‘Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.’

I’ve been thinking a lot about being dogmatic, about how a system of  ideologies can color our thinking and shape our perception, keeping us from truth or not allowing ourselves to consider facts as they are. Avoiding ideological blinders has become increasingly difficult, and blogging has not helped. I aspire to be less ideological in my reading and thinking. But is it possible to be non-ideological and religious?

This morning, I read President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, and I was struck by his approach:

In this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you’ve been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse.

But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.

Some comments and questions:

  1. I find this to be a compelling model, although I wonder how to make the jump between being a lighthouse and admitting to doubt as a practical matter. I would like to think I do that myself, and I certainly have many excellent models of that behavior, including some of my ‘internet friends,’ but I can’t really explain how it works.
  2. Many Mormons would find this treatment of the relationship between faith, doubt and humility tricky. I myself do not. My own faith has  developed through exploring my own doubts; the borderland between my belief and unbelief is where I find truth. I recognize that our language of testimony (‘I know these things are true’) speak to a rejection of doubt. However, our contemporary church leaders seem to exhibit caution in declaring the will and knowledge of God that I assume is rooted in an understanding of the limits of faith and knowledge. Is that my wishful thinking?
  3. Do the truth claims of Mormonism make it difficult for a majority of Mormons to accept this model of ‘moral and spiritual debate’? As a people, do we want to ‘temper our passions’?
  4. How do our conversations on the blogs reflect the realities of our faith?

Please consider the title of the post when commenting.

Comments

  1. Obama’s approach to faith, as seen here and at the Saddleback forum, has impressed me.
    Go to http://www.thirty-thousand.org/pages/Saddleback_16AUG2008.htm and look at how Obama’s answer in what it means to be a follower of Christ differs from McCain’s answer.
    I get the feeling that Obama’s faith is real, and that he’s done some deep thinking about it.
    As far as this post goes–I think we will all have surprises waiting for us when we get to Heaven. Things we were expecting that are entirely different from reality.

  2. We as a people need to stop treating doubt like it’s some kind of virtue. What Obama meant by “doubt,” which he defines as “the belief in things not seen,” is faith itself. “Doubt” is not a stagnant, stationary position where we abstain from making a decision in order to remain impartial. Doubt is a forward, downward force that will lead us exactly where we do not wish to be.

    If we want faith and testimonies to protect us, we must remember Mormon 9: “And whosoever shall believe in my name, DOUBTING NOTHING, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.”

    Being in a state of doubt will not provide clarity, but rather throw the grit of sinful thinking, private blasphemies or otherwise, into our perspective which will make it unnecessarily difficult to have eyes to see. And just because we are in that sightless state does not change those principles we aim to understand through this undertaking. Just because our leaders caution us against thinking we know too much does mean we should be undermining our testimonies or anyone else’s with doubts. This is exactly what Satan would have us do and call it “education.” We must be careful not to be deceived.

    Obama should remain, perhaps, where we put him–at the helm of the presidency as dictated by the Constitution, NOT as a preacher and prophet, and heaven help us if we treat him as such. Just because he’s a president and popular does not make him infallible or prophetic. While he should do more to gain some of that humility he praises, our nation is at fault for creating this savior complex that has become his persona, his standard, and will likely and ultimately become his undoing.

  3. Natalie says:

    I think doubt is useful feeling to accompany faith or any ideological belief. For me, doubt means not that I lack faith, but that I continue to remain open to experience, ready to modify and to refine my beliefs when necessary. In that respect, I consider doubt to be akin to humility. It is the feeling that reminds me that I am not certain of what I think I know, so that I had better keep listening and learning.

  4. Norbert says:

    Paradox, I see what you are saying … I think I’m seeing doubt as an admission that we don’t know everything rather than an embracing of uncertainty. How can we doubt nothing if we believe we have all of the answers already?

    I think Natalie’s right to think in terms of doubt in terms of humility. To admit we look through a glass darkly is not such a bad thing, is it?

    And I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that I see Obama as a prophet. He made a speech about faith in the public sphere which I found compelling and worth considering. We believe all things, no?

  5. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I think Alma was right when he said that faith is not a perfect knowledge. He would probably agree with Obama about the need to experiment with our faith.

    It is probably hard for us to imagine moving from particular truths to universal truths. Within the church, it makes sense to us that personal revelation is supplanted by prophetic revelation. But relatively few church members have the faith that studying the beliefs of others will help them to rethink, and maybe even transform, their own faith.

    The problem with ideology is that it seduces us into believing that it provides a fairly comprehensive system of beliefs for how people should govern their thoughts and actions. When we are invested in an ideology, we learn to automatically filter out beliefs and values that conflict with what the ideology tell us. As far as I am concerned, this explains how liberals and conservatives can read the same scriptures and take away totally different messages.

    I think we need charity to sincerely explore the possible limitations of our own ideology and the virtues that may be present in the ideology of others. Charity is a heavenly gift that reduces our prideful ways of thinking and allows us to understand the motivations behind other people’s thoughts and actions. This will put us on the path to universal faith that “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

    The ultimate source of universal faith, as far as I am concerned, is the Spirit. He is the one who can show us things as they really care and as they really will be. But I am going to pretend this is easy. We have to work for this paradigm shift. It will take a lot of learning. Our beliefs will be challenged. We will experience cognitive dissonance at times. It will come incrementally, rather than in a complete package. At various points we will look back at our progress and wonder how we could have believed such former things. But the thing that gives me hope is the joy I find in the journey.

  6. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I meant as they really are, not really care

  7. Sterling Fluharty says:

    and *not* going to pretend – so much for spell check ;-)

  8. Scott B says:

    Tim (1.), My goodness the difference in those answers–as well as many, many others–is just amazing. Only time will tell whether we elected a man with great policies, but it so clear to me that we elected a great human being last November.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    I thought he said, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

  10. I liked this: “In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. It is this last challenge that I’d like to talk about today. For the major threats we face in the 21st century – whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread ‘of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease – do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.
    Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.”

    A wonderful call for unity. In our best moments, we answer it well. I hope for more “best moments.” And I truly believe that we now have one of our great presidents. History will decide, of course, but I believe Pres. Obama is the man for the time.

  11. “However, our contemporary church leaders seem to exhibit caution in declaring the will and knowledge of God that I assume is rooted in an understanding of the limits of faith and knowledge. Is that my wishful thinking?”

    I think it might be wishful thinking. I think I see what you are referring to, in that things are not as often declared in absolute terms or in hyperbole as they once were in general conference, and I think there seems to be more of a trend toward being cautious about claims to truth. However, with respect to a testimony of the gospel (as appears to be your context for this comment), a brief review of the closing remarks of all speakers in the last general conference will show that they declared it in no uncertain terms, including the use of “I know.” In addition, if you do a search for “doubt” from the last few general conferences or First Presidency messages, you will notice that it is not described as a virtue, but most often as a stumbling block.

    At the same time, I think it is a good thing to be cautious about our claims to knowledge, no matter what the field, and to be meek and kind in our faith conversations with others. I do not think we have to continually question our spiritual witnesses/experiences, however.

  12. Peter LLC says:

    to consider facts as they are

    this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason

    Stanley Fish had something to say along these lines:

    There is no such thing as “common observation” or simply reporting the facts. To be sure, there is observation and observation can indeed serve to support or challenge hypotheses. But the act of observing can itself only take place within hypotheses (about the way the world is) that cannot be observation’s objects because it is within them that observation and reasoning occur…. And while there surely are facts, there are no facts (at least not ones we as human beings have access to) that simply declare themselves…

    If there is no thought without constraints (chains) and if the constraints cannot be the object of thought because they mark out the space in which thought will go on, what is noticed and perspicuous will always be a function of what cannot be noticed because it cannot be seen. The theological formulation of this insight is well known: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11). Once the act of simply reporting or simply observing is exposed as a fiction — as something that just can’t be done — the facile opposition between faith-thinking and thinking grounded in independent evidence cannot be maintained.

  13. I don’t see myself as a lighthouse, I see truth as a lighthouse. Connecting doubt with a lighthouse is problematic for basic safety considerations.

    Sometimes with our surety about certain truths we fill in details with reason, best guesses, or personal revelation that may not be generally applicable. Instead of resting on faith and searching patiently, I tend to want a few more certainties and the assumptions I make in the process look a lot like pride and tend to be uncharitable.

    I think Obama is a fine man.

  14. I agree with the original post completely. I think Obama made some excellent points.

  15. It is worth noting that Obama was speaking to an educated Catholic audience used to parsing (even straining) words for clues, in contrast to the more emotive form of speech more favored among most Evangelicals. Let’s try a little exegesis:

    competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values

    “Values” is part of the metalanguage. It speaks to “how” you determine what is right and true, not “what” is right and true. The sense of this phrase is (I believe): you will hear many wacky things. Do they pass the smell test? If it claims to be loving, so is it patient and kind? If it’s anti-abortion, does it not lose interest once the child is born but supports that child into adulthood. If it’s anti-euthanasia, does it also provide a dignified death free of abject poverty and company so that the aged are not left alone to rot in nursing homes?

    Catholic values is not Catholic doctrine. It is far more basic: pro-life throughout its trajectory (that typically no end-of-life abortion, i.e. no death penalty). It is easy to wave a sign in protest, harder to support battered women’s shelters, subsidized day care, public schools, soup kitchens, free child vaccination programs, and all the other infrastructure to actually give women the choice (and confidence) to choose life with hope for their unaborted child.

    Obama’s words are clear to me. Don’t settle for the easy path. Truth is the talk, but values are the walk that reify that truth in our world.

    If you have time to talk, it’s time to walk.

  16. Assuming “the Church is true,” it seems that God designed it to ensure that we would struggle with doubt, presumably to overcome it. To never struggle with doubt seems intellectually dishonest, or at least oblivious. On the other hand, some of the most admirable men and women seemingly have no doubts, at least about the fundamental beliefs.

    My struggle has been figuring out what to do with my doubts. My approach so far has been similar to the father asking Jesus to bless his sick child, “Lord help thou mine unbelief.” I choose to believe in the fundamentals, even while admitting that I do not understand all the details, and that I wouldn’t want to defend them in an intellectual debate. The other option is to redefine my beliefs to the extent that I essentially disagree with the Church about fundamental doctrine. Maybe that would be more intellectually honest, but it also seems like its own sort of pride.

    Also, I assumed Obama’s belief was a political contrivance. Obviously I was wrong. He continues to impress.

  17. When Obama was running for office, many people said “sure he’s eloquent, but it’s just talk.” I fought this view because I’d read his books and concluded that there was real substance behind his words. Now it’s time to act to roll back the unconstitutional excesses of the executive branch (illegal wiretapping and torture). Once he has done that, I’ll think about listening to his rhetoric again.

  18. lamonte says:

    “But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt….This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. ”

    I love the juxtaposition of this paragraph, just after stating that faith should admit doubt, it follows by saying that doubt should strengthen, rather than weaken our faith. To come to the table in a pluralsitic society with the acceptance that ideas other than our own are worth consideration is truely a sign of strength and an indication of the strength of our faith.

  19. A few weeks back, I forget where, Ray (the one and only) had a post about the role of faith and doubt. I prefer his parsing of words to Obamas. It was something like this:

    Uncertainty: being less than 100 percent certain of something

    Faith: uncertainty pointed in the direction of belief (and all the actions and inactions that go with such a bearing)

    Doubt: uncertainty pointed in the direction of disbelief (and all the actions and inactions that go with such a bearing)

    Thus, while UNCERTAINTY is a part of faith, doubt is not. Although both pertain to uncertainty, faith and doubt cannot co-exist — they are polar opposites.

    Uncertainty is okay, even expected, but the difference between faith and doubt is what you HOPE is true, that faces you in one direction or other other. So I can have a lot of respect for people who are dealing with a lot of feelings of uncertainty about their testimony, but they’re trying to go through the motions in the HOPE of some type of breakthrough. To word things more precisely, living the gospel and serving others even in the face of uncertainty is FAITH because you hope what you’re doing is is right, and that’s something to be applauded and encouraged.

    Ambivalence fits in there somewhere, too, and I think there’s a scripture about spewing that accompanies it. At some point, you need to choose what you think is right and good, even if you aren’t certain, and head in that direction until you find a very good reason not to.

    My two cents. Ray may want to correct me.

  20. Faith or doubt? I like to walk around with both coins in my pocket. Sometimes my thumb rubbing the faith, sometimes rubbing the doubt. But each time seeking an answer.

  21. Although I parse “doubt” and “certainty” a bit differently than Pres. Obama, I thought this was an exceptional speech – and I think the title of this post is perfect, Norbert. At the core, I want perhaps more than anything else to be charitable in how I view and speak with and about others.

    I see through my own glass, darkly, and I am positive that decades from now (perhaps only a few short years, even) others will read what I have written in the Bloggernacle and be tempted to laugh at my naivete and limited understanding. I only hope they don’t laugh too hard – that they are as charitable to me and my mistaken notions as I try to be to others and what I see as their mistaken notions. When they discuss my beliefs, I hope they have open hearts, have open minds and use fair-minded words. We can laugh together, privately, at how spectacularly wrong I was on certain things, but I hope the public reaction will be more of a benevolent and understanding chuckle – and a recognition that at least I tried.

  22. I was impressed by much of what I read about his talk, but at the same time, start to become concerned about how things like this could be interpreted.

    “through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles”

    Universal principles in a sense seem to be shifting. Values in some ways are not the same as they were a few decades ago. Our prophets keep warning against shifting values that actually fight against the truth of God.

    This kind of rhetoric, imo, has the potential to make many traditional values that our faith and others hold dear become labeled ‘parochial’ and that concerns me.

    While of course, we as members of the LDS faith don’t have the corner on truth, I do think that the prophets do keep us alert to the reality that we can’t necessarily use what is generally acceptable as or popular to measure true principles. (Think of Elder Ballard’s sobering conference talk about the cycle of societal failure that our society is falling into again.) Truth comes from God, not from reason alone, and the more godless our society becomes, the less I trust us as a people to really adhere to true principles. I think we have to be careful about not being pulled into popular thinking along the way.

    I do agree, however, that dialogue needs to include respect and not generalizations and attacks on others, and I liked that element of his talk.

  23. StillConfused says:

    I liked the talk. I also like that doubt is okay. In Judaism, it is common to doubt — even to argue — about faith. It seemed a little odd to me at first, but actually leads to a stronger faith.

  24. Norbert says:

    I think we can agree that if we think of doubt in terms of a level of uncertainty or humility about the limitations of our own understanding, this can work for a Mormon reader. If we see doubt as a hedging of bets about the truth — a thought that maybe the _______s are right after all, then probably not. I would like to think the former is what he meant.

    m&m, I think the universal principles are things like the Golden Rule, which he references somewhere else in the piece. But I can see that as a concern. (I myself don’t share it — we wouldn’t have to look very far to find Mormon doctrines of the past that we would now describe as ‘parochial.’)

  25. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, we’re way ahead of you! But we love you very much.

  26. #26 – LOL – and touche. I should have seen that one coming.

  27. we wouldn’t have to look very far to find Mormon doctrines of the past that we would now describe as ‘parochial.’)

    But we also don’t have to look very far to see current Mormon doctrines as being labeled as such as well.

  28. btw, I’m not trying to be a pain here…I really did like much about his speech. I think respectful dialogue is essential. My point is that sometimes the “general principles” like ‘do unto others’ are the principles that have been used to shut down discussion. For example, during prop 8, I saw people ignore and attack prop 8 supporters, using the ‘8 is hate’ slogan to shut down discussion. Rather than actually listen and discuss issues, they took personal attacks on character — justifying their responses by saying that they were more ‘loving’ by taking the position that they did.

    And, of course, on the flip side were strident positions that sought to label and lump supporters of gay marriage together in negative, disrespectful ways. I imagine there were those who felt justified in such behavior by what they thought were principles of goodness.

    True respect demands us to do the proverbial walking in someone else’s shoes. It demands that we be willing to acknowledge others’ positions, even as we respectfully disagree. But, imo, sometimes principles can be used as weapons, and that is what I’m concerned about — on either side of any issue, this could happen.

  29. m&m, everything you mention under “For example, during prop 8…” sounds like what Obama was saying people shouldn’t do. He repeatedly and very specifically emphasized assuming good faith intentions in your opponent, which would preclude the “8 is hate” and “personal attacks on character.” So it sounds like you’re agreeing with him.

  30. Aaron Brown says:

    What does it mean to be “ideological”? Are our political or religious opponents “ideological”, whereas we are just laudably firm, or consistent in our views? Is “ideological” the opposite of “pragmatic”? How does being non-ideological differ from being too ill-informed or inconsistent in one’s views to stake out a strong political or religious position? Can’t any strongly held view be tarred as ideological or praised as principled, depending entirely on one’s political or religious sympathies?

    I confess I’m skeptical that most contemporary uses of the term “ideology” or “ideological” have any real content to them.

    AB

  31. #31: “Ideology”: Someone willing to give YOUR all for HIS cause(???)

  32. Cynthia, yes, I agree with him on many levels (as long as he is interpreted correctly). :)

    I actually really did appreciate what he said. I just get a little nervous about how many principles are not agreed upon anymore, and how even a principle such as ‘love’ can be used to undermine or even attack true principles as taught by prophets of God. I fear it is too easy to dismiss eternal principles as “parochial” because some “universal” principles in society are shifting/fading.

    Still, I believe in the power of respect, and believe respectful dialogue can happen, even on volatile issues. And I am glad Pres. Obama made a plea for such dialogue.

  33. Norbert says:

    Aaron, I don’t see consistency as a strength for its own sake. I rather see inconsistency that being ill-informed, which is what I think happens when ideals excessively determine the way we see the world around us.

  34. The “Lectures on Faith” do not discuss doubt as an integral aspect of faith. I can think of no scriptures that insists doubt is a part of the process of faith. There are many statements that assert “nothing wavering”, “doubting nothing”, “began to doubt, because of the wickedness”, “If ye have faith, and doubt not”, “even if ye can not more that desire to believe”, “neither be ye of doubtful mind”, but I do not see doubt as an ingredient in the process of faith. He plays loose with the words of scripture, words that I believe have deep and constant meaning, and uses them as play things to tantalize the intellect, but not to discover virtue or truth.

    He is bright. I personally question his motives.

  35. Confutus says:

    I don’t doubt that President Obama talks a good talk. I’m not convinced that he walks the walk. I do not believe he knows how to translate the grand ideals he sets forth into sound public policy. And I don’t accept him as a prophet, with any greater than human wisdom about the relationships between doubt, faith, and humility.

    It seems to me that faith in a God who is wiser than I, and know things that I do not, helps keep me humble more than doubt, and I’d distinguish that from awareness of my own ignorance. And it’s a form of charity, not doubt, that keeps me willing to be to respect the beliefs and opinions of others as I would wish them to respect mine. And debate, as a method of learning truth, is highly overrated.

  36. #35: “…. doubt as an integral aspect of faith.. You say no (?)
    I see doubt as a question and faith as an answer. But you make a very good point (as I read you): Just because doubt pushes one to faith (?), does not make doubt ‘Good’. In fact (again my reading of your words), scriptures and leaders say to move away from, and leave doubts behind. I will have to ponder this.

  37. First, I feel I should say that I am pro-choice; although my personal opinion is that individuals are only justified in limited circumstances such as: rape, incest, and the life of the mother. I open this point with my personal opinion, because I thought what Pres. Obama offered Catholics at Notre Dame was a lie.

    Pres. Obama sure is great at speechifying…but what he offered the pro-life position was a one-way street. For all of his talk of humility, of appealing to reason, has his administration done anything meaningful to engage in debate, are they open to waiting periods, restrictions on late-term abortions, limitations of federal funding? Perhaps they could select a Secretary of Health and Human Services that would at least be perceived as moderate if not pro-life? Nope, not a chance. Perhaps looking back specifically at Pres. Obama’s vote against limits on late term abortion when he was in Michigan. Is he humble about that vote? When candidate Obama told Planned Parenthood that he was “about playing offence” on abortion was he leaving room for rational discussion with those who are pro-life? Is he open to being convinced?

    When I parse Obama’s speech and compare it with his actions, I hear, “Feel great about your belief, but in our vast democracy you don’t have the right to argue for your parochial principles arising merely from your faith.” In sales it is called a presumptive close, “My principles are universal and rational; your beliefs are out of the mainstream and not rational.” I reject the President’s position categorically. In our vast democracy I have the right to defend my parochial principles just as aggressively as does the UAW – whether or not it is economic or it involves fundamental religious truths such as the sanctity of life. Obama encourages conservative Catholics to question their faith, their position, but offers nothing in return. His “moderation” is meaningless relativism, wrapped in the warm words of mock acceptance, but ultimately rejects their right to assert fundamental values for nothingness. It wraps itself in the language of respect while shunting religious belief off into the land of superstition.

    I am not arguing that abortion be discussed simply with absolutes. For me (admittedly male) aborting a fetus resulting from rape, is perfectly justifiable. But, I know one victim of rape who kept the child and calls it the greatest decision she ever made; and this is one example of why I can respect the Catholic position. But I believe the way to show respect for the Catholic position, however absolute, is invite it to the democratic process on its terms and do not insult it with the term “parochial”. Then we as a democracy can accept it or reject is as we see fit without insulting it with kind, patronizing words while ignoring it entirely.

    Obama is a gifted speaker. But, he has a knack for appearing to be all things to all people, a skill he is credited as having long-ago in law school where he is said to have charmed both sides of issues into thinking he was one of them. I find this disquieting in the extreme – but I am a cynic. Accordingly, perhaps we can all agree to see if Obama really opens a dialogue on this issue, and prove me wrong, or if he just charges ahead with the agenda we have seen these last four months? After all, faith without works is dead.

  38. “In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. It is this last challenge that I’d like to talk about today. For the major threats we face in the 21st century – whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread ‘of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease – do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.”

    I do have to disagree with one thing here…violent extremism very much discriminates against borders, color, and specific ethnic groups. I am sure you do not need for me to include the many examples around the world and throughout time. I thought that was kind of an inane thing to say.

  39. #38 TyB,

    I think I understand what you mean (though coming from the opposing direction).

    On gay and national security issues, Obama has been all talk and no walk. His promises (as a candidate) to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell have been shamelessly abandoned (as in, he lied). He has been silent on gay civil unions (which he supported as a candidate) even as several prominent Republican governors have spoken out in favor. He has gone back on his word about ending military tribunals, shown zero interest in diagnosing (let alone punishing) the torture illegalities of the previous administration and prevaricated (i.e. probably lied) on closing Guantanamo. Who knows what kind of centrist Supreme Court Justice he will appoint to replace a leftist one, effectively moving the Court to the right.

    In short, Obama is a devout pragmatist. He strongly believes in some kind of organic annealing process among everyday Americans. Unlike Solomon, he seems content to split the baby and hope both sides are satisfied.

    If so, I believe he is mistaken. The Right Wing will never be appeased. The Left Wing (of which I am more or less a member) is becoming increasingly anxious.

    The most profound and historically important and lasting shifts have occurred under the bully pulpit of strong Presidents. Lincoln kept the Union together. Teddy Roosevelt gave us national parks and worldwide stature. Harry Truman gave us our alliance with Israel. Nixon went to China. Eisenhower and Johnson desegregated the South. Carter turned a hot war into a cold war in the Middle East. Reagan (when he wasn’t mining Nicaragua’s harbors or destabilizing El Salvador) did indeed get Gorbachev to “tear down that wall”.

    Obama is unquestionably a master orator. Less clear is whether he will be an effective healer (which may be out of his hands). I am still cautiously optimistic, but the legions of Obama supporters did not effect the biggest electoral upset in my lifetime just for “incremental” progress on small issues.

    I have written before on this (here and here). In short, to open a locked door when you don’t have the key, you must kick it open. Merely leaning against it will just give you a sore shoulder and annoy the door.

    Where once I had faith in Obama, now I am left merely with hope. I continue to hope that my faith was not misplaced.

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