Thursday, January 15, 2009

Students Debate Obama's Claim of Inclusion

This is the second in the series of discussions with my college students on the Ethics of Leadership. The first segment is here

 STUDENT 1: President Elect Obama has done a very good job selecting people to speak at his Inauguration. President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton both used Rev. Billy Graham. I don’t see a big deal that the Rev. Rick Warren or Bishop Gene Robinson is speaking. The Obama administration will be one that is diverse. Having people from all sides of the political spectrum will bring a change that is needed to move this country in the right direction. 

 STUDENT 2: I totally agree that the diversity that Obama is bringing to the Inauguration. I think he will provide that change that our government needs. 

TEACHER: You seem to agree with Obama's definition of diversity, which involves race, gender and sexual orientation. Is he only interested in including people based on race, gender and sexual preference? 

STUDENT 3: Well, I think that either Obama was trying to please people with the host of speakers or that he is really messed up. I really am praying that after the election that we see a different side and that he will be able to lead our country with morals and values that this country was founded on, the principles of GOD. 

TEACHER: Why should we see a different side of Obama? He has been honest about his positions from the beginning. He is a social liberal. He is pro-choice and will push the Freedom of Choice (Abortion on Demand) Act through Congress, as he promised all along. He believes that with enough money and enough liberal education many of America's problems can be solved. He has made no religious commitment. 

STUDENT 4: I agree that, as Americans, we should celebrate diversity. Our population is very diverse and that should be reflected in our government. We all don't have to agree, it's not even possible. We just have to respect each other. 

TEACHER: Respect is good, of course, but as you've seen in our study of the History of Ethics, people become intolerant when they feel that something is being imposed on them that they don't believe is right. When you have competing worldviews and one group insists that its view alone is right and is the only view to be taught in public schools and represented at Inagurals and social policies, you have a secular state of one flavor. Some might even call it a totalitarian regime.


STUDENT 5: I think that Obama is just paying back political favors as most presidents have done. After the Inauguration he will just be another president. 

TEACHER: The religious figures invited to offer prayers represent segments of Americans that supported Obama in his run for President, so yes, this does look like political payback. 

STUDENT 6: I believe President Elect Obama is trying to establish a policy of inclusion in regards to his choice of speakers. Perhaps even letting Americans know we are all Americans even though we have different opinions, beliefs, and religious affiliations. We celebrate and embrace diversity even though we may not always agree with the other person's characteristics or moral values. 

STUDENT 7: I agree with you. We should embrace diversity and accept people for who they are regardless of religion, gender, or even sexual perference. We have to come together again as a nation and set aside our differences. If we were all alike in this country it would be boring and everything would be the same, but were not. We are all different and unique in our our ways. We have to embrace our differences. 

TEACHER: How do we embrace differences that are diametrically opposite? How do we reconcile worldviews that include innovations which humans naturally resist? 

I was an Episcopal priest until I opposed my bishop on same-sex ceremonies in the church. (I have no problem with secular ceremonies to place same-sex couples on an equal legal footing to heterosexual couples.) I left the Episcopal Church on the Sunday that Gene Robinson was consecrated a bishop (Nov. 2003) because in that moment the Episcopal Church broke with 2000 years of Christian teaching and practice on sex and marriage. Expressing this truth caused me to lose my career, my home, receive hate mail, be physically intimidated, etc. So my experience tells me that some activists who profess tolerance are not tolerant of those who disagree with them. 

It should be noted also that neither Gene Robinson nor Rick Warren represent orthodox and creedal Christianity. Obama's choices are heterodox, and decidedly so. That's why I find it difficult to believe that his choices are about embacing all segments of American society. He has purposely excluded Bible-affirming, orthodox Christians. I know people say, "But what about Rick Warren?" Rev. Warren doesn't represent the majority of Christians worldwide. In fact, as an American Evangelical he represents a unique phenomena.



My Name Here said...

WOW. As a teacher/ administrator I would hope that you could remove your personal bias toward any particular group and represent a truly objective conversation. That is obviously not the case here.
I would say that your experience with gay activists is the same as my experiences with religious fanatics. Living in a silo of gay activism or religious fervor will lead any person to build walls to different ideas. We all fight for our beliefs, regardless of what they are, and struggle to have individuals accept the most radical of our concepts so that we can meet in the middle with some kind of mutually agreed upon resolution. I agree that those who profess tolerance, sometimes, aren’t very tolerant. This is specifically why I believe Obama excluded conservative “Bible-affirming Christians” because of the lack of some to follow through on the profession of “love and kindness”.
Regardless of what your beliefs are about the choice of speakers you cannot deny that, to the general population, his choices were a representation of the diversity and tolerance that made our country what it is today.

Alice C. Linsley said...

When a reader attacks me personally, accusing me of failure to love as Christ commands, I appreciate knowing the name of my accuser. If you believe you are right in your views, why not put your name to them?

Alisha Gray said... interesting article that is quite honest and informative. I actually have not seen one person that has taken the initiative to carefully evaluate the Presidential election from an ethical point of view. Irregardless of the bias reflected towards any particular religion within the segment..still it was informative. I personally believe that Obama expresses a dichotomy in his ethical views regarding not addressing any at all, and this will result in further exploitation of African and disenfranchised cultures. The allowance of autonomy within race relations cannot be achieved, without first addressing the issues of multi-culturalism as it relates to both Global Immigration, and the new merging of cultures (the melting pot). He has missed a great deal within his stand on race, just in itself.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I agree, Alisha. I hope that President Obama will think about how to approach racial autonomy. The ethical aspects of race, immigration and multi-culturalism are complex. We live in interesting times!