Saturday, July 10, 2004

Who is John Kerry?

To be helpful in electing John Kerry will require that I know more about the candidate than "he is not George Bush" (although, that in itself might be enough). You can cull statements, quotes and speeches online, but I'm of the generation that still struggles with doing "homework" exclusively on the net. I like the feel of paper between my fingers. I like a resource that I can carry around and mark up. So I bought the first book I found by John Kerry, A Call to Service; My Vision for a Better America, which came out in 2003. As I browsed the pages, I found a number of clear statements on a myriad of issues.

I hear over and over again that some folks are hesitant to support Kerry for the same reason that I held back; they don't know much about him. I don't think we can wait for the media to spoon feed us information. I think we're going to have to dig it out for ourselves. To that end, I'm going to offer some of the discoveries I make as I read this book, which is a primary source; the words of Senator Kerry.

Early in the book, I found a reasonable answer to a question that is important to me, although it may not be one of the top questions for others; what is John Kerry's relationship with his religious tradition? Here's what I found;

...I am a believing and practicing Catholic, married to another believing and practicing Catholic. And being an American Catholic at this particular moment in history has three particular implications for my own point of view as a candidate for the presidency.

The first two follow directly from the two great commandments set forth in the Scriptures: our obligations to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first commandment means we must believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. They may not always be that clear, but they exist, and it is our duty to honor them as best we can.

The second commandment means that our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a matter of political fashion or economic and social theory but a direct command from God. From this perspective "Christian" bigotry and intolerance are nothing less than a direct affront to God's law and a rejection of God's love.

There's a third facet of being an American Catholic that I take very seriously. We've always been a minority in this country, and have sometimes suffered persecution. To a larger extent than Catholics elsewhere, we have supported and relied upon the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state to guarantee our right to worship and our liberty of conscience. That tradition, strongly advanced by John Kennedy in his quest to become our first Catholic president, helped make religious affiliation a nonissue in American politics. It should stay that way.
-A Call to Service
, pp. 23-24.
I realize that those who oppose Kerry can find much in this quote to challenge and pick apart. But as for me, it resonates quite strongly, and is a position that I not only support, but embrace.

I see a man of faith who will not slide into extremism, and will be an advocate for equality and social justice as a response to his faith. The right stuff.

To be continued...


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