Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Absolute Truth is Worrisome?

"President Bush's certitude about what he believes in, and the division between good and evil, is, I think, different," said Albright, who has just published a book on religion and world affairs. "The absolute truth is what makes Bush so worrying to some of us."
Thus spoke former Secretary of State Madelyn Albright in an article posted yesterday: www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/22/albright.bush.reut/index.html

Secretary Albright contrasts President Bush to her former bosses, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, whom she says are free from this putative sin of the integration of one’s faith into one’s actions. And of course, she thinks an absent faith is best when it comes to public affairs.

First, her distinctions about religious influences in the lives of her bosses, Clinton and Carter, ring hollow. Doing a quick search in Westlaw news services, there are many stories involving Clinton and the Bible. Consider this story from Sonya Ross of the A.P. on January 30, 1999:
“The Bible on President Clinton's desk is always open to the book ofGalatians, chapter 6,
verse 9, ready to read in case the troubles start to eat at him: 'Let us not be weary in
well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.'

When that same verse recently rolled off a minister's lips in Buffalo,N.Y., Clinton's face
shone with surprise. He declared the moment one that'I will remember all my life.' Later,
he grasped the preacher's hands andthanked him, twice. In the president's spiritual struggle, one year after the publicrevelation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky shredded his personal life,he taps an informal network of ministers who pray for him or offer himadvice. Aides
study his mood, alerting that network when they believe anencouraging phone call or letter would be in order.”
That does not sound like a person whose faith is disconnected from his official duties. Of course, we could say the same for Jimmy Carter. I have no doubt his belief in “blessed are the peacemakers …” from the Beatitudes had an influence in his desire to bring peace to the Middle East at Camp David. He attempted to use his faith to help the poor and the weak. We can disagree about whether his policies were effective toward those ends, but it is quite clear that he was trying to do what he believed was right, and that religious principles influenced those beliefs.

Secretary Albright also seems uncomfortable with a belief in right and wrong, good and evil. But I fail to see how this is a good thing. Those who refuse to believe in these concepts also tend to wish not to be bound by them in their own lives. In the process of weighing their own interests in the balance, they find it easy to take away the interests of others “for the greater good.” Much evil has been done in the name of seeking the greater good by people who abandon absolutes.

Secretary Albright, like many on the left who profess tolerance, is simply using this criticism as a tool for political gain. She doesn’t like the war in Iraq, and criticism of the President's religious convictions is just another way to advance the anti-war position. In fact, she singles out this quote from the President's address at the 2004 Republican convention as an example of his "over-the-top" rhetoric: "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom."

The concepts of freedom and liberty relied upon here are dimensions of human dignity, which many find to be rooted in religious concepts. The Declaration of Independence reflects this tradition that some rights are endowed by our Creator; what is so wrong with recognizing this in our public discourse? We might all do well to remember this language uttered by one of our former Presidents:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” (This is found on JFK’s tomb.)

I don’t deny that working out the particulars of this grand statement can be a complex task.
But I don’t see the kind of commitment that JFK articulated coming from critics of the administration. And I think we could all use a little wisdom from above to help us to see the light on this and many other issues.


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