A while ago, when Ryan made me aware of Dr. James Dobson’s remarks about a speech Barack Obama gave back in 2006 entitled A Call To Renewal, I listened Dr. Dobson’s radio broadcast here and then I watched Obama’s entire speech (at the links here).

Dr. James DobsonWhile I may disagree with Dr. Dobson’s take on Obama’s statements, I must “be willing to speak in fair-minded terms.”* And so I’ve carefully removed from this post any statements I’d like to make about how Dr. Dobson could possibly be “using faith as a tool of attack.”*

People in public service have a duty to find balance between their personal beliefs as an individual and their constituency’s beliefs as a community. Otherwise, it’s not a democracy; it’s a monarchy. Regardless of our religious affiliations, it is impossible for mankind to always agree implicitly and wholly with others within his or or community. Even within this nations’ church communities, individuals need to find balance between the “beliefs of each and the good of the whole.”*

Those in public office have a duty to engage with what Obama calls a pluristic society. Just like those of us writing screenplays will write better, more authentic and accessible stories when we include more than our own point of view, those in public office must find balance.

But this prescription is not for everyone. Those who do not find themselves in a public forum, while they must balance their individual beliefs with the community consensus in order to find peace (think local church or community center), they should feel quite free to engage in peaceful activities that promote those views to which they hold most strongly. There is a season for everything. A season to fight and a season to reason together.

My strong hope is that Christians would not fear Obama (or McCain for that matter), tolerance, balanced discussion or even their Muslim neighbour; but that Christians would rationally think and humbly pray about what it means to make a loving choice in response to the dissonance and pluralism in this world. The Bible says “seek first the kingdom,” not “defend first the kingdom.” The kingdom is capable of defending itself. Ours is to love and obey God, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

* All quotes from Barack Obama’s speech in 2006 entitled A Call To Renewal.

6 Responses to OBAMA VS DOBSON

  1. Fay says:

    Well said, but I have difficulty with your original premise, that people in public office must balance their personal beliefs with their constituency’s beliefs as a community.
    I’m wondering how one balances these two if, indeed, one should. Does that mean one should fulfill his or her mandate by following polls? Or perhaps it could be accomplished by ignoring, at least 50% of the time, the values of those who actually voted for him or her, in favor of those who might have voted for an opponent, all in the name of tolerance?
    I have noticed that when one’s own candidate of choice takes office, one likes a strong leader who adheres to principles. If one’s own candidate is not in office, one prefers the incumbant to be tolerant and balanced, mindful of the needs of the whole.
    I imagine the old adage is true in politics as it is everywhere else: “You can’t please all the people all the time.” I imagine the best any people can hope for is that the government in power can work with those across the aisle to get done at least those things they can agree are good for the country. As for the rest, whoever is in power has a mandate from at least half the people to carry out the platform of the party in power.
    That’s how I see it from here.

  2. gilliebean says:

    I like what you say about what you’ve noticed; but what I’m arguing is that voters should begin to vote for strong leaders who both adhere to principles *and* balance those principles with the needs of the whole. Yes, I’m asking for both.

    I think the “how to” of this balancing comes with experience and integrity. And “balance”, as I mean it, is *the thing* – it means balancing the results of the polls with the values of the voters with personal beliefs with. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

    I think we *should* hope that governments will work with those across the aisle to get done the things about which they agree. This is the point of corporate governance – in its most essential meaning.

  3. fritch says:

    I have to chime in – not cuz I disagree with anything Fay or Gillie said, but mostly b/c I like democracy. 🙂

    The premise that elected officials must balance their personal views with those of their electorate is a philosophical debate intrinsic to the republican ideal and definitely predates modern democracy. Representatives at the first US Continental Congresses in the 1770s wrestled with these issues, and there are at least one or two accounts of representatives who abstained or voted against their convictions on the issue of independence because they believed that they had been sent by their states as messengers of their constituents’ views, not their own. There were of course others who believed that representatives were sent with a responsibility to exercise their best, personal judgment about issues.

    I don’t think the question is easily or quickly resolved, and shouldn’t be. When “We the People” are considered the source of governmental power, then there is a legitimate question of whether an official should vote according to personal conscience or according to duty, when the two differ. I’m not referring to those who pay undue homage to lobbyists (who essentially schmooze their views into the minds of leaders and often are not actually representative of their constituents), but rather that elected leaders should seek genuine awareness of the actual desires and needs of their constituents. Representative government relies on the idea that our representatives represent us.

    As a Christian and believer in absolute truth, I believe it is possible to weigh decisions against absolute standards, irrespective of public opinion, so it’s easy for me to say that a leader should always “do the right thing” no matter what people think. But how do I reconcile that belief with the fact that compromises on major moral issues, such as Slavery, were key to the founding of modern democracy in those Congresses and continues to be the sustaining currency of government practiced by imperfect people? I’m not sure. But so far, the democratic ideal has proved to be a pinnacle of human achievement, in both moral and practical terms, so I’m led to believe the kind of pragmatism intrinsic to its success is the safest and highest moral consistency we can expect from organized government. That may seem too broad, but I think it bears out. An environment which allows all views a fair chance is an environment in which truth is less likely to be repressed and lies more likely to be seen for what they are.

    But i still don’t know who to vote for in November…

  4. Fay says:

    Aaaah yes, and true democracy allows for differences of opinion and calls for open and respectful debate. That, at least should be firmly held to by any who say they love democracy.

    Interesting that, after over two hundred years of practise of democratic republican governance in your country, the “question” of how an elected representative actually represents is no closer to being answered and probably will never be, because, for one thing, “their constituents views” will probably never be “one view”. Many of their consituents will start off at a different place and seek a different end in any debate, so how does the agent of governance fulfill the “duty” to fulfill the consituents views, even if they are on conflict with his own? It’s a conundrum, by golly!

    Also, on a more serious note, I rather doubt that the “democratic ideal” has ever been attained and I fear that the pragmatism which may be intrinsic to it’s success may yet be it’s undoing. Another conundrum!

    The system is flawed; the people are flawed. The result will always be flawed. The only difference will be a matter of degree.

    There: my 3 and 4 cents worth.

    And I don’t know who I’d vote for in November, either! Glad I don’t have to.

  5. Fay says:

    ps. I’ll be carrying on like this until November or until Glenn says, “I can’t stands no more! No more CNN or Club Fritch till this darned election is over!”
    (Whichever comes first. ;<)

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