Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Lecture

I wanted to point out something from Obama’s Nobel Lecture. Obama rightfully acknowledges that the president of the United States cannot follow the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. I want to quote him at length on this one.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago - "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

Isn't it interesting that the President of the United States recognizes the distinction between working for peace and justice according to King and Gandhi as opposed to working for peace and justice according to the office of the President of the United States. I'm actually very thankful that this was acknowledged, and interested that it happened in the context of the Nobel Peace prize. This helps us see that there is no such thing as "peace" that means the same thing in every context. The people of God have a particular take on peace and how it comes about and Obama's speech helps make the distinction between what he is (and has to be about) as the President. It does still make me sad that Obama believes he cannot follow the lead of King and Gandhi on the worlds stage even though I agree with him that he never could while in office.


Emily said...

Scott, I'm glad you posted this, and I'm interested to see what your community has to say as a reflection here.

I'm not ready to agree with him that violence was imperative in our present circumstances. But it was an interesting speech.

Emily B

Scott Savage said...

Hi Emily,

That's actually the point I was making. Given the nature and assumption of his office as the President, war is expected. Now, I'm not saying that church just blindly baptize those assumptions. Of course not! We call those assumptions into question via the cross. But, the calling into question becomes much more apparent when we see that there are two different strategies (if you will) of peace at work. People like Hauerwas helped me see this. He always says something like, "sure I think a Christian could be President, I just want them to be Christian when they hold that office." I think he says this with a sense of irony, knowing that it could never happen because that office comes with certain behavioral and character assumptions. I was actually very thankful that he also talked about just war. I'm not sure how much that actually happens in the White House. I that is a good place for the Church (who I think is fundamentally peaceful, and not just about just war theory) to be enter into the conversation and work to limit war and violence. The Church doesn't baptize just war theory just because the President does, but that theory is at least a better option than others that would keep America perpetually at war, which seems to be the only option in a war on terrorism. It will be interesting to see how the implications of just war theory plays out economically, if Obama is able to limit war during his presidency, since war had become profitable.

Dang. I just realized that I have said a lot, but I don't want to change any of it. I just hate that my tone doesn't translate on the internet. I think I might come across as sarcastic and taking potshots at others. I'm just trying to raise some questions and see some connections as I, myself, try and make sense of things according to the Story of God.


Emily said...

Your tone is understood by me, at least.