'All of Us See Through the Glass Darkly'

Bill Clinton explores politics & religious values in a sermon at Riverside Church before the start of the Republican convention

BY: Bill Clinton


Politics and political involvement dictated by faith is not the exclusive province of the right wing.

Religious values can include commitment to the common good, concern for the poor and vulnerable, the middle class families, the preservation of our God-given environment, unity over division, and for truth in campaign advertising.

We have a curious situation in American where the religious right has tried to turn all who disagree with them into two-dimensional cartoons. I read a very moving article in one of our newspapers a few days ago in which someone in the president's hometown said all the Democrats cared about was abortion, gay marriage, and being weak on defense.

I have never met anybody that was pro abortion. That is not what pro-choice means. It just means we don't want to criminalize the choice. I'm not ashamed to believe that gay people shouldn't be discriminated against and I don't believe Jesus ever had much to say about that. When Charlie Rangel fought in Korea and John Kerry fought in Vietnam they did not ask what their political party was before they let them put a uniform on.

I was raised a Southern Baptist. I used to wonder why the Republicans hated me so much. I'm kind of nice and accommodating. I even go duck hunting once a year. I think it's because I'm supposed to be some sort of apostate - a white, southern, protestant. Why am I not a Republican, especially now that they've given me all those tax cuts?

The other party's about to convene here, putting on its once-every-four-years compassionate face. They have claimed the exclusive allegiance of America's "real Christians."

I looked at the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist convention where the president went. One of their leaders was wearing a button and giving it to everyone else and it said "I'm a Values Voter" - implying that those of us who disagreed with them didn't have any values. For them, values are anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, concentration of wealth and power. But as I said, Jesus didn't have much to say about what they say the values of Christians are today.

And yet these people really do believe they are in possession of absolute truths. You won't hear about it during this convention. They'll put up their other face. But the truth is that when it all comes down to it, a lot of the religious absolutists believe that all other issues are irrelevant, that all who disagree with them are somehow almost non human, certainly not deserving of basic consideration. Therefore it's nothing but right to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who share their values and to constantly assert that whatever position they decide to take is right regardless of the inconvenient evidence.

Now, I disagree with them. I disagree first of all because I remember how I felt [when I heard] the promise of the scriptures in Isaiah, where God says to Isaiah "Fear not for I will redeem thee. Call me by thy name. Thou art mine." I didn't read that I had to join one party or another to get that promise.

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