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Audacity is what it takes to create a better world


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POSTED: Saturday, July 25, 2009

President Barack Obama has advocated audacity. This boldness can be traced to principles from his religious background.

To create a better world from the dangerous and needful one that currently exists, how about this: “;Love your enemies.”; Even those who voluntarily hate and cause harm deserve respect. This is an extension of “;Do unto others”; and “;Treat your neighbor as yourself.”; Others cannot be separated from one's own realization, individually or collectively. Assume equality of status, take the other's point of view and proceed from there.

Obama supposes that concrete expressions of care will function as a transforming power for the good. Even when disagreements are irresolvable, the right response is to affirm the value of the others, agree to disagree and organize an effort to proceed nevertheless in the most humane and least harmful manner.

Since everyone aspires to fulfill their own humanity, his appeal to this common ground means that everyone should be enabled to advance their own best interests as persons, families, communities, nations, citizens of the planet.

Many find it difficult to realize their entitlements by their own power. Others, through personal ambitions or some ideology, attempt to fulfill their own preferences at the expense of others. Neither is easy to treat effectively.

Indifference to the needy and defensiveness toward opponents are common responses. Obama shifts the power by focusing on existing needs and prospects for remedies. Creative, genuinely caring responses take precedence.

Deference to diversity can moderate absolutist assumptions that cause conflicts. Differences can mutually strengthen rather than exclude or disadvantage.

This moral logic does not support indiscriminate generosity or abandoning individual enterprise. Neither does it support force, violence or indifference. Egocentric individuality transitions to include other-oriented concerns.

Obama is criticized for being soft, naive, overly optimistic. His reply so far has been a hard-nosed persistence: Get real. Enemies and those in need are not unlike us. Caught up in their own predicaments, they have concerns akin to ours that deserve to be addressed. Be on the ready, negotiate, employ diplomatic skills to be as effective as possible. Not doing so simply continues if not exacerbates the problems.

Care as a result of basic respect supposes the development and exercise of skills. Actions make reality; service enables. Cooperative effort transforms. Those involved learn the tangible values of goodness and neighborliness.

These principles found in Christianity are also expressed in other spiritual traditions. Stated as secular values, they involve equality and justice for all, and carry with them values such as life and liberty.

Fundamentals get obscured by other interests. Values of a good life are learned by living through not only one's own aspirations, but the aspirations of others. Working with others, even in disagreement, can educate, elevate and be surprisingly productive.

Rather than drawing a line that should or should not be crossed, Obama's line encircles everyone. The audacious give priority to persons and encourage resourcefulness. Hope labors for the good.

Wherever else spirituality might be located, the president finds it in the life of every person, a kind of spiritualized democracy.