'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

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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.

Our number one threat abroad is fundamentalism, absolutism. Terror is their tactic, but it is their ideas, their hatred, their absolute certainty that they are so right that they can kill people who disagree with them - that is our enemy.

The most important political verses in the scripture are the next to last and the verse before that of First Corinthians. "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." And we read it at weddings all the time. But it's wrong. That's not romantic love, that's agape, love for each other.


[Another important passage is 1 Corinthians: 13:12] where St. Paul contrasts light today with light in heaven with God. He says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." We have no choice but to have a charitable attitude toward each other.

It is wrong to demonize and cartoonize one another and ignore evidence and to make false charges and to bear false witness. Sometimes I think our friends on the other side have become the people of the Nine Commandments. It is wrong to bear false witness because we all see through [the] glass darkly.

I'll never forget the conversation in 1993 with the then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a man I like very much and whose sermons I still watch on TV when I get a chance. He's a great pastor but he belongs to the `values voter' crowd. He looked at me and said, "I just want an answer, not a political answer. A straight yes and no answer. Do you believe the Bible is literally true or not." I said, "Pastor, I think it is completely true. But I don't think you or I or anyone else on earth is smart enough to understand it."

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Bill Clinton
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