sexta-feira, 26 de maio de 2006

Susan Jacoby: «Heaven Can Wait»

«In his call for left-wing moral revivalism as a counterweight to the ascendancy of the religious right in American politics (“A Difficult Marriage: American Protestants and American Politics”, Winter 2006), Michael Kazin cites the historian D.G. Hart’s argument that religion is “inherently useful in solving social problems because it yields moral guidelines that inevitably generate both a concern for justice and the welfare of all people.”
Inherently? Inevitably? Does the quote refer to an American religion that fought slavery over the opposition of many orthodox churches or to a religion that upheld slavery in the South and profiteering from slavery in the North? Are we talking about a minority faith that insisted women should have an equal voice in the house of God and man or a majority of clerics who denounced feminists, well into the twentieth century, as unnatural female infidels? Are Hart and Kazin referring to a religion that makes room for secular knowledge or a religion that refuses to listen to anything science has to say about the origins of life?
The limited, and often conflicting, definitions of welfare promulgated by various religions were very much on the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they deliberately omitted any mention of God from the document and instead ceded supreme authority to “We the People.”
The framers did not write, as they might have, “we the people under God”—a phrase that would have prevented angry debates in state ratifying conventions over the Constitution’s unprecedented failure to acknowledge a divinity as the source of governmental power. They did not, as a group of ministers would unsuccessfully propose to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, write a preamble that declared, “Recognizing Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government....”
I could not agree more with Kazin that the left needs to present its case in unapologetically moral terms. But those moral terms should be grounded in reason, not in pandering to the supernatural beliefs of Americans. Indeed, American presidents in the past—and not only the distant past—have had great success in combining reason with moral passion. Perhaps the most outstanding example is John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 American University commencement speech, now regarded as the beginning of détente with the Soviet Union. Kennedy spoke of peace as “the necessary rational end of rational men” and declared, “Our problems are manmade—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit often solved the seemingly unsolvable—and we believe they can do it again.” Then Kennedy memorably observed that “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
Could there be a more reasoned yet passionate statement of secular morality than the assertion that we owe our children a peaceful world not because we are immortal but because we are mortal?
Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that a great many Americans, including religious Americans, are sick of hypocritical politicians who pretend that their policies deserve support because they are the work of a Higher Being. The question is whether there are any political leaders left with the courage to appeal to voters as reasoning adults, with arguments based not on the promise of heaven but on the moral obligation of human beings to treat one another decently here on earth.»
(Susan Jacoby na Dissent; ler na íntegra; ler a resposta de Michael Kazin.)

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