Uncommon Ground

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In secular politics, there is really only one reason to work for common ground: It gives you the best chance of achieving your objectives. Those objectives may be either short or long term, such that a compomise here may buy you something down the line. But achieving common ground for it’s own sake is a meaningless exercise–or at least, it’s not worth sacrificing objectives for. (To be sure, a common ground position might be superior to that of any of the parties coming together on it, but there’s no a priori reason to think that must be so.)

In spiritual politics, by contrast, common ground is often an end in itself. Christians dream of a day when all are one in Christ Jesus, and other traditions have their own kumbaya moments. But we should be wary of letting the religious impulse to seek common ground get in the way of the secular imperative to do what needs to be done. Particularly since that impulse can be abused in pursuit of a hidden agenda.

Such is the burden of Fred Clarkson’s highly instructive account of the history of “abortion reduction”–which makes clear that this has been for many of its protagonists just a stalking horse for recriminalizing abortion. And to their credit, the good folks at Faith in Public Life seem to be not unaware of the nature of the game.

Meanwhile, this pregnant sentence lies buried deep in Jacqueline Salmon’s fine piece in today’s WaPo on the troubles of faith-based nonprofits because of government funding cutbacks in these hard times:

Nonprofits unsuccessfully lobbied for a $15 billion bridge loan package
for human services nonprofits, administered by the federal government,
to be included in the fiscal stimulus package.

One’s tempted to ask where the hell the new poverty lobby was on this one. Jim Wallis’ time would have been far better spent raising a hue and cry on its behalf than rolling out the impoverished “common ground” agenda of the Poverty Forum. And where the hell was OFANP? Here was a perfect opportunity for the new administration to strut its faith-based stuff. You’d almost think the whole exercise was more about cuddling up to religious conservatives than addressing the immediate intensifying needs of the poor.