What Else Would One Do On a Sunday Evening?

than watch the Compassion Forum on CNN.  At 8 pm, I tuned in to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama answer questions on faith and how it affects their approach to public policy. (Fyi, the Compassion Forum was organized by Faith in Public Life, for whom my supervisor sits as chair of the board.)  John McCain was invited but declined.

I cringed when Clinton awkwardly talked about how she admired Esther from Jewish scripture, as a girl begging for the story to be read to her again and again.  Her obvious discomfort made it less than believable, and came across as a blatant attempt to pander to Jewish voters while reinforcing her credentials as a feminist.  In contrast, I was very impressed by her response to the question of why God allows suffering.  She talked about her belief that God calls us to act in response to suffering and cited the Jewish prophets and Christ, and asked why this aspect of faith gets ignored so often in public discourse.  It was right on the money, and what's more I believed she meant it.  I also liked how she talked about Grace being not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with others.

For Obama's part, his response to questions about the "bitter" controversy were cringe-worthy.  Given the amount this has been brought up, I would have thought he'd be better prepared to answer, and to say that "clinging to religion" is not a bad thing seemed reminiscent of Bill Clinton's parsing of words.  I realized at that moment that the word "cling" was far more damning than his use of the word "bitter."  Bitter is understandable.  The issues he raised like immigration, religion, and gun control were understandable.  But there is no way to take "cling" other than as condescending.  That said, he made a very good point about his community organizing work within churches as evidence that he does not look down on faith.

Obama's high point for me is when he talked about how people on end of the spectrum, mostly on the left, think that any mention of faith with respect to politics is a violation of church and state, while people on the other end of the spectrum, mostly on the right, feel there should be no separation, and how both are wrong.  I particularly appreciated him saying that those who speak in terms of faith need to translate, as King did, in this pluralistic society so that all may relate.

The tv is still on and the analysts on CNN are now going on and on about the "bitter" remark.  Oh bother.

As for me, I am just happy to have an evening where so-called liberals are talking about their faith in public.  Not only is it important to winning votes, as the analysts keep claiming, but it's also important to me personally.

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