smoke on the water, joy to the world
Here is Barak Obama's speech for World AIDS Day, and here is E.J. Dionne's commentary on it, and on the whole "controversy" stirred up by far right-wing Christians who said that Obama shouldn't have been invited to speak at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church conference on HIV/AIDS due to Obama's pro-choice position.
This is unsurprising, given the nature of some of the right-wing's people. They apparently don't believe that you can work with another individual on anything unless you both agree on everything. It's a nonsensical, narrow, and ultimately self-defeating strategy for getting things done.
Obama, however, says more and more that makes sense to me. Here's the quote that sets him (and Warren) apart from the far-right:
"I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if Leo's family was my own. If I had to answer those phone calls - if I had to attend those funerals. All I know is that no matter how or why my family became sick, I would be called to care for them and comfort them and do what I could to help find a cure. I know every one of you would do the same if it were your family.
Here's the thing - my faith tells me that Leo's family is my family."
That attitude - that sense that being a Christian means you see others as your neighbor who is sick and dying on the side of the road - that's the thing that makes Obama different from the right-wing that demonizes immigrants and foreigners in the name of patriotism, and who promote policies that cause people to die (and do not make a mistake of understanding this: people have died as a result of the Bush administration's policies on funding for family planning programs overseas - those clinics were the only health clinics in many areas in Africa.). That's the thing that makes me associate far-right-wing evangelicals with the Pharisees and priests who can't be troubled to stop, bind up a sinner's wounds, and provide for their recovery.
Perhaps I'm not being fair to the ultra-conservatives. But this attitude - the attitude (which some have appropriately entitled "Virginity or Death") about AIDS, sexuality, and problems on the other side of the world that we can't even begin to comprehend that says that abstinence is the only answer and those who don't abstain get what they deserve - it seems to me is directly contradictory to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't tell us to leave people to suffer as a result of who they are, what they'd done, or where they lived. He told us to love everyone, regardless, and to care for the poor. Period.
Maybe I'm not being fair. But they're not being fair to Obama, either. They don't believe that Christians like Warren should work with Obama. They don't believe that someone who says things like this should be welcomed into a church building:
"Having said that, I also believe that we cannot ignore that abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality - that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions - and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available. I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence."
"I don't think that's a satisfactory response. My faith reminds me that we all are sinners. My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.
"...We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that's punitive and petty, divisive and small.
"Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth."
Amen and amen. Let's hope Obama hangs around long enough to get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth. I'd like to vote for someone like that.