Yet, actions have too rarely accompanied the best words articulated by Obama. The call to "openness" will quickly be seen as an invitation to join him where he stands, not to reach out to others with whom he disagrees, if he does not act firmly and with determination in these areas that could go some distance to narrowing some divides.
That said, I thought part of his own speech - had it been articulated by a pro-life politician - could easily have been understood to be a critique of a regime committed officially to the idea that abortions are not morally condemnable. He was, clearly, speaking about our sins in relation to the economy. But are those sins and their motivations much different when considering the taking of unborn life?
Unfortunately, finding that common ground - recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a “single garment of destiny” - is not easy. Part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man - our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin. We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.
Change a few words here - very few - but none of the underlying moral considerations, and this is an argument against abortion. Perhaps we inch closer to a recognition that the deadly vices are not to be disaggregated. Obama was right to recognize their source - "our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin." The very pride that informs our politics makes it still difficult for our various political leaders to recognize that common cause lying behind the sins of our economy and the sins of our "reproductive rights" - indeed, to call something from either domain an individually vested right when in fact what we are ignoring is a duty owed to another.