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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Politics should not be a totally secular space bleached of all religious frames of reference

The Audacity of Hope, Obama's new book, draws upon one of the many memorable phrases from Obama's speech in 2004 to articulate his vision of American society, politics, and foreign policy. Chandrahas, 1:35 PM email this to a friend permalink (1) comments A shorter verion of this piece appears today in Mint.
An example of how Obama brings together points of view from opposing sides of the spectrum can be found in this passage on the place of religion in politics, a contentious issue in multi-faith America. Although Obama thinks the separation of Church and State one of the best things about the American consitution, he argues that this does not mean that politics should be a totally secular space bleached of all religious frames of reference. He argues,
Surely, secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square; Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. - indeed the majority of great reformers in American history - not only were motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes. 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.
What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason. If I am opposed to banning abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

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