The recent inclusion of Senator Barack Obama at an AIDS conference hosted by Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor, has caused predictable ripples throughout liberaldom. E.J. Dionne’s characterization of it in an editorial that might well serve as a proxy for the left’s entrance onto the nation’s altar, brings into stark relief the unique contours it will likely assume.
Although we should welcome people of good faith–literally and figuratively–who believe in relieving pain and suffering, religious morality in the tradition of Christianity and, in particular, Catholicism, asks far more from us. The senator from Illinois knows this but adroitly culls from the moral argument only those elements that cast him a favorable light while not compromising his hallowed liberal precepts.
While it is vital work, caring for AIDS victims is the low-hanging fruit in the world of moral imperatives. It’s in the prevention paradigm that conspicuous differences begin to emerge, with liberals such as Mr. Obama capitulating the moral high ground by stating that “abstinence and fidelity, although ideal, may not always be the reality.” Moral fissures and fault lines are the left’s Achilles heel and all the preaching to the contrary by the likes of E.J. Dionne does nothing to refute that.
Although those in the thrall of Mr. Obama’s recent elevation to sainthood would argue differently, modern day liberalism is predicated on an a priori endorsement of human cynicism with respect the seminal moral issues we face. Indeed, whether it’s premarital sex, single parenthood, abortion, or AIDS, they cede the very polemical real estate necessary to mount meaningful arguments for prevention.
By arguing, as Mr. Obama does, that “We’re dealing with flesh-and-blood men and women, not abstractions,” he is telegraphing his willingness to lower the moral bar for those he deems less capable of high ethical standards. He and his ilk use the same argument with teens as they litter high schools with condoms because “they’re going to do it anyway.” So it is that they prefer to have their 17 year olds at one party location with adult supplied alcohol because at least the parents know where the kids are.
In the world of liberalism, abstinence, prohibition, and proscription, are oppressive and demeaning and they don’t take into consideration the “real world” where kids or adults are immutably predetermined to find the lowest common behavioral denominator. It’s moral shorthand for cutting their losses by trying to mitigate the symptoms of our basest instincts rather than appealing to our more rarefied moral character.
In closing his editorial, Dionne uses an unflattering non sequitur by arguing that Mr. Obama’s standing ovation “…suggests that Warren is right to sense that growing numbers of Christians are tired of narrowly partisan politics and share his interest in ‘the whole bird,'” a reference to Warren’s assertion that he’s neither left wing nor right wing, but wants the ‘whole bird.’
Astute observers of the American political scene know that ‘partisanship’ is liberalism’s reflexive response to any challenge to its hegemonic designs. Indeed, when we dare to question the wisdom of the policies they support, from those that would prevent parental notification for teens having an abortion to the barbarism known as partial birth abortion, they lodge the charge of ‘partisan politics.’ It’s only bipartisan when Republicans agree with them.
Although Christians, not unlike most Americans, would prefer to avoid rancorous political confrontations, they intuitively recognize it when politicians such as Obama and media apologists, such as Dionne, are playing both sides against the middle.
Taking care of those in pain and suffering is our unequivocal charge as Christians, but true morality can’t be the product of political calculation designed to reengineer the rules of civic engagement. If certain behaviors are wrong they can’t be recast in liberalism’s modern day notions of an “evolved society” and then miraculously deemed acceptable.