Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

The Moral “We”

Earlier today, I wondered if the President would return to
hope in tonight’s health care speech. 
He did.  And he did even

President Obama made the moral case for health care reform
by appealing to the best aspects of American character, reminding us of our
history, and by making people accountable for their actions.   He called us to neighborliness
and generosity.  He drew a
life-affirming picture of a caring community, asking everyone to do his or her
part, outlining the responsibilities of deep democracy.  What was striking about his
speech is that he made no specific biblical reference, cited no one religious
tradition, and praised no single ethical system.  Instead, he developed a moral case based on compassion,
care, and common humanity drawing from the general principles of “do unto
others” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He invited all of our religions, spiritualities, and ethical
systems into the meaningful work of healing. 


At the same time, the speech was not saccharine or
pie-in-the-sky.  This wasn’t a
vision of some perfect future.  The
moral case was interwoven with solid, sometimes surprising, policies drawn from
an array of sources.  He leaned
toward a progressive vision, borrowed freely from a number of sensible centrist
proposals, and even affirmed the Republican call for tort reform.  President Obama asked us to move beyond
the purity of ideology to enact real social justice–to do the right thing, the
fair thing for the community.  And,
in doing so, enlarge our own hearts to become a better society, one with wider
arms outstretched. 


The speech was also deeply civil.  Following on a heated summer of fear and despair, he moved
us past hatred by keeping his cool (even when being shouted at by a
Congressman), by insisting on honesty, calling out lies, and modeling the sort
of behavior he expects of other leaders. 
It was plain speaking–in the old style of Harry Truman–clear, detailed,
dignified, and urgent. 

Oh, yes.  There
were things that were missing from the speech.  As a progressive, I wish the American family’s compassion
could embrace undocumented immigrants. 
I also wish we could create some sort of system that better served the
complexity of choices that women face regarding their own health.  I do think that a single-payer system
would be the best idea for a great nation.  But you know what? 
It isn’t about me.  It isn’t
about what I think and what I want. 
It isn’t about what progressives want in terms of policy.  It is about us–all of us in the largest


Almost 2,000 years ago, a fellow named Paul wrote to a
fractured community in the ancient city of Corinth urging its members, “that
all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions between you, but that
you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  People had divided into camps, calling themselves by the
names of their leaders, and casting others out of the community.  Paul called this foolishness and begged
the brawling Corinthians to “seek wisdom” by working together and having a common
purpose.  Wisdom begins by
understanding the “we” that is needed to accomplish that which is healing,
beautiful, and just.


Tonight was about the moral “we.”  President Obama delivered a hope-filled speech that called
us to stop being part of a camp–and instead see our “camp” as the wider
American family.  Those of us who
are rich, who are poor, who are in-between, those who are ill, who are healthy,
who one day may be infirm.  We are
in this together.  He made the case
that we need each other, that we have a common purpose of caring for each other
and making a better future together.  He did it inclusively–inclusive in his ethical reach,
inclusive in his political reach, inclusive in his reach toward civility.    


He renewed hope by reminding us that in healing cynical and
hate-filled divides we might become a healthier people, that if we–even just
some of us–overcome the spiritual sickness of division, we may just heal our

 And if that’s not progress–and progressive–I don’t know what

Comments read comments(15)
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posted September 10, 2009 at 1:14 am

Thank you.

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posted September 10, 2009 at 3:12 am

Amen and Amen!
I keep hoping for a Sen. Dirksen who reached across the aisle and enabled the passage of Civil Rights legislation.
It’s time for real Republicans (of whom there are very few, having been replaced by the minions of the Colson/Dobson cabal) to join with the Democrats and serve the whole people.

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Wendi Gordon

posted September 10, 2009 at 5:07 am

Whatever happens with health care reform or any other issues, Obama has already raised the bar simply by engaging in respectful, civil discourse and appealing to the best in human nature instead of the worst. We need to be able to intelligently discuss and debate divisive issues instead of resorting to name-calling, shouting the other side down, and misrepresenting their positions. If we can learn to do that, we will be much better off as a society regardless of what happens with any proposed legislation.

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Paul Fraser

posted September 10, 2009 at 8:21 am

I love this blog post! Diana, by showing us that we are invited by our various religious and moral heritages to a wider picture, a bigger solution for health care reform, also invites us to paint ourselves as one diverse but unified community: a “wider American family.” Let us keep telling this story to the “dividers” who have sought to dominate the debate. Perhaps it’s time for some new labels: ironically, two suggested by our last President come to mind. We need to ask everyone we meet: are you a “uniter” or a “divider”?

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Stewert Dent

posted September 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Doesn’t the title: The Moral “We” ,imply that any one that opposes your thinking on the health-care issue is immoral? I’m so glad you found it in your heart to compromise on the undocumented/illegal aliens coverage of healthcare, because you believe the evil rich should be obligated to pay their way.

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Blue Collar Todd

posted September 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm

President Obama’s tolerance of infanticide is why I oppose ObamaCare and any attempt by Liberals to Socialize health care. Sorry the compassion card is getting old when trumpeted out on the left.
Where was the compassion for the newly born babies that then state Senator Obama clearly did not have? Where is the compassion for the most helpless and defenseless class of humanity the world has ever known? If any group qualifies as “the least of these” according to Liberal Theology, it is the unborn and newly born, but for some sick reason, the unborn girl, the unborn African American, the unborn Hispanic, the unborn Asian American does not meet your standard of personhood.
ObamaCare is forcing Liberals to deny the implications of their beliefs. If we apply the logic of Liberalism on the unborn then the disabled and elderly are also in jeapardy. The same arguments used to justify the murder of the unborn must, for consistency sake, be applied to these other groups.
So I am a little concerned with the State wants to get involved in deciding our health care needs, when Liberals dehumanize all of humanity and locate one’s humanity in the arbitrary and whimsical decisions of those in power.

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Brian Griffith

posted September 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Thanks for the great post.
Is there any way on earth to prove the proposed health reform does not include government funding for abortion.
In terms of what health care a nation can afford, the Canadian program only covers basic care at taxpayer-equalized expense. Dental care, drugs, and many other things are covered only by private money or private insurance. But the question asked in Canada is not how many people can we afford to cover, it’s what level of basic care can we afford to offer all citizens.

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Ellie Dee

posted September 10, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Here is where I believe the President and your comment falls short.To say that Americans are a Caring people, is fine. When it comes from someone whose character is sterling,whose intention isnt to support a political postion, I would than have to agree. However, it is tarnished when someones heart says things that their head knows isnt true. And if the President didnt know, that illegal aliens will be covered in his plan, than that means he is selling us something that isnt completely true. I am all for everyone having healthcare, even illegals, who are already covered under the law. However, I would like my President who Im sure knows that, and if he doesnt, than he is getting too much credit for being smart. I would have perferred him to tell ua the truth, that too is moral. I would alos ask him to tell the truth, as to how he really is going to pay for this.Thrift is also moral. To be moral is measured more by just words, lets hope we have this new healthcare system in place before we drown in the debt its going to create.

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posted September 11, 2009 at 12:58 am

Brian Griffith: “Is there any way on earth to prove the proposed health reform does not include government funding for abortion.”
Is there any way to prove you are not having an affair, Brian? I think that the burden of proof lies on the affirmative side. Just as you would expect me to offer proof if I accused you of adultery, you should offer proof, if you have it, that the proposals (including the one specifically excluding abortion expenditures from the insurance proposal) do include abortion funding.

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Brian Griffith

posted September 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

Concerning: “Is there any way to prove you are not having an affair, Brian? I think that the burden of proof lies on the affirmative side.”
Just my point. I keep hearing accusations that the proposed bill will (a) use taxpayers’ money to pay for abortions, and (b) give free health care to illegal aliens. Is there any way to show that those things are not in the bill? I mean, short of asking people to actually read it?
If the legislators say those things are not in the bill, the critics use a guilt by association argument: We know Obama supports womens’ right to an abortion, so how can we believe he won’t use government money for that?. We know he supports some clemency toward foreign workers, so how can we believe he won’t slip in health coverage for them? And these accusers treat the burden of proof as falling on the accused.

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Your Name

posted September 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I don’t know how I got on your email list, but as of now I’m requesting removal.
Speaking frankly as a Christian, I think you are being deceived – and the ‘progressive Christian’ stance is another form of new-agie-feel-good-anything-goes religion. This administration has an agenda – and whether he’s being deceived or in blatant cahoots with the enemy of God.

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posted September 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

The call for compassion is one all need to hear and affirm, but it is not compatible with forcing citizens to heed the call by involuntary taxation. The deeper we dig into people’s pockets to pay for every benevolent issue through taxation, the less we have to give freely to charitable causes. Had government remained limited to civil justice and national defense (as it largely was for the first 150 years), the ability to generously care for those in need would be greatly enhanced.
The health care system is not perfect, but it is far better than any other on the planet. Turning it over to be run by bureaucrats is a tragic mistake which has been proved over and over in this country (welfare, education, mortgage companies, postal service, etc.).
I would be very cautious of applying Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians to citizens of the United States. The secular state does not have the call upon it that the Church does. Confusing the two has been a major problem in both liberal and conservative camps.

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posted September 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

“I would be very cautious of applying Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians to citizens of the United States. The secular state does not have the call upon it that the Church does.”
Does not God control all? And if His church refuses to do His will, is He not within His rights to care for His children through other means, even if that is through a secular government’s actions?
Would you, as a loving father, permit your children to die simply because the people you put in watchcare over them did not do their job?

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posted September 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm

What is your source for “far better than any on the planet”?
Pew research finds only 15% of Americans rate their health system “best in the world” most (59%) rank it Average or below.
The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. as the 72nd in the world.

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posted September 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

“and by making people accountable for their actions.”
Bullhockey……and why didn’t he tell women to be accountable for the children in the womb, instead of killing them? A caring community? I don’t want to live in the kind of community that he wants us to. A socialist state where we are forced to do “his brand” of goodness. People should want to do good and it should come from within not by a government what wants to run their lives.
“no specific biblical reference, cited no one religious tradition, and praised no single ethical system.”
He citing none of the above because its not something that is important to him. He does not live by any Christian worldview, his words and actions show where his heart is.
“he moved us past hatred by keeping his cool”
He is the master deceiver and he has a plan. He has lied and manipulated to get what he wants. He surrounded himself with the people he admired and who shared his ideals….Wright, Rezko, Ayers, Dohrn…..They share commonalities, more than the American people ever knew.
Diana for you to even compare Obama to Paul is absolutely ridiculous. He is NOTHING like the apostle Paul, nothing. He does not know the Word and does not follow it. And our society is more than fractured. Obama will do nothing but continue to divide and tear us apart with socialistic ideals. His Czars are in place and his attack started when he took the oath.
I do not want to be included in the “we” that he talks about. I can see past his fancy speeches that his writers construct for him to address to his subjects.
He is evil, he is manipulative and I pray that God intervenes between now and the next election. Numbers in the polls do not lie and are starting to go down. People are realizing that he is not who he pretended to be.

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