Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some folks in my listserves are forwarding Obama quotes taken out of context and are meant to smear him. A friend offered that these emails should not be given the time of day; that people should buy Obama's books and read for themselves. Another friend offers an alternative essay from an evangelical publication as worthwhile reading. I read this essay and this is my response:

Dear all -
Spent some time with the CT article and I just want to put in my 2cents of Pinay insight.

CT is an evangelical publication and represents the viewpoints of evangelical Christianity. If you go their election website, you will notice how their political and ideological positions become transparent even as they are filtered through the universal language of "common sense" which is founded on Greek thought... which in turn, feeds the dominant rationalist thinking of modern US society. Of course we know that Protestant evangelical Christianity in the US is very much influenced by Greek thought as well. Compare it with the language of liberation theology of Latin America or Black Theology.

As an observer of popular religious discourse, I note that the discourse of the religious right (RR) has recently shifted to an emphasis on "virtues." I think this is an effect of the disaffection and disillusion of the RR over the failure of the Bush administration to give in to their demands (for a more theocratic sort of presidency). See Jim Wallis' and David Kuo's books on this topic. See also the (im)moral scandals by top Republicans friendly to evangelicals - Tom Delay, Karl Rove, and others indicted for immoral actions. Note also the embarrassment over Ted Haggard. Enter Joel Osteen with his gospel of niceness (virtues).

What does this have to do with the CT essay on how to choose a president? I think we need to learn how to read between the lines. What does it mean to elect a moral president? What is a moral position on war and US foreign policy? What is a moral position on corporate capitalism that is depleting the natural resources of the planet? what is a moral position on nuclear arms? What is a moral position on personal relationships that should be sanctioned by society (what kind and why)? What is a moral position with regards to the rights of indigenous peoples to live on their own terms? Or of the rights of the global south to protest the politics of US-driven free trade policies?

My latest issue of Yes! Magazine touts this theme: the need for the US to take it's place as a member of the community of nations. Not as sole superpower, not as imperial power. Even Jeff Sachs of Columbia University is proposing a "politics of convergence" - of balancing and redistributing global resources instead of hoarding them under aggressive and competitive economic policies.

The CT essay emphasizes the need for the personal moral virtue of whoever we elect as President. But I find the essay wanting in its definition of morality in relation to the above concerns. However, that is not surprising because I already know where evangelicals stand on these issues and it's not very far from the kind of xenophobic and racialized discourse masquerading in the language of patriotism and family values. Some things that are sold to us as universal and common sense, on second look, are really neither. They are common sense only for those who belong to their flock.

For example - I read the essay's take on courage. It says that in premodern times, courage was physical than moral. Gee, my indigenous intuition tells me that my "uncivilized" ancestors who put their bodies on the line to protect their community were more moral than a modern politician who sends surrogates to the battle line. Okay, I'm being simplistic here but I am reacting to the way this essay hides the wineskin that holds its intoxicating brew of modernity. It is this old wineskin that no longer works for a global community.

Musings on a Sunday morning.

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