In his book, What is the Point of Being a Christian?, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP observes that despite the fact that we in the West are in most ways "safer than our ancestors," that "we are more protected from illness, violence and poverty" than previous generations, we remain fearful. We have, rightly, even come to fear human progress, "ecological disaster, BSE [i.e., mad cow disease], nuclear power, genetically modified crops," etc. This fearful environment, which produces an anxious climate, Radcliffe points out, "is manipulated by politicians, who practise (sic)'the politics of fear'." He was writing this passage on the day of the 2005 General Election in the U.K. Just as with our current presidential election, some of those running for office tried "to impel [them] to vote by tapping into fear of hoards of immigrants, violence in the inner city, the collapse of the Health Service [oh that we had one!], and hospital bugs." If hope does not win our vote, then fear will, or at least-ironically-it is hoped it will. I think Fr. Radcliffe is correct in concluding that it is "fear that has justified the reduction of human rights since 9/11 and the scandal of Guantanamo Bay". This weekend it is fear mongering by the Administration in arguing for continued infringement on our civil liberties. I think Radcliffe correct in his statement that "Fear dissolves society and undermines citizenship" (pgs. 70-71).
I understand and even find legitimacy in concerns expressed about the messianic aura that Sen. Obama has for many. I, too, am dubious about political messiahs. On the other hand, like Bill Clinton, Barak Obama speaks the language of hope. This resonates with people. I think it important to note that his campaign, his message, is that he may not have all the answers, or even the best answers, but working together there is nothing we cannot do, no problem we cannot solve. At the heart of a speech entitled One Nation Under God?, which he delievered in June 2006, are these remarks by Sen. Obama about religion and public life:
"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."
To me at least, this sounds a lot like the late Jesuit John Courtney Murray.
I think then-Archbishop Levada's The San Francisco Solution shows us how we can be creative in the public square, not reactive, not constanly fighting a rear guard action. Things like this proposal are true to what the Church teaches. Access to neccessary heath-care, for example, is a human right according to Church teaching. Therefore, the more universal we make it the more we are in the service of the truth.