"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

8.22.2006

by the hand and by the heart

Christianity Today gives Barak Obama some credit. I saw this and had to temporarily rethink all my preconceived notions. But then I read the second part of the editorial, which talks about the role of "specifically Christian resoning" in history's great crusades for civil rights. They say that Obama, who says that religious voters have to come up with secular reasoning for public policies that affect everyone. CT says, fine, but Martin Luther King's reasoning was religious. That's true.

The problem with CT's analysis is that the reasoning behind the Civil Rights Act and other legislation and policies designed to promote equal justice, while they may have been firmly grounded in Christian notions of justice, could also be justified on basic principles of fairness and of the equality of all people before the law. Because I'm a Christian, I believe that all people are equal because all people are created in God's image. But you don't have to subscribe to a specific Judeo-Christian idea to believe that people are equal and should be treated fairly. Contrary to what CT's editors say, America is not "far and away a Judeo-Christian nation" in a legal sense. Our system of rule demands respect for minority rights. Requiring a secular justification for religiously-motivated laws is a good way of holding the majority in check, and ensuring that we aren't subjected to the tyranny of a theocracy.

That's what Obama is pointing to. That's why his involvement in politics is so exciting to just about everyone I know who is of a moderate persuasion. Here's a politician who understands that faith is important, and that we have deeply held beliefs that motivate our policy positions. But he also understands that there's a danger in thinking you always have the right answer simply because you are a person of faith. That's the kind of nuance that is misisng from our politics. We need more people like him.

Plus, you know, he lives in Ali's building.

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