Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'Be wary of self-righteousness'

Caught Obama's speech at Notre Dame University on Fox News no less, and found myself applauding its simple eloquence, depth of thought and sense of charity. The lines below especially, which reminded me of John Patrick Shanley's thesis in his play, that doubt plays an important part in our lives, that it “can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.”

Andrew Sullivan and James Fallows were as moved by these passages:

“In this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you've been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse.

“But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

“This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.”

Another thing that struck me: how Obama takes pains to sound fair and inclusive. Previous to him, how many US Presidents ever took notice of atheists, agnostics or non-believers in a major speech--and before a bastion of Catholicism at that?

“If there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It's no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule--the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. The call to serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.”

“All faiths and no faith together.” More admirable than his rhetorical skills, it seems, is the man's expansiveness of spirit. Know hope.

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