Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Ironic Catholic Speaks to Obama

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Op-Ed: Sen. Obama, the Theologian's "Pay Grade" Isn't Hard to Make, Actually

To: Senator Obama
From: The Ironic Catholic

Rick Warren: "When does a baby in the womb receive full human rights?... "
Obama: "... whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity ... is above my pay grade."

First, Senator Obama, I am a theologian. And the first clue you didn't know what you were talking about on this particular question was the assumption that scientists and theologians are even on the same pay-grade chart. Seriously, I don't begrudge scientists getting paid fairly for difficult research through a few zillion dollars in soft grants. But when a theologian actually gets a grant from a funding agency to do research, we're so shocked we begin to do the happy dance to Schubert's Ave Maria, and hang the consequences. It's that unusual for theologians to make money. Indeed, some of our parents begged us to major in the big bucks disciplines, like studio art or anthropology or Russian lit. But I digress.

Since my theologian's pay grade (after you include the three months I'm not on contract but research anyway, the virtually unpaid work I do for dioceses and churches on the side, and lets not forget the thankless but utterly vital work of humor blogging) = diddly/squat [Now there's a word I haven't heard in a long time and have never before seen in print. She must have a bunch of kids, I'd bet.], I think we can take that as a monetary baseline for having theological guts. You most certainly do make the pay grade to make a decision on when a conceived child gains human rights. That pay grade is the divine gift of your conscience and free will. Everyone makes that decision--how and when we value human life--through their actions, whether they make 10 cents an hour or a few million a year (ahem).

But let me give you some credit. I think what you meant is that question is a highly sophisticated one and you're a pragmatist (although since pragmatism is as typically American as apple pie, I don't see how that is "change you can believe in"). Well, fine. I tend to agree these right to life questions can become very complex quickly. But there is something about all this that is, at root, simple: when you call us to have compassion on the poor, to create economic policies that support families, to offer a just wage... even when you call for us to end a war quickly for the sake of all lives involved... that speaks to a regard for human life. And that human life began at conception: all the DNA zipped into place immediately and it keeps growing until it dies a natural death, or it is stopped by an outside force. And even if you find that beginning point of human life hard to accept (and honestly, I don't think most people do), wouldn't it just be prudent to accept this point and refrain from policies that end these lives? Your own state, Illinois, declared a moratorium on executions the question was debated whether their human rights were being violated. How did everyone else merit the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable? (By the way, that's a good theological teaching. Look it up on Google. That's free knowledge, you know. Helpful for the whole formation of conscience thing.)

I have words for your opponent as well on other policies, but that's another day. In any case, you have an opportunity here to promote policies that defend all human life. And let me tell you, searching your conscience and acting in truth doesn't cost you a dime. I'll bet my pay grade on that.
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