year. It keeps me humble. Email away, please.

Posted by: caveman at March 18, 2008 12:10 PM

Cmon, cmon, cmon, cmon now pool me babe. Can't you see...that I am not afraid.


Posted by: Sharon at March 18, 2008 12:40 PM

Had a long comment on Wright/Obama et al this morning that never posted. Operator error I'm sure. So, just put me in for the pool. Go Heels!

Posted by: Bud at March 18, 2008 1:47 PM

Put me in, coach. Go Heels!

Posted by: Baps at March 18, 2008 1:49 PM

Put me in, too. This time I'll cheer for the 'Heels. :-)

Posted by: cullen at March 18, 2008 2:35 PM

This is a big-ass, politically-well-informed pool group. Maybe the tiebreaker should be team GPA/graduation rate? Buenas noches.

Posted by: Lorelle at March 18, 2008 2:44 PM

Please count me in too!! Go Heels!!

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 4:09 PM

From today's WSJ Opinion Journal:

"It is what Wright himself, in the "talking points" page of his congregation's Web site, describes as "systematized black liberation theology." As we noted yesterday, Wright credits James Cone of New York's Union Theological Seminary with having undertaken this systematization. Here again is Cone's description of black liberation theology:

"Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community. . . . Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love."

If that's the theology of Obama's church, he has a whole new problem on his hands, doesn't he?

Posted by: GFWD at March 18, 2008 4:21 PM

Separation.

Of.

Church.

And.

State.

The forefathers thought that was pretty important. So I don't care where anyone goes to church on Sunday or Friday nights. As long as they can govern effectively.

The thing that has not been said is the underlying notion that Obama's preacher is not like yours (or yours or yours). That's why it's important to do away with any consideration of the church in picking your candidate.

The President of the United States has to make some serious decisions that relate to our country and the defense thereof--many of which clash mightily with some of the things in any Bible or other recognized spiritual resource.

Religion should have no more of a role in government than it should in the science classes.

Put me in the pool, pretty please, Ian.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 4:47 PM

It sure is refreshing to see liberals with this newfound respect and tolerance for the religious views of others.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 18, 2008 5:23 PM

Matt, when have liberals not had respect and tolerance for other religions?

It's been my experience that it's usually conservatives who have problems with Muslims, atheists, and anyone else who doesn't want Christianity pushed down their throats, in their schools, in their courts, in their laws.

Liberals are more likely to have a problem when others try to push their religion onto others with the faulty justification that it's a "Christian nation".

Posted by: Annie at March 18, 2008 5:32 PM

It sure is refreshing to see a comment by Matt that is not dripping with this snide derision and disdain for the collective views of most of the people who post comments on this blog.

**Suggested title for tomorrow's blog: "The Audacity of Matt"

Posted by: Scott M. at March 18, 2008 5:37 PM

One other dig at McCain, for everyone who says he has so much experience in international affairs and national security:

http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/14932.html

Here's the key point:
Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.

He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.”

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”


I've gotta say, # 1, knowing the difference between Sunni and Shiite is pretty important. I would think a presidential candidate would want to get that straight if he didn't already know.

# 2, maybe he really does now, but wants to make sure everyone hears the words Al Qaeda and Iran in the same sentence, even if it's not true.

Whether it's # 1 and he doesn't know the difference, or even worse, # 2 and he's intentionally lying to create a fake association, he won't get my vote. And I find it funny that this is the guy some people think is the best candidate in terms of national security.

Posted by: Tim at March 18, 2008 6:39 PM

Please sign me up for the basketball pool!

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2008 11:42 PM

"when have liberals not had respect and tolerance for other religions?"

Seriously? The fact that Democrats are openly hostile to Christianity has been the subject of countless articles, books and discussions. Up until now, the party's sympathy with or respect for religion has been reserved for Islam, Buddism, Taoism or any other perceived victim class. The idea that religion is the driving force behind Bush Administration's policies and a leading threat to American democracy is increasingly voiced by liberals. They weild accusations of "theocrat" like a cudgel against white Christian pols (e.g. Pat Robertson, John Ashcroft) and routinely pronounce them unfit for office on the basis of their religious views on creationism, abortion, embryonic stem cells, gay marriage, etc. Evangelicals are satirized for their belief in the Second Coming. Often, having Christianity "pushed down one's throat" means having a mere nativity scene on display or an angel atop a Christmas tree.

There are literally volumes of examples of intolerance (often couched as "intolerance for intolerance"). For example George W. Bush was condemned a few years ago for giving a speech at Bob Jones University. Bush didn't agree with the school's views nor have any sort of relationship with the school or any of its clergy, yet he was still forced to apologize for so much as stepping foot on its campus.

"Liberals are more likely to have a problem when others try to push their religion onto others with the faulty justification that it's a 'Christian nation.'"

I always find it surprising how unfamiliar Democrats are with their own party's history.

"There is a mighty task before us and it welds us together. It is to make the United States a mighty Christian Nation, and to Christianize the world." — Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, during the "Progressive Era" of American politics.

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 12:39 AM

Good heavens, as the obvious recent example I forgot Mike Huckabee!

"Our Favorite Right-Wing Nut Job" http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/17324246/matt_taibbi_on_mike_huckabee_our_favorite_rightwing_nut_job

"The American Taliban’s new messiah: Michael Dale Huckabee" http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2876.shtml

"Video of Huckabee acting like a religious nut" http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x2415762

A liberal respect for religious views indeed.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 6:17 AM

But Matt, that's exactly what worries us. I have complete respect for anyone's religious views - as long as they're not pushing them on others and trying to incorporate them into government.

I firmly believe in separation of church and state and will adamantly oppose anyone who wants to make even the slightest link between the two.

So yes, I am openly hostile to Christianity when someone wants to put it in our schools, laws, courthouses, or give my tax money to organizations with religious affiliations.

It seems to me that recently Christians love to paint themselves as oppressed and discriminated against (“They're taking away Christmas! We can't have a school play about Jesus in our public schools!”, “We need to teach creationism so kids have ‘both sides’ ”) - yet for the past 8 years our government has been dominated by ring-wing Christian conservatives. Christians are in power; they are not oppressed.

Your comment, “The idea that religion is the driving force behind Bush Administration's policies and a leading threat to American democracy is increasingly voiced by liberals” is absolutely true; Bush has admitted as much himself, and I do honestly believe that many evangelical right-wing Christians would love nothing more than to make America into a Christian state.

They’re already trying to put it in our schools, courts, laws – what more proof do you need? So yes, they are effectively theocrats, and in my opinion, anyone who lets their religious views guide them politically is unfit for office, because I don’t want religion mixed into my government.

Matt, please give me some concrete examples of how Democrats (either as a party or as a plurality of Americans) have done ANYTHING to take away the religious rights of Christians. Christians are still free to practice their religion as always.

However, freedom of religion does NOT include teaching creationism is schools (which is a religious, non-scientific theory that should be taught in church, if anywhere). It does not include the right to ban gay marriage on religious grounds either - you’re free to hate gay people (though it’s wrong), but they should be free to marry. As for abortion and stem cells – if the arguments against them are religious in nature then they are unfounded also.

As for a “mere nativity scene on display or an angel atop a Christmas tree” – these are fine, but have them in your home or church! We don’t need them in schools or courthouses.

Would you be okay with outward religious representations in schools and public places if they weren't for Christianity? Perhaps we can keep the school plays, Christmas trees, and angels, but schoolkids could also light a menorah for Hannukah, have the chance to kneel and pray towards Mecca (if they choose), or meditate while listening to Buddhist chants? Are those okay?

Actually "intolerance for intolerance" is a great way to put it...

As for the history of the Democratic party being Christian – fine, so Wilson was a devout Christian who wanted to “Christianize the world”. I certainly wouldn’t have supported such a terrible notion, and if I had been alive, I would have voted for someone who didn’t believe that.

Finally, Huckabee? Please. That guy epitomizes the evangelical theocrat who wants to insert religion into every nook and cranny of government. He’s the one with no respect for freedom of religion, because he wants to push his religion on the whole country.

This right here, from your second link (good read by the way, thanks)– “I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.”

Thanks for doing my job for me; this is a great example of why he’s so scary to liberals – change the Constitution to reflect God’s standards? No thanks!

Ian - Sorry to rant, but as my wife said when she heard me typing last night, this is one of my buttons.

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 7:40 AM

Where did I write that they were "pushing Christianity" onto others or seeking to have it "incorporated" into government? I didn't. Each of the issues I listed above can be favored or opposed irrespective of religion (and often are!). If you favor state sanctioned gay marriage based on your own sense of morals, religiously inspired or not, we have a legislature where that can be accomplished. If someone else opposes abortion based on his or her own sense of right and wrong, whether Biblical based or not, same this goes. See how that works? The Founding Fathers would be surprised to learn that a practicing Christian cannot hold for elected office. Indeed, much of our jurisprudence is based on Judeo-Christian values.

"I firmly believe in separation of church and state and will adamantly oppose anyone who wants to make even the slightest link between the two."

The Establishment Clause is not violated by the mere presence of religion or religious symbols in the public arena. You really need to brush up on the Lemon Test (or Endorsement Test). Nor does it prohibit Christians from participating in government.

"Your comment, 'The idea that religion is the driving force behind Bush Administration's policies and a leading threat to American democracy is increasingly voiced by liberals' is absolutely true"

There you go: one standard for Obama, who admits to being influenced in his pursuit for "social justice" by his faith, and another standard for Republicans who may be similarly influenced. It appears your tolerance only extends to those with whom you agree. Another liberal trait often seen in free speech issues (hate speech codes, etc.).

"anyone who lets their religious views guide them politically is unfit for office"

Then Obama is unfit for the presidency. How exactly do you think Obama plans to pursue "social justice," which he sees through the prism of black liberation theology," once he becomes president? Everyone's sense of right and wrong is influenced by his or her faith. We aren't talking about about making it a crime to work on Sundays, commit adultery, or take the Lord's name in vain (not even the Pat Robertsons). Sharia Law, on the other hand.... There isn't one proposal that I'm talking about that depends on biblical interpretation. So your argument fails, unless you just can't tolerate Christians or appeals to a morality exterior to one's self.

"They’re already trying to put it in our schools, courts, laws – what more proof do you need?"

I assume you mean creationism as an alternative theory to Darwinism. Yes, it's a theocracy all right!! Or perhaps you mean noncompulsory moments of silence for prayer, or allowing a student to read a bible in the lunchroom, or wear a cross around their neck.

"please give me some concrete examples of how Democrats (either as a party or as a plurality of Americans) have done ANYTHING to take away the religious rights of Christians. Christians are still free to practice their religion as always."

Free speech, for one (as mentioned above), and if you ever got your way, the right to a representative government. One also gets the impression that you resent evangelicals as a voting bloc.

"Would you be okay with outward religious representations in schools and public places if they weren't for Christianity?"

Of course. In fact, we already have many allowances for every religion except Christianity and Judaism. The Chicago Public School System set aside prayer rooms for Muslim students to pray at designated times. What, you didn't read about this in the NYT? You don't say! As long as it truly doesn't amount to a goverment endorsement of a religion, it's permissible.

I think you've proven my point. You have a obvious animosity toward Christian views.

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 8:34 AM

P.S.

On his website Obama talks about faith as a source of action for justice and says he will use the bully pulpit to enact his agenda. He refers to a "higher truth" and talks about the "Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality."

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 8:41 AM

Had to rewrite the rest due to a publishing denial....

http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/ObamaonFaith.pdf

Obama is also not above making appeals to Biblical authority.

"I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state,' said Obama. 'If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.'"

Obama is also not above making appeals to Biblical authority.

"I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state,' said Obama. 'If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.'"

http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics.asp?Page=/Politics/archive/200803/POL20080303b.html

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 8:42 AM


Scott, do you oppose Obama's Bible-based policies?

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 8:44 AM

Good grief, I finally figured out that it was a single word that kept getting my posts denied for "questionable content." The word is social_ism. What's up with that setting, Ian?

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 8:46 AM

Sorry for that mess above. I was trying to rewrite/remove stuff in order to get past the software blocks. It seems to happen A LOT. Really ruins the flow...

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 9:17 AM

Looking around Obama’s official website, there are some more interesting quotes from Obama's speeches that you should read, Scott.

"For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.

[…]

"After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man. Solving these problems will require changes in government policy…"

And then he goes on to list all the changes in government policy that his religion calls him to make. Later, he says:

"But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy."

I believe you would shudder in revulsion and scream about the coming theocracy if George Bush or Mike Huckabee had said that. Interestingly, Obama also says:

"But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

I couldn’t agree more. But then this part struck me as rather curious in light of the recent revelations about his pastor:

"No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that's not how they think about faith in their own lives."

Belittle and divide. More screed than sermon. Yes, and what was Obama thinking sitting in the pews of Trinity United every Sunday?

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 9:51 AM

"Where did I write that they were "pushing Christianity" onto others or seeking to have it "incorporated" into government? I didn't."

You did link to an article about Huckabee that quotes him wanting to change the Constitution to better reflect the Bible. Isn't that the epitome of pushing Christianity and incorporating it into govt?


"Each of the issues I listed above can be favored or opposed irrespective of religion (and often are!)."

Of course. And I have no problem when someone can argue for an issue without using religion. If you oppose abortion because it's "murder", I can respect that even if I don't understand or agree with that view. But to oppose abortion because "God forbids it" is a terribly pointless argument.


"If you favor state sanctioned gay marriage based on your own sense of morals, religiously inspired or not, we have a legislature where that can be accomplished."

The thing is, I can't think of a valid, non-religious reason why gay marriage should NOT be allowed. Why do straight Christians care if their gay neighbors get married?


"The Founding Fathers would be surprised to learn that a practicing Christian cannot hold for elected office."

I'm confused. Virtually every elected office in this country is held by someone with Judeo-Christian views.
I never said Christians can't (or shouldn't) hold office... but if they can't keep their religion out of government, they're not getting my vote.


"The Establishment Clause is not violated by the mere presence of religion or religious symbols in the public arena. You really need to brush up on the Lemon Test (or Endorsement Test). Nor does it prohibit Christians from participating in government."

I don't have a problem with the "mere presence" of religious symbols in public, and I certainly don't suggest we prohibit Christians (or any other religion) from government.

But many of the examples (e.g., putting Commandments on a courthouse wall) of public display imply that the government endorses/supports that religion above others, which is a problem to me. Similarly, having a Christmas play about Jesus in a public school is not a mere display, but an endorsement.

I admit not being familiar with the Lemon or Endorsement Test, but after having looked them up, I agree with both of them. And I'm not sure why you're bringing them up, because everything that I'm against does violate one of the prongs of the Lemon Test or the Endorsement Test. Here's the Lemon Test, for others who are unfamiliar:

"The Lemon test details the requirements for legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:
1) The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
2) The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3) The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
If any of these 3 prongs is violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional.

I'd like to see some examples where none of these are violated.


Moving on, Obama can admit he is influenced by his faith; anyone who isn't must not really believe it very much. But I've never heard Obama say anything about "Christian values" or "putting God back in America". That's the stuff that frightens me, and it's all coming from one side of the aisle.

I never ruled out supporting a religious person, Republican or otherwise, as long as their religion is not something they want to spread or endorse through the government.


"anyone who lets their religious views guide them politically is unfit for office...
Then Obama is unfit for the presidency."

"Politically" is the key word, not "guide". If your politics are based on religion, I don't want you. As long as your politics are based on a rational study of the issues, even if you are a religious person, that's fine with me.


"How exactly do you think Obama plans to pursue "social justice," which he sees through the prism of black liberation theology," once he becomes president?"

When did Obama say this (the "prism of black liberation theology" part)? Or are you assuming that Wright's words are Obama's? I admit I haven't been following this closely as it's a non-story to me.


"Everyone's sense of right and wrong is influenced by his or her faith."

Not atheists. It's easy to marginalize them, I know. But they don't have a "faith", and their sense of right and wrong is based on reason, ethics, morality, etc. But now I'm nitpicking.
{actually a friend recently pointed out that even the term "atheist" is biased, since it assumes that there is something that they've chosen not to believe in... rather than starting with no assumptions about God and calling atheists "rationalists" or something... but that's quite a digression}


"We aren't talking about about making it a crime to work on Sundays, commit adultery, or take the Lord's name in vain (not even the Pat Robertsons)."

First, there's really no telling how far someone like Robertson or Huckabee would be willing to go until he gets the chance. So personally, I'm hoping he never does.

Second, adultery IS a crime in many states... although thankfully the penalty is not death by stoning.
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/grossman/20031216.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/mundy022298.htm


"I assume you mean creationism as an alternative theory to Darwinism. Yes, it's a theocracy all right!!"

Creationism isn't science and has no place in a school at all. If it has to be teached at all, the only appropriate place is a church or home. I don't know what else to say; this obviously violates the Lemon Test and Endorsement Test both. That alone doesn't make a theocracy, but don't act like it's not a foot in the door for public schools to start teaching the Christian religion.


"Or perhaps you mean noncompulsory moments of silence for prayer, or allowing a student to read a bible in the lunchroom, or wear a cross around their neck."

Noncompulsary moments of silence... if it's noncompulsary, what are the other students doing during that time? I don't see any need to impose this on everyone - students (anyone, really) can pray anytime they want - just zone out and do it.

Next up - I've never heard of any attempt to ban students from bringing a Bible from home and reading it during lunch. As long as the school/teachers don't suggest/recommend/endorse it, then go for it (I would just hope that student doesn't take the Old Testament to heart).
I would also hope a Muslim could do the same with a Quran (though some Christians would probably find that offensive).

And wearing a cross? Unless the school has a dress code that bans jewelry (in which case, wear it under your clothes), I've never heard of this either.


"Free speech, for one (as mentioned above),"

I don't see where you gave an example of a Christian denied free speech. Point it out for me, maybe I'm dense.


"and if you ever got your way, the right to a representative government."

I'm not sure what you're saying here. I didn't say I think we should ban Christians from office; that's ridiculous. I just want to stop them from using government to advance their religion. Big difference. They can still represent you without spreading religion into government.


"One also gets the impression that you resent evangelicals as a voting bloc."

Resent? Maybe. Mostly they scare me. I think they're bad for the country; I think their goals are wrong. I think they're kinda crazy too, if we're being honest. But I have that right, don't I? I'd never suggest taking away their votes, or their freedom of speech, so what's the problem?


"Of course. In fact, we already have many allowances for every religion except Christianity and Judaism."

Except? We already have lots of allowances for Christians, too - a lot more than any others. It's so embedded in everything that it's harder to notice. National holidays? Predominantly Christian. Blue laws regarding alcohol sales? Thanks, Christians. Teaching creationism in schools? Who else (though hopefully this one will end soon!). Government funding for "faith-based initiatives"? All Christian as far as I know (and I'd be opposed even if they weren't).


"The Chicago Public School System set aside prayer rooms for Muslim students to pray at designated times. What, you didn't read about this in the NYT? You don't say! As long as it truly doesn't amount to a goverment endorsement of a religion, it's permissible."

No, I didn't hear of that. I probably wouldn't have a problem if a school had the same for Christians, as long as it was completely voluntary. A separate room and time is different than forcing everyone to be silent for prayers.


"I think you've proven my point. You have a obvious animosity toward Christian views."

That was your point? My own personal "animosity" aside (for the record, I don't have a problem with Christian views until they push them on others), I thought your point was that liberals don't have respect and tolerance for Christians.

You certainly haven't proven that point, especially considering that most liberals ARE Christians... they're just not the evangelical type who want to push their religion onto others.

Again Ian, sorry this rant is so long.

Posted by: Ian at March 19, 2008 10:23 AM

Excellent debate.

As an editorial note, the word "social-ism" has "cial-is" in it, which is a banned word on the site. Oh the irony!

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 10:38 AM

Okay Matt, let me try to take these one by one. :)

“On his website Obama talks about faith as a source of action for justice and says he will use the bully pulpit to enact his agenda. He refers to a "higher truth" and talks about the "Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality." ”

The key points that stand out to me from Obama’s faith PDF are these:
1 --- The separation of church and state is critical and has caused our democracy and religious practices to thrive.
“[Conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland…It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religion, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith…”

Amen!


2 --- We are a nation of many faiths and of those with no faith at all. The religious practices of all must be respected.
“Given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

Yes; we are no longer just a Christian nation. Some conservatives and evangelicals are fighting tooth and nail against this notion, wishing it wasn’t true.


3 --- Faith should not be used as a wedge to divide.

You’d probably accuse me of this, but I have no problem with those of faith... as long as they don’t want that faith endorsed or pushed by the government.


“Obama is also not above making appeals to Biblical authority.
"I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state,' said Obama.”

I agree, although I don’t see why the terminology matters. I’d accept legalizing “same-sex civil unions” if that’s what Christians want to call them before they’ll accept them. Besides, everyone will probably still call them marriages, so eventually the whole semantics issue will die out anyway.

Merely referring to the Sermon on the Mount does not support the notion that Obama wants to put religion into government. His PDF on faith disputes that very notion, in fact. No evangelical conservative would make points 1 and 2 above.


“Scott, do you oppose Obama's Bible-based policies?”

I don’t think he has “Bible-based policies”. He might find Biblical support for policies that he believes are good for our country (helping the poor, etc), but I don’t believe his faith is the primary reason he supports those policies, and I don’t think he would ever endorse incorporating religion into government.


“Looking around Obama’s official website, there are some more interesting quotes from Obama's speeches that you should read, Scott.”

I’m sure I’d eventually find some things I don’t agree with, but I can’t imagine anything that would make McCain or even Hillary more appealing to me than Obama. For the record, my real choice was Kucinich – he’s a much better representation of where I stand – but unfortunately he’s not a realistic candidate.


"For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change,”

Spurring social change through faith and tradition is not inherently bad; it’s not the same as government endorsement of religion.


“Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.”

No problem there. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are universally accepted as ethical things to do. You don’t need religion to justify them, but if religion gives you a better understanding then great. As for faith as a source of hope and an agent in the world - again, again, he’s not pushing anything on anyone.


"After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man. Solving these problems will require changes in government policy…"
“And then he goes on to list all the changes in government policy that his religion calls him to make.”

The first part sounds good, although I don’t like to see anyone using religion as justification. But if the policies he’s referring to are universal morals (and it sounds like they are), then it’s a good thing in the end... Very different than suggesting we teach creationism, backing faith-based initiatives, putting Commandments in courthouses, or banning gay marriage as an “abomination to God.”


"But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy."
“I believe you would shudder in revulsion and scream about the coming theocracy if George Bush or Mike Huckabee had said that.”

I think faith is only one of many ways a young person can learn morality. I’m not arguing that faith is not necessarily a bad thing (although a lot of bad things are done in its name). The sexual intimacy part is pretty stupid, I must say.


"But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."
“I couldn’t agree more.”

Agree and disagree, in parts. I agree that no one can be expected to leave their religion (or lack thereof) and their beliefs at the door, because it’s a part of who a person is. And clearly great things (and terrible things) have been done with faith as a motivation. I think my disagreement lies in the distinction between personal morality and religion in public policy debates.
If we’re discussing abortion, you can say I believe abortion is murder which is wrong, but please don’t say “God forbids it.” The former view I can respect and debate, the latter is a conversation-stopper that leaves no room for reason.
As for the “codification of morality, much of it grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition” – this is both right and wrong. Many of the founders were Christian, but many of them were Deists, etc. Of course morality and ethics are the basis of law, so in the case of the US, both Judeo-Christian and Deist beliefs slipped into the original founders’ vision for the country.


“But then this part struck me as rather curious in light of the recent revelations about his pastor:
"No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that's not how they think about faith in their own lives."
Belittle and divide. More screed than sermon. Yes, and what was Obama thinking sitting in the pews of Trinity United every Sunday?”

He was probably thinking about faith in his own terms; as he said, “that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.”

I'll admit that you've made me more skeptical of Obama's relationship with religion, but at the very least, I am confident he believes in separation of church and state, which is the most important part of this debate to me. Would I prefer he not use Biblical support for his policies? Definitely. But the Bible has a lot of good morality mixed in with the bad, and as long as he's highlighting the good parts, I won't be too upset.

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 11:03 AM


"You did link to an article about Huckabee that quotes him wanting to change the Constitution to better reflect the Bible. Isn't that the epitome of pushing Christianity and incorporating it into govt?"

Scott, he's proposing an Amendment to Constitution to respect human life. It's a democratic and constitutional process, you can oppose it if you like (personally I probably wouldn't), but it's hardly a call to theocracy.

"The thing is, I can't think of a valid, non-religious reason why gay marriage should NOT be allowed."

At the risk of starting an entirely different argument... there is one. At least, that is, if you think there's a non-religious argument against plural marriage or intrafamilial marriage. What's your 14th Am. argument that permits gay marriage, but not marriage between 3 brothers? You can't use the "ick" argument, of course. As it is now, everyone has a right to marry so long as it is with a person of the opposite sex. The gay marriage argument is simply that one class of persons don't like the choices. But when gay marriage is legalized by the EPC, how can you say their choices (plural, intrafamilial) are not also constitutionally protected? The short of it is, marriage is not a civil right and the state has a legitimate interest in defining it. If you don't like it, follow Huckabee's lead and propose a constitutional amendment.

"I never said Christians can't (or shouldn't) hold office... but if they can't keep their religion out of government, they're not getting my vote."

I realize that you wrote this before you saw my 09:17 comment, and I've read your replies. I think you're giving Obama a lot more credit than he deserves, given his statements on this point, and much more than you would a Republican, but it sounds like you're simply more comfortable with a liberal Christian controlling the levers of power than a conservative one.

"But many of the examples (e.g., putting Commandments on a courthouse wall) of public display imply that the government endorses/supports that religion above others, which is a problem to me."

I'll give you that one. Probably not the others, though.

I admit not being familiar with the Lemon or Endorsement Test, but after having looked them up, I agree with both of them.

The Endorsement Test is really just Justice O'Connor's interpretation of the Lemon Test. Nativity displays, Christmas pagents, nondenominational moments of silense, and the like do not advance or endorse religion (so long as other faiths aren't excluded). On the contrary, bans of those activities certainly inhibit the constitutionally protected practice of religion, in my opinion.

"Moving on, Obama can admit he is influenced by his faith; anyone who isn't must not really believe it very much. But I've never heard Obama say anything about "Christian values" or "putting God back in America". That's the stuff that frightens me, and it's all coming from one side of the aisle."

Again, I know you replied to this in your latest post and I read it. I think Obama used the same kind of language that evangelicals use and he defended their use in shaping government without significant equivocation.

"I never ruled out supporting a religious person, Republican or otherwise, as long as their religion is not something they want to spread or endorse through the government."

The only way you can believe Obama won't do this is if you don't believe him.

" 'Everyone's sense of right and wrong is influenced by his or her faith.' Not atheists."

You got me there. And I think I agree with your friend.

"Second, adultery IS a crime in many states... although thankfully the penalty is not death by stoning."

It's never prosecuted (except in the military), but if those laws were enforced today they almost certainly wouldn't pass constitutional muster.

"Creationism isn't science and has no place in a school at all. If it has to be teached at all, the only appropriate place is a church or home. I don't know what else to say; this obviously violates the Lemon Test and Endorsement Test both."

Not really, so long as the teaching doesn't endorse one version of a creator over the other. This is another tangent that I don't care to go on right now, but to do it any justice we really need to agree on what we mean by "creationism." Is it that Adam was made from Eve's rib? Or that a creator made the universe and then took a hands off approach? Lots of intelligent folks believe the latter. In fact, the need for an "unmoved mover," for example, by science's own laws requires a creator unless you want to argue that matter sprang from nothingness (which requires a faith of its own as it's not available to the scientific method). Again, this is a lengthy topic for another discussion.

"I don't see where you gave an example of a Christian denied free speech. Point it out for me, maybe I'm dense."

Wearing religious symbols, t-shirts, speaking about Jesus on school grounds... all have met with school administrative action. Look around the net. Examples aren't hard to find.

"I probably wouldn't have a problem [with muslim prayer romms] if a school had the same for Christians, as long as it was completely voluntary."

Me, too. I don't think it violates the Endorsement Test. But I thought you did.

----

Ian, that is funny.

Posted by: Matt at March 19, 2008 11:06 AM

By the way, Scott, thanks for the discussion. I do appreciate the civility (not that it's rare around here).

I'll check back in tonight if you have a few more points.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 11:20 AM

Matt, thanks to you as well. I enjoy the chance to debate with someone with very different views. I'd like to write more later if I have the chance.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 8:39 PM

Here's another very long reply... breaking this up for questionable content, hopefully I can figure out what's setting it off.

Part 1:

"Scott, he's proposing an Amendment to Constitution to respect human life. It's a democratic and constitutional process, you can oppose it if you like (personally I probably wouldn't), but it's hardly a call to theocracy.”

From what I understand, he was speaking about a human life amendment (which I interpret as an abortion ban?) and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I don’t want to get into these issues (no surprise, I disagree on both), but suggesting we change the Constitution to match the Bible, for any reason, is an extremely dangerous precedent. And it is literally one step closer to a theocracy.


“At the risk of starting an entirely different argument... there is one. At least, that is, if you think there's a non-religious argument against plural marriage or intrafamilial marriage. What's your 14th Am. argument that permits gay marriage, but not marriage between 3 brothers? You can't use the "ick" argument, of course. As it is now, everyone has a right to marry so long as it is with a person of the opposite sex.”

This is not entirely true. The current law as I understand it, allows marriage between two adults (with adult defined differently by state), of opposite sex, who are not related (this also varies by state, with some allowing cousins).
Allowing gay marriage removes the unnecessary “opposite sex” clause, but I don’t see why it would lead us down a slippery slope to remove any others. I’m sure those who were against interracial marriage used many of the same arguments.


“The gay marriage argument is simply that one class of persons don't like the choices. But when gay marriage is legalized by the EPC, how can you say their choices (plural, intrafamilial) are not also constitutionally protected?”

First, plurality. Personally, I don’t find anything ethically wrong with plurality. It’s very common in many cultures / parts of the world (I think strict monogamy in human culture is actually a minority), so it should be classified as a cultural moral, not an ethical one.

However, in terms of legalizing it in the US, I don’t think that’s reasonable because marriage has all sorts of tax and other complications. Allowing multiple people to be married complicates things in a way that gay marriage does not, and I don’t see any justification or evidence that one leads to the other.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 8:47 PM

I'm having problems with part 2 (addressing interfamilial) so I'll skip to part 3 and come back to it.

Part 3

“The short of it is, marriage is not a civil right and the state has a legitimate interest in defining it.”

I don’t know if I’d consider marriage a “civil right”; it’s more accurately an institution than a civil right. However, since marriage carries with it certain governmental benefits (taxes, inheritances, spousal rights in hospitals… I’m not sure exactly what's included), I think it’s wrong to deny those benefits to people on the basis of their sexual preference.

Imagine if Bush’s tax cut only applied to white people. While a tax cut is not a “civil right”, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is wrong.

I still ask, why does the state's legitimate interest in defining marriage exclude homosexuals, if it's not for religious reasons? You didn't really give a reason, you just pointed out other examples of prohibited marriages.


"I never said Christians can't (or shouldn't) hold office... but if they can't keep their religion out of government, they're not getting my vote."
“I realize that you wrote this before you saw my 09:17 comment, and I've read your replies. I think you're giving Obama a lot more credit than he deserves, given his statements on this point, and much more than you would a Republican, but it sounds like you're simply more comfortable with a liberal Christian controlling the levers of power than a conservative one.”

Yes, because Obama’s PDF on faith explicitly says that he strongly believes in separation of church and state. I don’t think someone like Huckabee or Robertson (or even Romney) would be comfortable saying that; they’d alienate their base, who would love for the government to endorse Christianity (and Bush’s administration already has).


"Nativity displays, Christmas pagents, nondenominational moments of silense, and the like do not advance or endorse religion (so long as other faiths aren't excluded). On the contrary, bans of those activities certainly inhibit the constitutionally protected practice of religion, in my opinion."

Are you talking about those things in schools? The entire purpose of a school is to teach; for a public school to teach religion through displays and pageants is certainly an endorsement of that religion. What is the secular purpose of such displays and pageants?

Also, the moment of silence is troublesome because as I said, what are the non-participants supposed to do during this time? If the kids who want to participate can leave and go to another area to do it (like the Chicago schools seem to do for Muslims), that’s probably okay. But for the whole school to stop in the middle of class and force everyone to sit silently and pray – that’s another matter. Maybe it’s all in the presentation – don’t call it a moment of prayer at all, just call it “quiet time”. I don’t think many people would be opposed if the school said there would be a few minutes of quiet time; it’s when people tell the kids that they’re supposed to pray during this time that we have a problem.


"I never ruled out supporting a religious person, Republican or otherwise, as long as their religion is not something they want to spread or endorse through the government."
“The only way you can believe Obama won't do this is if you don't believe him.”

I don’t think Obama wants the US government to spread or endorse his religion. I haven’t seen him say that. If he is personally motivated by it, and it guides him in forming policies that will help the poor and underprivileged, that’s a good thing in the end. I simply don’t think he would suggest that the US government endorse Christianity.


"Second, adultery IS a crime in many states... although thankfully the penalty is not death by stoning."
"It's never prosecuted (except in the military), but if those laws were enforced today they almost certainly wouldn't pass constitutional muster."

There are rare cases of prosecution to be found (often for political or personal reasons); I really wish those laws would be removed rather than just ignored.
Here’s one, I’m sure there are more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62581-2004Sep4.html


"Creationism isn't science and has no place in a school at all. If it has to be teached at all, the only appropriate place is a church or home. I don't know what else to say; this obviously violates the Lemon Test and Endorsement Test both."
“Not really, so long as the teaching doesn't endorse one version of a creator over the other.”

But creationism has no scientific merit whatsoever; it’s philosophy at best, more accurately theology. There is no place for ANY discussion of a “creator” in a science classroom. Again, what is the secular purpose of introducing religion in a science class?

As for the “doesn’t endorse one version of a creator over the other” – are you familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and would you support its inclusion in a science classroom?


“This is another tangent that I don't care to go on right now, but to do it any justice we really need to agree on what we mean by "creationism." Is it that Adam was made from Eve's rib? Or that a creator made the universe and then took a hands off approach? Lots of intelligent folks believe the latter. In fact, the need for an "unmoved mover," for example, by science's own laws requires a creator unless you want to argue that matter sprang from nothingness (which requires a faith of its own as it's not available to the scientific method). Again, this is a lengthy topic for another discussion.”

I agree, I’d rather not get into this too much. I’ll just say for the purpose of this discussion, any reference to a “creator” has no place in a science classroom, whether he created man from a rib, through evolution, or whatever.

As for the “matter sprang from nothingness” – this argument goes nowhere, because if you believe in a creator, then where did the creator come from? Did the creator come from nothingness? If the creator was “always there”, couldn’t the matter have been always there, just in a different form (perhaps as some form of energy, prior to the big bang)? I’m not really interested in this debate at the moment but I just wanted to put that out there.


"I don't see where you gave an example of a Christian denied free speech. Point it out for me, maybe I'm dense."
“Wearing religious symbols, t-shirts, speaking about Jesus on school grounds... all have met with school administrative action. Look around the net. Examples aren't hard to find.”

Not to say I agree, but I can see why a school would object to these out of fear of lawsuits. A school might also object to a Satanic symbol or a questionable but non-religious t-shirt.

Basically, the schools have the difficult job of trying to remove distractions from the classroom. We can’t allow kids to walk around half-naked, we can’t allow offensive t-shirts, etc. But as we all know “offensive” means different things to different people. I find it hard to believe a school would ban the wearing of crosses but allow other jewelry; if so, that’s wrong.

As for speaking about Jesus on school grounds – context is definitely required. A child telling his peers that they’re all going to hell if they don’t embrace Jesus, or making disparaging / offensive remarks about non-Christians is not appropriate speech at a school. If the kid is just telling his peers that he’s Christian and wants to invite them to church, that’s probably not so offensive… so I’m curious what the circumstances are.


"I probably wouldn't have a problem [with muslim prayer romms] if a school had the same for Christians, as long as it was completely voluntary."
“Me, too. I don't think it violates the Endorsement Test. But I thought you did.”

I said I didn’t like forcing everyone to be silent for prayers. Having a separate room and time is different than forcing everyone to be silent for prayers.

Posted by: Scott M. at March 19, 2008 9:06 PM

I'm having trouble posting part 2, which addresses why inter---familial marriage is both wrong and completely unrelated to the gay marriage debate.

I'm not sure what word is triggering the censor. There's a great link on the matter; I can't post the link so bear with me. A google search for "grossman in---cest law CNN" (taking out the dashes) should get the article.

The part I'd like to point to starts with, "There are other justifications..."

My comments - In---cest is wrong because it interferes with family dynamics. Your own family should be a safe, loving place that is totally free of any se---xual connotations or impulses. This is one reason why in---cest is a bad, bad thing, and there is no slippery slope, and no comparison with homose---xuality to be made here.

Posted by: Matt at March 20, 2008 2:12 AM

Whoa, that is long. Not sure if I'll get to all right now, but if not I'll try to come back later.

"From what I understand, he was speaking about a human life amendment (which I interpret as an abortion ban?) and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. ... suggesting we change the Constitution to match the Bible, for any reason, is an extremely dangerous precedent. And it is literally one step closer to a theocracy."

Without going back to that article I'm not sure of his precise language but whether he said closer to God's word or match the Bible, there is still a non-religious case to be made for each. So even under the Obama standard and your previous allowance on the matter, it would be an acceptable argument. It would because it's no different than Obama using the words "God's calling" or "higher truth" to support an anti-poverty amendment or one making marriage a civil right. It's simply a framing issue since it could stand alone without God or the Bible, and certainly not a step towards theocracy anymore than any of Obama's proposed changes in our government based on his interpretation of the Bible or "God's work" as he often describes his social justice agenda.

"This is not entirely true. ... I don’t see why it would lead us down a slippery slope to remove any others. I’m sure those who were against interracial marriage used many of the same arguments."

Oh but it does (there are lots of articles out there about plural marriage supporters demanding the right to marry), and you completely dodged my question! The only argument being put forth now by SSM proponents is that it is required under the equal protection clause. If that's true, then how does it not also apply to plural or intrafamilial marriage? I submit that you can't. Saying that present law provides for age and relation restrictions is simply noting that the state can and does define marriage. Unless you support those other arrangements, all we're really arguing is where to draw the line; who's in and who's out. That's a matter for the legislature. If you don't support those other arragements, absent a change in our existing laws you have to square it with the EPC. There's no getting around it.

"First, plurality. Personally, I don’t find anything ethically wrong with plurality. It’s very common in many cultures / parts of the world (I think strict monogamy in human culture is actually a minority), so it should be classified as a cultural moral, not an ethical one."

No, there are many legitimate arguments to support the notion that polygamy, for instance, is harmful to society in general and women in particular. (I also don't believe plural marriage is practiced in a majority of the world, as you say.) There are also many abstract social policy reasons to reject it. Look at places where it is practiced and you'll find a large number of poor men without prospects for mating (since rich men have multiple wives) causing trouble, usually crime. There's actually been a lot of research in this area and it's no surprise why developed country's don't allow it.

"I don’t know if I’d consider marriage a “civil right”; it’s more accurately an institution than a civil right."

I have no idea what you mean by this. We are talking about laws, not Dean Smith. There has to be a basis in law for what you are proposing since it involves the state.

"I think it’s wrong to deny those benefits to people on the basis of their sexual preference."

Again, as they are written, marriage laws are equal for everyone, you just have to marry someone of the opposite sex. I understand that some people don't like that restriction, but some people also don't like the restrictions on number or relation either. We have laws and a process for changing them.

"Imagine if Bush’s tax cut only applied to white people. While a tax cut is not a “civil right”, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is wrong."

Yes, but who you want to marry is not the same as what skin color you were born with. The state is advancing a legitimate societal interest with its marriage laws and a tax code to go along with it. There are lots of things about our tax scheme I don't like either.

"I still ask, why does the state's legitimate interest in defining marriage exclude homosexuals, if it's not for religious reasons? You didn't really give a reason, you just pointed out other examples of prohibited marriages."

As you've conceded earlier in this argument, morality is not the sole domain of religion. You could just as well ask what the state's interest is in banning marriage between the 3 brothers. I won't make the "basic family unit as a model for raising children" argument here or expound upon why it has proven successful for thousands of years (see Stanley Kurtz for that). Since you avoided the issue of intrafamilial marriage entirely I'm going to assume you don't support it and wonder to myself why that might be (too icky, I suppose).

"Yes, because Obama’s PDF on faith explicitly says that he strongly believes in separation of church and state. I don’t think someone like Huckabee or Robertson (or even Romney) would be comfortable saying that; they’d alienate their base, who would love for the government to endorse Christianity (and Bush’s administration already has)."

Earlier you wrote, "the Bible has a lot of good morality mixed in with the bad, and as long as [Obama's] highlighting the good parts, I won't be too upset." So it's ok as long as you agree with it. Liberals using religion to advance their political agenda is fine, but conservatives doing so is theocracy. I think I got it.

"Are you talking about those things in schools? The entire purpose of a school is to teach; for a public school to teach religion through displays and pageants is certainly an endorsement of that religion. What is the secular purpose of such displays and pageants?"

How about the secular purpose of the 1st Amendment? And what is so secular about providing Muslim prayer rooms in public schools, which you wrote earlier you had no problem with it?

"Also, the moment of silence is troublesome because as I said, what are the non-participants supposed to do during this time?"

They can pray to Gaia, think about their math quiz, or fantasize about gay marriage, whatever they wish. It seems hard to argue that such things endorse a particular religion over others. It simply acknowledges the needs of some students in a much less benign way than providing prayer rooms.

"don’t call it a moment of prayer at all, just call it “quiet time”."

I believe I used the theocratic term "moment of silence." I never said students had to pray or that schools should implore students to use it that way. Yet it is still objectionable to the religiously hostile liberals because some would in fact pray on school grounds. Stories abound about bus drivers telling students riding home they can't read their Bibles, they can't wear a Christian themed t-shirt (this one has actually been overturned by SCOTUS -- one for the theocrats!), that they can't hold Bible study after hours or on the lawn during lunch. There is a real misunderstanding about the so-called separation of church and state, which thankfully Obama gets.

"I don’t think Obama wants the US government to spread or endorse his religion."

Neither does anyone else.

"If he is personally motivated by it, and it guides him in forming policies that will help the poor and underprivileged, that’s a good thing in the end. I simply don’t think he would suggest that the US government endorse Christianity."

But it's not ok if George Bush or Mike Huckabee are similarly motivated because they are conservatives and you don't agree that their proposals are "good."


"There are rare cases of prosecution to be found (often for political or personal reasons); I really wish those laws would be removed rather than just ignored."

Jonathon Turley is a crank, but he's right that such laws are likely unconstitutional under Lawrence v Texas. And prosecutions are still extremely rare. There's a book out (can't recall the title) about weird and out-dated laws on the books (in some town in Ohio it's a misdemeanor not to check in with the mayor if you enter the city limits after dark). Apparently lots of them never get repealled due to the amount of legislative time it takes. But you're right, they should be removed rather than ignored. They give stupid prosecutors too much "discretion."

I gotta go, but will try to read and respond to the rest later. Please hold your fire until then or I'll never get caught up.

Posted by: Matt at March 20, 2008 5:34 AM

"But creationism has no scientific merit whatsoever; it’s philosophy at best, more accurately theology. There is no place for ANY discussion of a “creator” in a science classroom. Again, what is the secular purpose of introducing religion in a science class?"

Since science can't answer the question of how the universe came into existence and it also tells us that every action must have a cause, which science can't answer without the existence of a creator, I don't see the harm in acknowledging the idea that some form of a creator may exist. Not Adam and Eve stuff, of course, nor even naming any particular religion's creator, but merely an acknowledgement that some people believe the universe has a creator. Is that so threatening? This really doesn't trouble me a whole lot since most folks don't need a teacher to tell them this stuff. It just grates that some folks are so quick to believe that science and a creator are incompatible. Even Darwin believed in God. So did Clarence Darrow, for that matter.

"As for the “doesn’t endorse one version of a creator over the other” – are you familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and would you support its inclusion in a science classroom?"

If that's what you want to believe, fine with me. I'm not suggesting schools should teach God, Allah, or the FSM, just note a likelihood (or possibility).

"As for the “matter sprang from nothingness” – this argument goes nowhere, because if you believe in a creator, then where did the creator come from? Did the creator come from nothingness?"

That's the whole point of being God, the alpha and omega. This reminds me of the deeply philosophical: can God make a burrito so hot even he can't eat it? BTW, matter is inanimate, it can't act on anything. Even the Big Bang requires a catalyst.

"Not to say I agree, but I can see why a school would object to these out of fear of lawsuits. A school might also object to a Satanic symbol or a questionable but non-religious t-shirt."

There's considerable case law on the subject holding that high school students have a right to free speech even if that speech is controversial. There are exceptions for disruptive speech and, more recently, "illicit" purposes ("Bong Hits for Jesus"), but the standard is high and SCOTUS has repeatedly held that students do not surrender their free speech rights at the school house door (e.g. anti-war, pro-life, religion). See Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969).

"I find it hard to believe a school would ban the wearing of crosses but allow other jewelry; if so, that’s wrong."

It is indeed hard to believe, yet it's not uncommon. The reason I think it happens is because we are so worked up about and confused as to the meaning of separation of church/state that administrators think they are just being cautious. It's probably only in rare cases that it reflects an overt anti-religious bias.

"As for speaking about Jesus on school grounds – context is definitely required. A child telling his peers that they’re all going to hell if they don’t embrace Jesus, or making disparaging / offensive remarks about non-Christians is not appropriate speech at a school."

That's true of any subject, not just religion. Unfortunately, it is usually passive conduct that gets religious expressions punished. Again, most likely due to ignorance about the law.

"I said I didn’t like forcing everyone to be silent for prayers. Having a separate room and time is different than forcing everyone to be silent for prayers."

Providing special rooms in public schools for Muslim students to pray during school hours (which I think is a reasonable accomodation not rising to the level of government endorsement) seems like it goes a lot farther than letting boy scouts meet in the gymnasium on Saturdays. Yet the ACLU and its supporters oppose that very thing (filing suit after suit in every jurisdiction in the country) based on the BSA's own policies religious belief (a pledge acknowledging God) and sexual orientation. Their argument? Separation of church and state.

"My comments - In---cest is wrong because it interferes with family dynamics. Your own family should be a safe, loving place that is totally free of any se---xual connotations or impulses. This is one reason why in---cest is a bad, bad thing, and there is no slippery slope, and no comparison with homose---xuality to be made here."

Not true. We are talking about consenting adults. Who are you to say it's wrong for two (3?) adult brothers (or first cousins?) to get married? How does that hurt you or your marriage? These brothers realized in their 40s that they were deeply in love and now they'd like the benefits the state affords to all other marriages. Get over your prudishness, Scott. The same arguments about "family values" you're now making were once made against gay marriage, which was ruled constitutional (we are assuming for this exercise) under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Look, I realize you are trying to carve out an exception to solve an obviously unpleasant problem, but you need to be consistent under the law. The only way to legalize gay marriage and not the others is to do it through the legislature, which is just redefining marriage. My only problem with the movement to achieve gay marriage is that it is a matter for the legislature, not the courts.

Thanks again, Scott. I enjoyed the back and forth. You made some valid points and if you'd like to have the last word, be my guest. I'll read it but I have to get some work done if I want to get home to watch basketball tonight. Good luck in the pool. By the way, I think the ESPN site has a mail function, no?

Posted by: online marketing degree at May 4, 2013 12:03 AM

Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: siageo at May 7, 2013 6:43 AM

sympa mais aujourd'hui" il faut "vous décider mon site immobilier

Posted by: seo at May 10, 2013 3:25 AM

Nice read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Therefore let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

Posted by: ArcheAge Gold US at May 10, 2013 11:18 AM

I really like your writing style, excellent info , thankyou for putting up : D.

Posted by: WS Gold at May 25, 2013 4:22 AM

Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you're talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange arrangement between us!

Posted by: gw2 gold at May 29, 2013 11:30 AM

You could definitely see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

Posted by: reference at June 7, 2013 2:56 PM

Beauty is a clear communication of introduction.

Posted by: Abby Kallevig at June 20, 2013 10:56 PM

Satchel Onlinehttp://satchelbags.cricketandco.com#dhgjh I'm a significant hiker Hermes rate reduction handbags and here's you should locate sensible rods and mixes I will take on the trl when camping, and once I Hermes possessions 2013 tasted this in turn cereal, remember I had to brew a trl fusion by it. this is what I did:143766

Posted by: guild wars 2 gold at July 6, 2013 5:33 AM

I have noticed that in old digital cameras, unique devices help to target automatically. The actual sensors connected with some cameras change in in the area of contrast, while others start using a beam involving infra-red (IR) light, specifically in low lighting. Higher spec cameras often use a mixture of both systems and will often have Face Priority AF where the dslr camera can 'See' some sort of face and concentrate only upon that. Many thanks for sharing your thinking on this web site.

Posted by: weitere Produkte at July 10, 2013 1:10 AM

Woah! I'm really digging the template/theme of this website. It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's very difficult to get that "perfect balance" between usability and visual appearance. I must say you've done a superb job with this. Also, the blog loads very fast for me on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!

Posted by: fast archeage gold at July 11, 2013 3:42 PM

I just like the valuable info you supply for your articles. I will bookmark your blog and test once more right here regularly. I am quite sure I’ll be told many new stuff proper right here! Best of luck for the next!

Post a comment





(We won't show it.)




Remember personal info?