[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/24/obama.bishop/art.notre.dame.afp.gi.jpg caption="The University of Notre Dame says its invitation doesn't mean the university agrees with all of Obama's positions."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
I’ve put off talking about this Notre Dame speech fracas for about as long as I can. I understand and respect that many people take it very seriously, this business of you being honored by a Catholic University while supporting abortion rights. I also understand that while some Catholics strongly object to you being there, half or more of them, according to polls, think you should make the speech anyway. I’ll leave it to you and the folks there to sort it out, of course.
But I did want to write a bit about this business of defending one’s beliefs in America, because it is a sticky wicket as the Brits might say. (I’m not kidding. I’ve heard them say things like that. It’s pretty cute.)
There is an old joke about a preacher meeting the town slacker on the street.
“Look at you,” the minister says, “drinking, lazing about, gambling, ignoring your family. Don’t you know God wants you to do better?”
“Yes, I know,” the man replies.
“Don’t you know He is watching all you do?”
“Yes. And I’ll take your words to heart.”
“Good. Then I’ll see you sober, clean, and in church Sunday?” the minister says.
“Hold on,” the man says, “now you’ve gone from preaching, and you got into meddling!”
I fear our society, writ large, is not sure how far faith should or should not go into the land of public policy; we’re not sure how much we can or can’t render up to Caesar; we’re not in agreement on what constitutes preaching and what makes up meddling.
I admire people who stand up for their beliefs, even when I disagree with them. I admire them more, if they respect others in the same way. To that end, I remind myself that people of faith, of all kinds of faith, have done great things for our nation precisely because their faith guided them to action; however, faith, run rampant, has also led to great travesties.
I tend to think all kinds of voices should be heard in all sorts of places. Often I think both liberals and conservatives talk about free speech a lot, but only when the speaker is someone they agree with. (The Internet, btw, has magnified that effect like nothing else. Just try drifting into a heavily partisan blog on either side of the political divide and suggesting the opposition has some decent ideas; you’ll be chased out of town faster than Miss California from a gay bar.)
And yet oddly, I think most of us benefit when we hear more, not less, from the people we disagree with. If our ideas are sound, they will stand up to the challenges of someone else’s argument. If not we may learn something. And in any event, we may all find between the preaching and the meddling, real communication about real issues.
Look. There I go preaching again. Sorry to meddle.
Hope your weekend is a good. Call if you get a moment, although not sure where you’d keep your phone in that robe. Ha!
Find more of the Foreman Letters here.
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