Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Good faith" and "civility," R.I.P.

Elizabeth Scalia shares about the difficulty she and many others are having with maintaining the "good faith" assumption in light of recent actions by the Obama administration and the consequences the loss of such an assumption will have for "civility" in public discourse. Her conclusion:
I would like to believe that Obama spoke to Dolan in good faith. In fact, a progressive friend insists that Obama did mean it, but that he was swayed against his own best instincts by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others.

I want to make that good faith assumption of the president—I want to believe that he meant what he said to Dolan, back in November—but it’s difficult to reconcile the man who coolly said “I won” to the GOP the very first time he met them, with a president unable to tell his cabinet secretary and advisors that his own opinions and words have weight and meaning; a president all-too willing to play along with a malicious lie, and a spitefully dishonest and destructive game.

If good-faith assumptions cannot be well-founded, what does "civility" serve beyond the preservation of polite fiction?
"Polite fiction" is an appropriate term for all of the "good faith" assumptions most responsible Christian leaders have afforded Obama up until this time. It is, of course, the same "good faith" assumption generally afforded every previous occupant of the White House and not even the most amoral of Obama's predecessors -- be they Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, or John F. Kennedy -- have afforded the Christian community any reason to question it. Obama, however, by exhibiting a reckless disregard for religious liberty, is leading us down a road we do not wish to go.

It is a basic underpinning of Christian thought that those in authority are worthy of honor and respect. Except in the most extreme cases, such persons are to be extended the utmost goodwill by all who serve Christ. Barack Obama, for all the reasons Scalia delineates, appears more like one of those extreme cases with every passing day. The unraveling of the "good faith" assumption and the accompanying collapse of "civility" that comes with it, however, is no cause for celebration, even for Obama's most strident critics.

Living under a democratic system of government has always carried with it the inherent risk that the people will one day choose as leader one who will use all the resources at his disposal to dismantle the very system which enabled him to rise to prominence. It is this virulent form of callous ingratitude which may be Barack Obama's greatest shortcoming.