Ok. I had it all mapped out in my mind how this entry was going to go. Wouldn’t you know it? President Obama beat me to it. He gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame today amid controversy and a few hecklers. Here is Part I:
Now, in case you don’t know, the talking heads were all up in arms (figuratively, and perhaps, literally) over the idea of a pro-choice president speaking at a Catholic university. Oh, the horrors! Newt Gingrich weighed in. Bill Donohue weighed in. Pat Buchanan weighed in. Oh, and he got smacked down by Larry O’Donnell who wasn’t having any of Pat’s nonsense. Other Catholics weighed in, but I don’t have the stomach to list them all. When I Googled Obama, Notre Dame, and students, the first gazillion links are about protesting Obama or the controversy over his invitation, as it were. Mostly, the indignation has to do with the fact that Obama is pro-choice and pro-science. Anti-life, as it were.
Still, would it surprise you to know that all of this outrage is mainly within the Village and that Catholics, on the whole, support Obama? So do the students of Notre Dame. Hell, the valedictorian herself is glad to have Obama speak at the graduation. Little known fact, the word catholic, as an adjective means free from provincial prejudices or attachments. In other words, open to new ideas.
Besides, they had W. speak at their 2001 commencement speech, and during his six years as governor of Texas, 152 prisoners on death row were executed. How is this in line with the pro-life crowd? In fact, I have never understood how someone can be both pro-life and pro-death penalty.
Anyway, President Obama stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. He was gracious to his detractors, and he used his well-honed self-deprecating humor to take the edge off the situation. He was eloquent and inspiring, without veering into cloying.
Here is Part II:
Of course, the speech was heavy with Christian terminology, but I expected that. After all, he’s talking at Notre Dame. However, he did slip in a shout-out to nonbelievers. I was happy to hear that, even if my best friend would be indignant on my behalf. She doesn’t like the term nonbeliever because many of us agnostics believe in something–just not any of the designated religions.
President Obama didn’t skirt by the abortion issue, either. He brought it out into the open. After laying down the inescapable truth that the two camps are pretty much mutually-exclusive, he said we can at least try to treat each other with respect and understanding. As he is wont to do, he relayed a personal story that underscored his point. Most people on either side of the great divide are not evil, spawn of the devil. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
I have to admit, that it’s difficult for me to be civil when faced with much of the pro-life rhetoric. The inner bitch in me wants to say something like, “Fuck you, asshole. You’re not the one who’ll have to deal with the consequences if I get fucking pregnant,” and, “So you only give a fuck about a mass of cells that float around in a woman’s body. You don’t give an actual fuck about the woman who’s pregnant or what happens to the mass of cells once they become born. Duly noted.” However emotionally satisfying that would be, it wouldn’t be very productive or conducive to conversation.
Another part of Obama’s speech that I loved was how he told the faithful to use reason as much as possible when debating their positions. This is what I want from Christians. You believe gay marriage will be the downfall of civilized society? Give me a reasonable answer, not just, “God said it was a sin,” and, “Oh my god, teh buttsecks!!!!!!” Neither of these is reasonable in my mind. Even within the rubric of Christianity, the first doesn’t hold water. There are many things God has labeled a sin that Christians don’t try to outlaw–like divorce. As for the second, well, that is a completely emotional response to which there is no sane answer.
Oh, and unreasonable is Representative Paul Broun of Georgia. He proposed a resolution to call 2010, “The Year of the Bible”. Check out the first item under This Week in God. Here is my favorite excerpt:
“The bill seeks to have the president designate 2010 as the Year of the Bible and “to issue a proclamation calling upon citizens of all faiths to rediscover and apply the priceless, timeless message of the Holy Scripture which has profoundly influenced and shaped the United States and its great democratic form of Government.”
Pardon me for channeling my inner Keith Olbermann, but what the fuck????? Oh, and I added the bold/italics/underline for emphasis (the downside to using yellow writing on black). How the fuck am I supposed to take this man seriously when he wants people of all faiths to…convert? Spout something in which they don’t believe? I’m not sure I even know what the fuck he’s trying to say here. Leave it to the dear readers of Balloon Juice, however, to come up with the best snark and the best solution to this stupid-ass resolution. This is a deeply un-serious and unreasonable resolution and one guaranteed to make non-Christians pissed off as well.
I will agree with the commenters of various blogs who say, fine. Follow that up with the Year of the Qur’an, the Year of the Torah, the Year of the Vedas, along with whatever other religions feel like they want to participate. Then, there has to be the Year of No Religion, so as to be fair to us agnostics and atheists.
I would think true believers would find it bothersome as well. I mean, do they really need a resolution to tell them to revere their Book of Faith of choice? If so, then I would argue that their religion isn’t very well-grounded in the first place. In fact, I would again defer to President Obama in that he said people with faith have to acknowledge that they cannot know with certainty what is out there. They need to be humble and always questioning their faith. Ok, I tacked on the last part, but I think he meant it in spirit.
The problem with President Obama’s inspiring speech, however, is that I don’t think many in the political arena are going about their business in good faith. In other words, those who are the faces of the religious right (James Dobson, I’m looking at you!) aren’t people who are about love, compassion, and doing the right thing. From what I’ve observed of them and read, part of their identity as Christians is being able to point to others in condemnation. Here is Dobson on his reaction to the election of President Obama. Here is Dobson’s litmus test for who is godly and who isn’t. Here is Dobson railing againts a godless liberal judge–who is a Catholc and a Republican. And, of course, here is Dobson on the ever-popular issue of same-sex marriage. Oh, and my personal favorite, here is Dobson including bisexuality as a supposed sexual disorder according to the APA. As I pointed out on a blog, um, no. Here is a list of the APA Guidelines to dealing with clients who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. The first one states:
“Psychologists understand that homosexuality and bisexuality are not indicative of mental illness.”
So, you can see that James Dobson is a big fat lying sack of shit. In addition, the APA released a statement on a study that concludes that bisexuality is not just a transitional phase for women. In other words, the APA does not view bisexuality as a disorder or perversion. In other other words, James Dobson can bite me. Oops. So much for civil discourse.
Now, many people probably are saying, “Hey, Minna. Not all Christians subscribe to James Dobson’s crazy-ass view of Christianity.” I would say, “You are so right. Then again, it’s not the reasonable rational Christians who make the daily news, is it?” No, it’s the religious rightwingers who hog center stage. By the way, I have no idea why anyone ever gave Pat Buchanan a microphone, but it’s about time to take it away. I know Rachel calls him “Uncle Pat” and respects the way he debates, but he’s an antique. He needs to be put on the shelf.
Again. I am running long. I will wrap this all up tomorrow. For now, here’s the closing of President Obama’s speech. He is a much better promoter of understanding and respectful discourse than am I. Plus, he doesn’t say fuck nearly as often.