A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

David Gushee & Frank Page Question Sen. Obama

On Sunday night, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama participated in CNN's Compassion Forum held on the campus of Messiah College in Pennsylvania. John McCain - the Baptopalian - was a no show. You can read a summary of the shindig over at CNN.

You can also read the transcript here.

I'm posting the transcript of the questions posed to Senator Obama by both Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention and David Gushee of Mercer University.

DAVID P. GUSHEE, MERCER UNIVERSITY: Senator Obama, recently yet another disturbing memo emerged from the Justice Department. This one said that not even interrogation methods that, quote, "shock the conscience" would be considered torture nor would they be considered illegal if they had been authorized by the president.

Senator Obama, this kind of reasoning shocks the conscience of many millions of Americans and many millions of people of faith here and around the world. Is there justification for policies on the part of our nation that permit physical and mental cruelty toward those who are in our custody?

OBAMA: We have to be clear and unequivocal. We do not torture, period. We don't torture.


OBAMA: Our government does not torture. That should be our position. That should be our position. That will be my position as president. That includes, by the way, renditions. We don't farm out torture. We don't subcontract torture.


OBAMA: And the reason this is important is not only because torture does not end up yielding good information -- most intelligence officers agree with that. I met with a group -- a distinguished group of former generals who have made it their mission to travel around and talk to presidential candidates and to talk in forums about how this degrades the discipline and the ethos of our military.

It is very hard for us when kids, you know, 19, 20, 21, 22 are in Iraq having to make difficult decisions, life or death decisions every day, and are being asked essentially to restrain themselves and operate within the law.

And then to find out that our own government is not abiding by these same laws that we are asking them to defend? That is not acceptable. And so my position is going to be absolutely clear.

And it is also important for our long-term security to send a message to the world that we will lead not just with our military might but we are going to lead with our values and our ideals.

That we are not a nation...


OBAMA: ... that gives away our civil liberties simply because we're scared. And we're always at our worst when we're fearful. And one of the things that my religious faith allows me to do, hopefully, is not to operate out of fear.

Fear is a bad counsel and I want to operate out of hope and out of faith.

FRANK PAGE, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Thank you, Senator Obama. Thank you for being here at Messiah College for the Compassion Forum. Southern Baptists have been very active for years in sub- Saharan Africa in the HIV/AIDS relief ministries. Sometimes orphan care, sometimes educational activities.

But we also are involved in a ministry called True Love Waits, which has been credited by the government of Uganda from lowering the AIDS infection rate there dramatically from 30 percent to 6 percent. But we also teach a part of that, that faith has a role in the issue of HIV/AIDS. Do you concur with that and would you elaborate on that, please.

BROWN: Can I just clarify, true love waits is an abstinence program.

PAGE: Abstinence based and faith based, yes.

OBAMA: Well first of all, congratulations to those who have been involved in that work. I think it's important work. And I think you may know my father came from this part of the world. I visited Kenya multiple times. I have been working with a group of grandmas who were helping AIDS orphans in Kenya.

OBAMA: Michelle and I, when we were traveling there, took an AIDS test before thousands of people to encourage the importance of them getting clear on what their status was and hopefully reducing infections.

And, by the way, this is an area where -- this doesn't happen very often, so everybody should take note -- where I compliment George Bush. I actually think that...


I actually think that the PEPFAR program is one of the success stories of this administration. We've seen a drastic increase in funding. And terrific work is being done between the CDC, the NIH, local AIDS organizations, NGOs.

My view is, is that we should use whatever the best approaches are, the scientifically sound approaches are, to reduce this devastating disease all across the world.

And part of that, I think, should be a strong education component and I think abstinence education is important. I also think that contraception is important; I also think that treatment is important; I also think that we have to do more to make antiviral drugs available to people who are in extreme poverty.

So I don't want to pluck out one facet of it. Now, that doesn't mean that non-for-profit groups can't focus on one thing while the government focuses on other things. I think we want to have a comprehensive approach.

I do think that -- and I've said this when I was in Kenya -- that there is a behavioral element to AIDS that has to be addressed. And if there is -- if there's promiscuity and we are pretending that that's not an issue in spreading AIDS, then we're missing part of the answer.

But I also think that -- keep in mind, women are far more likely to be infected now between the ages of 18 and 25 than are men. And that's why focusing, for example, on the status of women, empowering women, giving them microbicides, or other strategies that would allow them to protect themselves when they sometimes in certain situations may not be able to protect themselves from having unprotected sex, all those things are going to be just as important, as well.
Both good answers. Gushee's question reminds me of an excellent quote from his book. He wrote, "Many Christian conservatives of this generation have been unable to say no to torture because they are more conservative than Christian."

Perhaps that's President George W. Bush's problem as well.

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Blogger volfan007 said...

big daddy,

i'm conservative. i'm dead set against torture.

i believe that obama's answer to our bro. page was vague...kind of like what a politician does when he does not want to really answer a question.


8:13 AM

Anonymous steven andresen said...


I found this discussion while trying to investigate Sen. Obama's responses to questions about small town America. Earlier today I was frustrated by the discussion of the ABC debate, where the position was ...well, the questions weren't to issues or about policies.

I thought these questions interesting, and coming to them out of the blue, pretty specific, he's against torture for several reasons.

He wasn't specific about where he would oppose the use of torture, because, well, I thought he was making a blanket statement. There was no need to be specific because he was not allowing that there would be any exceptions.

If david thinks he's vague, just how should he have answered this question to satisfy?

10:09 PM


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