Saturday 30 May 2009

President's Obama's Faith, Moral Vision, and Public Policy - How Do They "Mix?"

I find this to be VERY interesting stuff to listen to, absorb, and reflect on:

Obama's theologian: Reinhold Neibuhr

Obama on Neibuhr: "I take away … the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

Obama's Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships c/o Joshua DuBois (Age 26)

As DuBois tells it (echoing President Obama's recent commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame) a critical part of his challenge in this area is to foster new kinds of conversation and encounter across dividing lines on this issue. And it is fascinating to hear him talk about how such conversations were already part of his experience during the presidential campaign. He describes encounters with diverse gatherings across the country which persuaded him that new dialogue on painful issues — especially abortion — is possible.

Joshua DuBois faces controversy ahead, too, as he is well aware. The constitutionality of federal funding to non-profits that discriminate in hiring raises concerns. So does the potential for religious proselytizing funded by federal dollars. The Obama administration has pledged to consider such constitutional concerns on a case by case basis, a process that has not yet begun.

Joshua DuBois' mission is to be an office "for all Americans," as he likes to say - religious and non-religious. In this office, it seems, President Obama plans to build on the insistence in his inaugural address that the U.S. is a nation of "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."

For those willing to take the time, here is a link to the podcast where Krista Tippet from "Speaking of Faith" interviews DuBois, but it's the entire 80-minute UNedited version of their very enlightening dialogue. Not a minute of it was boring!

Also worth listening to, was a small group "salon" conversation held the morning after the DuBois event. There was a sense of both the tension and promise in this charge which reflects the changing face of religious and spiritual life in contemporary U.S. culture and in public life.


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