Thursday, June 27, 2013

"I may be...on the wrong side of history"

In connection with a project, I have been reading the "Faith" chapter of Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope and came across the following passage.  I will be the first to admit that on many issues--following through with his attempts to close Guantanamo, continuing his predecessor's wars and predator drone programs, his recent defence of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act--he has proved to accomplish less than I would like.  But in this passage he recognizes he was wrong in a political stance and in his own beliefs, and then admits it. It reinforces my belief in the basic dignity and humanity of my president.
For many practicing Christians, the...inability to compromise may apply to gay marriage.  I find such a position troubling, pasticularly in a society in which Christian men and women have been known to engage in adultery or other violations of their faith without penalty...I believe that American society can choose to carve out a special place for the union of a man and a woman as the unit of child rearing most common to every culture.  I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters a hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex--nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.
Perhaps I am sensitive on this issue because I have seen the pain my own carelessness has caused.  Before my election [to the Illinois senate]...I received a phone message from one of my strongest supporters.  She was a small-business owner, a mother, and a thoughtful, generous person.  She was also a lesbian who had lived in a monogamous relationship with her partner for the last decade.
She knew when she decided to support me that I was opposed to same-sex marriage, and she had heard me argue that, in the absence of any meaningful consensus, the heightened focus on marriage was a distraction from other, obtainable measures to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians.  Her phone message in this instance had been prompted by a radio interview she had heard in which I had referenced my religious traditions in explaining my position on the issue.  She told me that she had been hurt by my remarks; she felt that by bringing religion into the equation, I was suggesting that she, and others like her, were somehow bad people.
I felt bad, and told her so in a return call...I was reminded that no matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgement inflicts pain on good people--people who are made in the image of God, and who are often truer to Christ's message than those who condemn them.  And I was reminded that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided...I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilictions and attributed them to God; that Jesus' call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.  I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian.  I believe they make me human...[my emphasis]

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