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Old 12-22-2004, 07:33 AM   #1
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Clueless Democrats and Republicans

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition...on_two.art.htm


Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a clue
By Jim Wallis

In the 2004 campaign, the religious right and the Republican Party chose a “moral values” strategy. While it might have helped them win this election, a serious focus on moral values in American politics could turn out to be a big mistake for the right — especially for its economic and foreign-policy agenda. Its efforts to reduce the values discussion to one or two controversial social issues — gay marriage and abortion — is unlikely to be successful over the long run. The conservative political agenda could come under great scrutiny when religious and moral values are applied to policies that favor the wealthy and choose war as the first, not the last, resort to threats of terrorism and tyranny.

Polls taken since the election have consistently shown that Americans care about moral values — and don't restrict them to one or two issues. For instance, a Zogby International poll found that, when asked to choose the “most urgent moral problem in American culture,” 64% of respondents selected either “greed and materialism” or “poverty and economic justice,” while 28% chose abortion or gay marriage. Voters don't want to ignore these broader issues.

Neither do our religious traditions. Thousands of verses in the Bible make poverty a moral and religious issue. The environment — protecting God's creation — is a religious matter and moral concern. Important issues of war and peace are deeply theological and just as much a “life issue” as is abortion. And human rights are rooted in the religious concept of the image of God in every person.

Right now, neither party gets the values question right. The Democrats seem uncomfortable with the language of faith and values, preferring in recent decades the secular approach of restricting such matters to the private sphere. But where would we be if Martin Luther King Jr. had kept his faith to himself? The separation of church and state does not require the segregation of moral language and values from public life. The Republicans are comfortable with the language of religion and values. But the GOP wants to narrow the focus to hot-button social issues it then uses as wedges in political campaigns, while ignoring or obstructing the application of such values where they would threaten its agenda.

We should welcome the discussion of “moral values.” And I believe the values debate should be the future of American politics. But how narrowly or widely will values be defined and how partisan will the discussion be? Will the moral-values debate cut both ways in politics, challenging both the political left and the political right? Will values be used as wedges and weapons to divide and destroy us, or as bridges to bring us together — to find common ground by moving to higher ground?

We must ask two questions: Where is the real debate in the moral-values conversation? (Because there are real differences in America on the values issues.) And where can we find common ground? (Because there is also much that we share in common that could be built upon.)

Poverty, and a serious commitment to address it at home and globally, could become part of a new common ground because the conservative and liberal sides care about it. Care for the environment also crosses conservative/liberal lines. And we desperately need a new “moral conversation” about the most effective and ethical ways to defeat the threat of terrorism without compromising our own values and integrity.

What if pro-life and pro-choice partisans worked together to dramatically reduce one of the highest abortion rates in the world by focusing on teenage pregnancy, adoption reform and economically supporting low-income women — all of which would help to reduce abortions?

When I speak across the country and say that parenting has become a “counter-cultural” activity in America, the heads of all parents, whether liberal or conservative, begin to nod. Most Americans support some sort of legal protection for same-sex couples, but the crisis of family life in America goes much deeper than how we deal with that issue. Family breakdown is indeed an urgent issue, but the real causes are found in infidelity, soaring divorce rates, family financial pressures, cultural pollution and the need to strongly support both marriage and parenting. Helping each other to raise our kids — all of the nation's children — could help unite us.

So, yes, let's discuss moral values. It might be the best way for people in the red and blue states to start talking to each other. Religion and moral values don't fall neatly into right and left political categories. Personal and social responsibility are both at the heart of religion and define what we call “the common good.” The two together could make a very powerful and compelling political vision for the future of our nation.


Jim Wallis is author of the forthcoming God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. He is the editor of Sojourners magazine and convener of Call to Renewal, which works to combat poverty.
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Old 12-22-2004, 07:40 AM   #2
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I like this. I think both the left and the right need to change. Just like neither side has a monopoly on virtue, neither side has a monopoly on questionable morality. Because human beings are imperfect, it's in the nature of any group of human beings to let screw-ups stain ideals and dreams. We're all guilty, but we are capable of cleaning up the mess too.
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Old 12-22-2004, 07:54 AM   #3
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Excellent article

" Religion and moral values don't fall neatly into right and left political categories. Personal and social responsibility are both at the heart of religion and define what we call “the common good.” The two together could make a very powerful and compelling political vision for the future of our nation."

~ I love that
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Old 12-22-2004, 08:02 AM   #4
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More about the author at www.sojo.net for those who are interested
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Old 12-22-2004, 08:35 AM   #5
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This whole site is really cool. We can all learn from people like this, no matter what our political persuasion is. They can see the inconsistencies and shortcomings in all of us, not just some of us. We tend to be overly selective in moral considerations, but these people are not.
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Old 12-22-2004, 08:48 AM   #6
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I've read quite a few of his articles, he was also on Meet the Press with Falwell. I love his ideas.
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Old 12-22-2004, 11:48 PM   #7
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I like the article overall. My only objection is that he seems to hint that the right doesn't give a hoot about poverty. Poverty is not an issue that is restricted to a political party. Anyways, as of now, I feel that the most urgent moral problem in this country is the lack of unity. Overall, the article conveyed a positive message about that.

Quote:
So, yes, let's discuss moral values. It might be the best way for people in the red and blue states to start talking to each other. Religion and moral values don't fall neatly into right and left political categories. Personal and social responsibility are both at the heart of religion and define what we call “the common good.” The two together could make a very powerful and compelling political vision for the future of our nation.
There are plenty of moral people left and right, but we have different callings.
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Old 12-23-2004, 06:42 AM   #8
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I agree 100%, but we let corporations (souless entities) dictate the actions of our governments. This is what really divides us.
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