Relativity: "Physics. a theory, formulated essentially by Albert Einstein, that all motion must be defined relative to a frame of reference and that space and time are relative, rather than absolute concepts." [as defined by dictionary.com/]
In his confrontation with James Dobson, Senator Obama faces a degree of absolutism that pales in belligerent intensity compared to what he could, as President, face from America's most hostile adversaries. His response to Dobson is a clue to how he might deal with Ahmadinejad, Chavez, et al.
It's no secret that the Obama Campaign is executing a plan to woo evangelical voters coordinated by Joshua DuBois, the National Director of Religious Affairs. DuBois, a member of a United Pentecostal Council Assemblies of God church in Cambridge, Mass., was a graduate student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School when he was "enthralled" by Obama's reference to faith issues in his 2004 Democratic Convention speech. He volunteered to help Obama get elected president. Dobson's recent comments haven't helped that effort. Dobson said,
"I think he's [Obama] deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology."
The candidate who wants to bring religious peoples together by understanding each other's positions responded that Dobson was "making stuff up," and that,
"Any notion that I was distorting the Bible in that speech [his 2006 Call To Renewal Keynote], I think anyone would be hard pressed to make that argument."
James Dobson is a son, grandson, and great-grandson of Nazarene evangelists and remains a member of the largest denomination to evolve from the 19th Century Holiness Movement.
Barack Obama was a long-time member of a liberal, mainline protestant denomination. His chosen congregational affiliation was, for two decades, as a member of a local church unreservedly based on black liberation theology.
These two Christian communities will naturally hold different exegetical views on some Biblical concepts, akin to the relationship between medical and chiropractic doctors. And, they'll place varying emphases on specific Biblical passages. It harks back to why all churches don't have "Roman Catholic" on their marquees.
So Dobson said Obama is distorting the Bible, and Obama said Dobson is "making stuff up." Sounds like a case of He said, He said.
So what does this have to do with how a President Obama would deal with belligerent, international dogmatists, be they religious, political, or some combination thereof? Stand-by.
Dobson heard, in Obama's June 28, 2006 Call to Renewal Keynote Address, relativity imposed on the debate concerning abortion. Dobson asked,
"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies? What he's trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.
"What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that I can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion, because there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue.
"And if I can't get everyone to agree with me, than it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."
In response, Obama described his purpose in that 2006 speech this way:
"I do make the argument that it's important for folks like myself, who think faith is important, that we try to translate some of our concerns into universal language so we can have open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us. And I do suggest that the separation of church and state is important. But there's no, no theological work being done in that speech in terms of the Bible."
Universal language? To Dobson that's the language spoken when an issue is taken down to "the lowest common denominator of morality." And at that point it either is, or verges on, immorality from his perspective.
The burning issue for Dobson is partial birth abortion.
This exchange between Obama and reporters from Christianity Today is posted on the Obama Campaign website.
Reporter: For many evangelicals, abortion is a key, if not the key factor in their vote. You voted against banning partial birth abortion and voted against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. What role do you think the President should play in creating national abortion policies?
Obama: I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it's very important to start with that premise. I think people recognize what a wrenching, difficult issue it is. I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren't expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.
Our goal should be to make abortion less common, that we should be discouraging unwanted pregnancies, that we should encourage adoption wherever possible. There is a range of ways that we can educate our young people about the sacredness of sex and we should not be promoting the sort of casual activities that end up resulting in so many unwanted pregnancies.
Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say - the state can legitimately say - that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there's an exception for the mother's health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn't have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don't think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.
It took Obama 270 words to say: I'm not against abortion. Yet he begins with, "I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion," as the "premise" to everything that follows. (So the National Abortion Rights Action League, Planned Parenthood, Pro-Choice America, National Organization of Women, and American Civil Liberties Union are not pro-abortion? They're just anti-anti-abortion?) Didn't "pro" used to mean in favor of a proposition or opinion? Wouldn't at least a woman intent on having an abortion be considered pro-abortion? Senator Obama must have never known such a person.
From Dobson's perspective, Obama's position represents a diminution of the abortion issue to a state of relativity, a place without absolutes. But, is Dobson's position any less an absolute than the belief espoused in Obama's former church of 20 years that today's descents of former African slaves live in continuing oppression in their American Diaspora? Seems like one man's absolute is another man's relativity.
By another twist of Obama logic, being not against something is not equivalent to being for something. Flip it to another issue for comparison purposes only. I'm not against the death penalty. And I don't know anybody who is pro-death penalty. Or try this. I'm not against war. And I don't know anyone who is pro-war. This is Obamik's Cube language.
Unfortunately, in global realpolitik national leaders have emerged, and will doubtless emerge again, who are definitely pro-war. They may, as others have in the past, wage war with the intent of bringing damage upon the people and property of the United States. That's why we call the POTUS the Commander in Chief and not the Litigator in Chief.
So, finally now, what does this have to do with how a President Obama would deal with leaders like Ahmadinejad.
Obama assumes that those who express positions opposite his can be reasoned with in a meeting of the minds, in a joint search for a common purpose. This is one world - we can all get together. Why not? Yes, we can.
Image a President Obama meeting with Mahmoud, Hugo, Jong-il or the like. He smiles, deploys his linguistic judo, and finds himself face-to-face with a stone-cold, black-hearted dictator. A fearless ideologue sitting right there just across the table.
What if in his intransigence -- a relative state because one person's perception of intransigence is another's non-negotiable belief -- this leader won't conform to Obama's position? Nor, to his offered compromise? What then?
What's he going to say when Air Force One lands back at Andrews AFB?
"What could I do? He was making stuff up."