The central theme of this leader’s two-minute-and-25-second address was that his nation is “a Christian country.”

So who offered the inspirational message?

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate the ultimate triumph of life over death in the resurrection of Jesus,” Cameron began. “And for all of us, it’s a time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life.”

“The church is not just a collection of beautiful, old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works right across our country,” he continued, noting how the church helps the homeless, the addicted, the suffering and the grieving.

“Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbor’, they live it out in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups,” Cameron noted. “And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’ Yes, we’re a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none, but we are still a Christian country.”

Cameron also urged his fellow citizens to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world.

Voir aussi:

Obama concerned about ‘less-than-loving expressions by Christians’
Brian Hughes

The Washington Examiner


President Obama used an Easter breakfast at the White House Tuesday to call out what he viewed as unbecoming comments by fellow members of the Christian community.

« On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I’m supposed to love, and I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned, » the president said to a gathering of Christian leaders. « But that’s a topic for another day. »

Obama appeared to go off script in that exchange. He did not allude to whom he was referring.

Obama said the Easter holiday reminded him that even in the White House, some of life’s problems are trivial compared to the « extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. »

« For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective, » Obama said. « With humility and with awe we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our savior, and reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that he absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. »

The president has ignited controversy in the past with his remarks on religion. Earlier this year, Obama drew a comparison between Islamic extremism and the Christian crusades.

« And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ, » he said at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Obama kept his remarks lighter on Tuesday.

Noting that his daughters were now visiting colleges, Obama said simply, « I need prayer. »

Voir encore:

On Easter, UK’s Cameron Speaks Up for Persecuted Christians, Obama Tells Christians to be Less Hateful

In a world where Western leaders and politicians regularly distance themselves from their Christian heritage, preferring to tout “multiculturalism,” United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron’s Easter message is refreshing.

Among other things, Cameron (see video below) made it a point to say “that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’ Yes, we’re a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none, but we are still a Christian country.”

In this context, the Islamic Umma – where non-Muslims are not “welcomed” or “accepted” — comes to mind: whereas the West, thanks to its Christian heritage, developed in a way as to be open and tolerant of others, the Islamic world has and likely will not.


In fact, Cameron also urged his fellow citizens to speak out about the persecution of Christians:

We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too.  It is truly shocking that in 2015 there are still Christians being threatened, tortured, even killed because of their faith.  From Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea.  Across the Middle East Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village; many of them forced to renounce their faith or brutally murdered.  To all those brave Christians in Iraq and Syria who practice their faith or shelter others, we will say, “We stand with you.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Obama—who is on record saying “we are no longer a Christian nation” and, unlike Cameron, never notes the Islamic identity of murderers or the Christian identity of their victims and ignored a recent UN session on Christian persecution—had this to say at the Easter Prayer Breakfast:  “On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love.  And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.”

This is in keeping with his earlier statements calling on Americans in general Christians in particular to be nonjudgmental of Islamic terrorism.

In other words, those Christians who are critical and speak up against injustices, in this case, Muslim persecution of Christians, need to shut up and be doormats that allow anything and everything.  Such is “tolerance.”  Christians are being persecuted?  That’s okay, turn the other cheek, seems to be the American president’s message at a time when Christians, as Cameron noted, are being slaughtered all throughout the Islamic world.

Voir de plus:

Obama v Cameron: Who really loves Jesus?
Lucinda Borkett-Jones
Christian Today
08 April 2015

Ok, ok I know we’re not meant to judge the hearts of men, but my social media feeds are full of it. Americans are heralding the British Prime Minister for doing what their own leader has seemingly failed to do – standing up for the place of Christianity in our nation.

President Obama’s Passover and Easter message on Saturday certainly didn’t go down well, seen as an interfaith mash-up that was generally felt to appeal to everyone and speak to no-one. And his second Easter message, at yesterday’s Easter Prayer Breakfast, has also faced criticism from Christians because he included an aside about the un-loving way in which Christians sometimes approach him.

Perhaps this is a classic case of things being greener on the other side. But let’s stop for a moment and look at what they actually said.

David Cameron’s Easter message was not thanking God for Christ’s sacrifice, it was thanksgiving to God (perhaps) for Christians’ sacrifice – for the love, support and selflessness of church communities, the Big Society by any other name.

« Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate the ultimate triumph of life over death in the resurrection of Jesus. And for all of us, it’s a time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life, » the prime minister said.

« The church is not just a collection of beautiful, old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works right across our country. When people are homeless, the church is there with hot meals and shelter. When people are addicted or in debt, when people are suffering or grieving, the church is there. »

There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s great that he’s paused to reflect at Easter on the fact that it’s a Christian festival, which, amid all the Easter egg hunting, can get a bit confused. I haven’t forgotten the privilege of living in a nation where he’s allowed to do that. And I’m really glad that he used the opportunity to speak about the plight of those persecuted for their faith.

But pointing out that at this time of year Christians celebrate the resurrection isn’t exactly mind blowing. And he didn’t say Jesus or the Word of God is a living, active force in the nation, he said the Church was living and active. That’s great, but it is God’s power at work in and through us – isn’t it?

I also can’t help but feel that there was an ulterior motive in what Cameron said. It strikes me that this was a prime opportunity to appeal to Christians (who we know are a politically engaged bunch), and make the most of being the only leader of the major parties with an acknowledged Christian faith.

Cameron said: « I know from the most difficult times in my own life that the kindness of the church can be a huge comfort. » The cynic in me wants to say that again while it is wonderful that he has known the love of the Church, the most important thing would be to know the love of God.

It’s not quite on a par with the Queen’s annual reminder of the love of Christ in the Christmas message, that’s all I’m saying – and even she has stepped it up a notch in recent years. In 2013 Christians got rather excited when, after the usual survey of the year in the royal calendar, she essentially started preaching the gospel to an audience of millions watching slumped on the sofa after lunch.

The Queen said: « For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach. »

By comparison, although the President’s Passover and Easter message didn’t quite hit the mark, he did say that he would spend Easter Sunday « reflecting on the sacrifice of God’s only son, who endured agony on the cross so that we could live together with him ». Admittedly, he did then focus on the hope of the Easter season; a hope shared by all Americans who believe that « with common effort and shared sacrifice, our brighter future is just around the bend. »

But, far more unreasonably, Obama is facing a fair amount of flak again today for questioning whether everything Christians say is particularly Christ-like. He called on Christians to follow Christ’s example and said in an aside: « As a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. »

But what he said about Easter was clearly far more personal, far more about Christ than anything Cameron said: « For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. We reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.

« And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Saviour. »

Admittedly, he was speaking to a Christian audience, and so the emphasis was somewhat different, but these things are not confined to the audience in the room.

Now I don’t want to step into a party political debate here, though that’s hard to avoid. But one isn’t an angel and the other isn’t an animal. They are both politicians, and both seem to have some form of Christian faith – how much is anyone’s guess. And so dear friends over the pond, it isn’t so green over here. Make the most of what you have and pray for leaders of all colours to know the love of God.

David Cameron’s Easter Message to Christians
In an exclusive piece for Premier Christianity magazine this Easter, Prime Minister David Cameron speaks up on the significance of the Christian faith.
In a few days’ time, millions of people across Britain will be celebrating Easter. Just as I’ve done for the last five years, I’ll be making my belief in the importance of Christianity absolutely clear. As Prime Minister, I’m in no doubt about the matter: the values of the Christian faith are the values on which our nation was built.

I’m an unapologetic supporter of the role of faith in this country

Of course I know not everyone agrees. Many understandably feel that in this seemingly secular society, talking about faith isolates those who have no faith. Others argue that celebrating Easter somehow marginalises other religions. But I’m an unapologetic supporter of the role of faith in this country. And for me, the key point is this: the values of Easter and the Christian religion – compassion, forgiveness, kindness, hard work and responsibility – are values that we can all celebrate and share.

Personal, not just political

I think about this as a person not just a politician. I’m hardly a model church-going, God-fearing Christian. Like so many others, I’m a bit hazy on the finer points of our faith. But even so, in the toughest of times, my faith has helped me move on and drive forward. It also gives me a gentle reminder every once in a while about what really matters and how to be a better person, father and citizen.

In the toughest of times, my faith has helped me move on and drive forward

As Prime Minister, too, I’m a big believer in the power of faith to forge a better society. And that belief boils down to two things.

First, the Christian message is the bedrock of a good society. Whether or not we’re members of the Church of England, ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a doctrine we can all apply to our lives – at school, at work, at home and with our families. A sense of compassion is the centre piece of a good community.

Second, and more specifically: faith is a massive inspiration for millions of people to go out and make a positive difference. Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities. Every day they’re performing minor miracles in local communities. As Prime Minister, I’ve worked hard to stand up for these charities and give them more power and support. If my party continues in government, it’s our ambition to do even more.

No magic wand

It’s that impulse to act which is particularly important. One of the myths we often hear at election time is the idea that governments have all the answers. It’s been the cry of every party and politician down the years: ‘put us into power and we’ll solve all your problems.’ But when I think of the truly great social changes that have helped our nation, they weren’t led or started by big governments. They were driven by individuals and activists, great businesses and charities – everyday people working to do the right thing.

The Christian message is the bedrock of a good society

One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do as Prime Minister is banish this notion that being in government means you can somehow wave a magic wand and solve all the world’s problems. Instead, it’s about taking the right decisions, and showing the right judgment and leadership, based on clear values and beliefs.

Leading the economy

The biggest area where leadership has been needed over the last five years is in our economy. We came into office at a time of exceptional pressure on the national finances. I am proud that despite the pressure on public spending, we made clear choices to help the poorest paid and most vulnerable in society. In the UK, we have increased NHS spending, despite the overriding need to deal with the deficit. We also raised the threshold of income tax to lift the poorest paid out of income tax altogether. If we came back into government, my party would lift the threshold again.

More fundamentally, the core of our recovery programme – dealing with the deficit to restore confidence in our economy – is based on enduring ideas and principles: hard work, fair play, rewarding people for doing the right thing, and securing a better future for our children.

Guided by conscience

I know that some disagree with those policies – including a number within the Church of England. But I would urge those individuals not to dismiss the people who proposed those policies as devoid of morality – or assume those policies are somehow amoral themselves. As Winston Churchill said after the death of his opponent, Neville Chamberlain, in the end we are all guided by the lights of our own reason. ‘The only guide to a man is his own conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions.’

Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities

From standing up for faith schools to backing those who’ve fought foreign tyranny, helping parents and celebrating families, calling for more adoption of orphaned infants, bringing in a new bill to outlaw the appalling practice of modern slavery, and putting the protection of international development spending into law, this government has consistently taken decisions which are based on fundamental principles and beliefs.

I don’t just speak for myself, but for everyone who is part of my cabinet, when I say that the individuals I have worked with are driven not just by the daily demands of politics, but also by a commitment to making a positive difference. Just because some people have disagreed with our policies, does not mean those policies are missing in moral content.

Lift people up rather than count people out

So I end my argument with this: I hope everyone can share in the belief of trying to lift people up rather than count people out. Those values and principles are not the exclusive preserve of one faith or religion. They are something I hope everyone in our country believes.

That after all is the heart of the Christian message. It’s the principle around which the Easter celebration is built. Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children. And today, that message matters more than ever.

David Cameron, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party

Voir aussi:

The Guardian view on Easter: David Cameron’s wonky cross
Jesus’s big and disruptive idea was that the value of humans has nothing to do with their usefulness. Cameron’s sanitised list of Christian virtues would leave Jesus scratching his head
The Guardian
2 April 2015

David Cameron, fishing for votes, has told an evangelical radio audience that he believes that the message of Easter involves “hard work and responsibility”. So what does he think really happened at the crucifixion? Who were the criminals nailed up on each side of Jesus? Skivers being sanctioned because they had missed their appointments at the job centre? Mr Cameron’s Christianity, as it is displayed in this interview, attempts to offend no one, and the result is an insult to Christianity and to all non-Christians as well.

It’s an insult to non-believers because the vague and fluffy list of virtues – kindness, compassion, and forgiveness as well as hard work and responsibility – have nothing distinctively Christian about them. He might as well have said that he gets his two legs from God. But it is insulting to Christians for exactly the same reason. The point of the Easter story, and especially of the crucifixion, is that none of these virtues is enough to save us. It is absolutely not a story of virtue rewarded and vice punished, but one of virtue scourged and jeered through the streets, abandoned by its friends and tortured in public to death.

Jesus did not really preach hard work, responsibility, or family values. He told his followers to consider the lilies of the field, to have no thought for the morrow, and to leave their father and mother to follow him. He came not to bring peace, but revolt. The Easter story makes even democracy look like an instrument of evil. It is the crowd who demand that Jesus be crucified and Pilate who goes along with them.

What Christianity brought into the world wasn’t compassion, kindness, decency, hard work, or any of the other respectable virtues, real and necessary though they are. It was the extraordinary idea that people have worth in themselves, regardless of their usefulness to others, regardless even of their moral qualities. That is what is meant by the Christian talk of being saved by grace rather than works, and by the Christian assertion that God loves everyone, the malformed, the poor, the disabled and even the foreigner.

The idea that humans are valuable just for being human is, many would say, absurd. We assert it in the face of all the facts of history, and arguably even of biology. This idea entered the world with Christianity, and scandalised both Romans and Greeks, but it is now the common currency of western humanism, and of human rights. It underpinned the building of the welfare state, and its maintenance over the years by millions of people of all faiths and none.

It is also an idea that Mr Cameron’s government has defined itself against. The assaults on social security, on migrants, and even on the teaching of the humanities, are all underpinned by a belief that the essential metric of human worth is their utility, and in practice their usefulness to the rich in particular, because it is the marketplace that provides the only final judgment. There are many Christians in this country who are quite content with that. Surveys show that ordinary Christians are consistently to the right of their clergy on many questions: the clergy runs food banks while the pews are full of people muttering against scroungers who believe that poverty is the fault of the poor.

But the activists have for the most part a much more critical attitude, and it is their activism which has led party leaders to be interviewed by Premier magazine. Even the smallest of the mainline churches have memberships larger than that of the political parties. The Church of England alone has twice as many people in church every Sunday as pay their subscriptions to all the political parties put together. There are at least five million active Christians in England today, and they represent a pool of committed and energetic voters that no party can ignore. They won’t all vote as a bloc, but within the existing blocs they will put in more effort, and perhaps more money, than any other group.

Hence David Cameron’s discovery of his own spiritual side. This newspaper can’t condemn him for that. We can only wish he did it more thoroughly and more often. If he were a better Christian, he might believe in, and he should fear, a judge beyond the market. For the rest of us, this election offers an opportunity to judge both him and his party.

Voir encore:

Obama’s 2006 Speech on Faith and Politics
Following is the text of Barack Obama’s keynote at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006.


June 28, 2006

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference. I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at your Covenant for a New America. It is filled with outstanding policies and prescriptions for much of what ails this country. So I’d like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you’ve given so far about poverty and justice in America, and for putting fire under the feet of the political leadership here in Washington.

But today I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we’ve been seeing over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible; and we can raise up and pass out this Covenant for a New America. We can talk to the press, and we can discuss the religious call to address poverty and environmental stewardship all we want, but it won’t have an impact unless we tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.

I want to give you an example that I think illustrates this fact. As some of you know, during the 2004 U.S. Senate General Election I ran against a gentleman named Alan Keyes. Mr. Keyes is well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, Mr. Keyes announced towards the end of the campaign that, « Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved. »

Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama.

Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously, to essentially ignore it. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, and his arguments not worth entertaining. And since at the time, I was up 40 points in the polls, it probably wasn’t a bad piece of strategic advice.

But what they didn’t understand, however, was that I had to take Mr. Keyes seriously, for he claimed to speak for my religion, and my God. He claimed knowledge of certain truths.

Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, he was saying, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

And so what would my supporters have me say? How should I respond? Should I say that a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? Should I say that Mr. Keyes, who is a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?

Unwilling to go there, I answered with what has come to be the typically liberal response in such debates – namely, I said that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can’t impose my own religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.

But Mr. Keyes’s implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer did not adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and my own beliefs.

Now, my dilemma was by no means unique. In a way, it reflected the broader debate we’ve been having in this country for the last thirty years over the role of religion in politics.

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest « gap » in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word « Christian » describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.

Now, such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when our opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives — in the lives of the American people — and I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we’re going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than that – a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds – dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and they’re coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.

And I speak with some experience on this matter. I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I’ve ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.

It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.

I was working with churches, and the Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me. They saw that I knew their Book and that I shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me that remained removed, detached, that I was an observer in their midst.

And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well — that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.

And if it weren’t for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn – not just to work with the church, but to be in the church.

For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship — the grounding of faith in struggle — that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today.

Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

That’s a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans – evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to « the judgments of the Lord. » Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to « all of God’s children. » Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting « preachy » may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers’ lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation’s CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman’s sense of self, a young man’s sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology – that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap — off rhythm — to the choir. We don’t need that.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not. They don’t need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their « personal morality » into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of « thou » and not just « I, » resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you’ve got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don’t need and weren’t even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.

Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase « under God. » I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

« Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you. » The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be « totalizing. » His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my Web site, which suggested that I would fight « right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose. » The doctor went on to write:

« I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words. »

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my Web site and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Voir également:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at Easter Prayer Breakfast


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  It is so good to be with you again.  We had to change up the format a little bit because I think I’ve got 30 world leaders for dinner tomorrow — (laughter) — in an effort to constrain the threat of nuclear materials getting into the wrong hand.  So it’s a good cause — (laughter) — but when you have folks over — I’m sure all of you have the same experience — you’ve got to clean up — (laughter) — do a little vacuuming, make sure that — you know.  (Laughter.)  Well, to those of you who have kids, make sure that they didn’t do something when you weren’t looking that the guests will discover.  (Laughter.)  Some vegetables they didn’t want to eat.  (Laughter.)

So we’re not at our usual round table of fellowship, but the spirit is still here.  And I know that I speak for all of you in feeling lucky that we’ve had such an extraordinary Vice President in Joe Biden — (applause) — whose faith has been tested time and time again, and has been able to find God in places that sometimes, for a lot of us, is hard to see.  So I’m blessed to have him as a friend as well as a colleague.

This is a little bittersweet — my final Easter Prayer Breakfast as President.  So I want to begin by thanking all of you for all your prayers over the year — I know they have kept us going.  It has meant so much to me.  It’s meant so much to my family.  I want to thank you most of all for the incredible ministries that you’re doing all around the country, because we’ve had a chance to work together and partner with you, and we have seen the good works — the deeds, and not just words — that so many of you have carried out.

And since 2010, this has become a cherished tradition.  I know all of you have had a very busy Holy Week, and the week leading up to Holy Week, and the week before that.  (Laughter.)  And I had a wonderful Easter morning at the Alfred Street Baptist Church — and I want to thank Pastor Wesley for his leadership.  Pastor, outstanding sermon.  (Applause.)

He was telling a few stories of his youth, talking about going to the club.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  And since he’s also from Chicago, I knew the club he was talking about.  (Laughter.)  But it all led to a celebration of the Resurrection, I want to be clear.  (Laughter.)  It started with the club, but it ended up with the Resurrection.  (Laughter.)

And his outstanding and handsome young sons are with him here.  And so we want to thank him for an outstanding service.

Here at the White House, we have not had to work as hard as all of you, but we did have to deal with the Easter Egg Roll.  (Laughter.)  Imagine thousands and thousands of children hopped up on sugar — (laughter) — running around your backyard, surrounded by mascots and muppets and Shaquille O’Neal.  (Laughter.)  For 12 hours.  (Laughter.)  That was my Easter Weekend.  (Laughter.)  So we set aside this morning to come together in prayer, and reflection, and quiet.  (Laughter.)

Now, as Joe said, in light of recent events, this gathering takes on more meaning.  Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan — innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims.  And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.

And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division.  They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do.  And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge.  That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels.

And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid.  We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope.  And we think about all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed on our behalf — scorned, abandoned shunned, nail-scarred hands bearing the injustice of his death and carrying the sins of the world.

And it’s difficult to fathom the full meaning of that act.  Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Because of God’s love, we can proclaim “Christ is risen!”  Because of God’s love, we have been given this gift of salvation.  Because of Him, our hope is not misplaced, and we don’t have to be afraid.

And as Christians have said through the years, “We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!”  We are Easter people, people of hope and not fear.

Now, this is not a static hope.  This is a living and breathing hope.  It’s not a gift we simply receive, but one we must give to others, a gift to carry forth.  I was struck last week by an image of Pope Francis washing feet of refugees — different faiths, different countries.  And what a powerful reminder of our obligations if, in fact, we’re not afraid, and if, in fact, we hope, and if, in fact, we believe.  That is something that we have to give.

His Holiness said this Easter Sunday, God “enables us to see with His eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

To do justice, to love kindness –- that’s what all of you collectively are involved in in your own ways each and every day. Feeding the hungry.  Healing the sick.  Teaching our children.  Housing the homeless.  Welcoming immigrants and refugees.  And in that way, you are teaching all of us what it means when it comes to true discipleship.  It’s not just words.  It’s not just getting dressed and looking good on Sunday.  But it’s service, particularly for the least of these.

And whether fighting the scourge of poverty or joining with us to work on criminal justice reform and giving people a second chance in life, you have been on the front lines of delivering God’s message of love and compassion and mercy for His children.

And I have to say that over the last seven years, I could not have been prouder to work with you.  We have built partnerships that have transcended partisan affiliation, that have transcended individual congregations and even faiths, to form a community that’s bound by our shared ideals and rooted in our common humanity.  And that community I believe will endure beyond the end of my presidency, because it’s a living thing that all of you are involved with all around this country and all around the world.

And our faith changes us.  I know it’s changed me.  It renews in us a sense of possibility.  It allows us to believe that although we are all sinners, and that at time we will falter, there’s always the possibility of redemption.  Every once in a while, we might get something right, we might do some good; that there’s the presence of grace, and that we, in some small way, can be worthy of this magnificent love that God has bestowed on us.

You remind me all of that each and every day.  And you have just been incredible friends and partners, and I could not be prouder to know all of you.  I thank you for sharing in this fellowship.  I pray that our time together will strengthen our souls and fortify our faith and renew our spirit.  That we will continue to build a nation and a world that is worthy of His many blessings.

And I want to remind you all that after a good chunk of sleep when I get out of here, I’m going to be right out there with you doing some work.  (Laughter.)  So you’re not rid of me yet, even after we’re done with the presidency.  But I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.  (Laughter.)  And I hope you all don’t mind that.

So with that, I would like to invite Reverend Doctor Derrick Harkins for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)

Voir aussi:

Imre Kertesz : « Auschwitz n’a pas été un accident de l’Histoire »
Propos recueillis par Nicolas Weill

Le Monde


Imre Kertesz, Prix Nobel de littérature (2002), a été déporté lors de la mise en œuvre de l’extermination des juifs de Hongrie, après l’occupation de ce pays par l’armée allemande en 1944. Envoyé d’abord à Auschwitz, en Pologne, puis à Buchenwald et dans le camp satellite de Zeitz, en Allemagne, il survit à la guerre et retourne dans son pays en voie de stalinisation, où il deviendra journaliste, traducteur et auteur. L’essentiel de son œuvre s’attache à transmettre cette expérience de la déportation et de la Shoah, dont il estime que, bien loin d’être le monopole des survivants, elle doit être à la fois une expérience humaine et universelle.

Dans « Kaddish pour l’enfant qui ne naîtra pas » (Actes Sud, 1995), vous dites qu’à une « certaine température, les mots perdent leur consistance », deviennent« liquides ». N’y a-t-il pas là un pessimisme fondamental, l’idée qu’il serait finalement impossible de mettre Auschwitz en mots  ?

Je suis étonné d’avoir écrit cela ! Tout le monde dit que je suis pessimiste, pourtant je me suis contenté, depuis très longtemps, de raconter ce que j’ai vécu. Etre sans destin (Actes Sud, 1998) est un récit de ma déportation, construit à partir de mon expérience personnelle. Mais quiconque a connu l’horreur d’Auschwitz a dû réécrire sa biographie et est devenu différent de ce qu’il était avant d’y être allé. Comprendre comment on est parvenu à détruire en si peu de temps physiquement et moralement six millions de juifs, quelle est la technique qui a été employée pour exterminer une telle masse de gens, voilà ce qui m’a toujours intéressé. Dans Etre sans destin, que j’ai mis treize années à écrire, j’ai choisi d’adopter le point de vue d’un enfant qui est le héros du récit, du roman ; parce que, dans les camps de concentration comme dans la dictature, on rabaisse l’homme à un niveau enfantin. Tout, même ce qui ne l’est pas, y devient « naturel ». Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, je me suis appliqué à étudier la façon dont s’élabore la langue de toutes les dictatures.

De cette expérience des camps, quel est l’« acquis » négatif qui vous paraît le principal à transmettre aujourd’hui et demain ?

L’adaptation. Pour moi, les vingt premières minutes de l’arrivée au camp sont les plus importantes. Tout se joue dans ces vingt minutes-là. C’est cela qu’il faut décrire avec les plus grands détails. Beaucoup de survivants ont préféré oublier leur processus d’entrée dans cet univers – or, là en est la leçon la plus importante. Sous la dictature de Matyas Rakosi [1892-1971, premier dirigeant de la Hongrie communiste à l’époque stalinienne], j’ai pu aussi observer ce processus à l’œuvre, surprendre les gens en train de changer, de devenir autres… J’ai rédigé Etre sans destin sous le régime de Janos Kadar [1912-1989, dirigea la Hongrie après la répression du soulèvement de 1956]. A cette époque, en 1964, le titre de l’ouvrage d’Hannah Arendt, Eichmann à Jérusalem. Rapport sur la banalité du mal – le titre résonnait juste pour moi, avant même que je puisse accéder à son contenu, ce qui, à l’époque, était fort difficile –, m’avait beaucoup stimulé, tant je me sentais sur la même longueur d’onde que cette expression.

Et quel sens prend pour vous cette notion de « banalité du mal » ?

Mon souci principal, encore une fois, est d’analyser la manière dont les gens sombrent dans le totalitarisme. J’ai ainsi rencontré beaucoup d’individus soupçonnés d’avoir été des dénonciateurs sous le régime soviétique. Eux, bien sûr, niaient l’avoir été. Disons plutôt qu’ils ne se souvenaient pas de cette période de leur vie. Cette même attitude, je l’avais remarquée après la libération de Buchenwald par les Américains. Le général Patton a exigé que les civils allemands de Weimar viennent visiter le camp : ces derniers devaient voir de leurs yeux ce que l’on y avait commis en leur nom. C’était le 11 avril 1945, le soleil brillait, j’étais encore là, assis à côté des baraques, et j’ai vu un groupe ­conduit par les Américains arriver à un baraquement où gisaient des malades atteints du typhus. Les Allemands poussaient des cris d’horreur et d’effroi. Huit années durant, ces gens s’étaient pourtant habitués à avoir dans leur voisinage des détenus à qui il arrivait de traverser la ville au vu et au su de tous. Cette horreur, ils l’avaient vue passer, mais sans savoir.

Qu’est-ce qui a irrémédiablement changé avec Auschwitz ?

La basse continue de la morale humaniste, celle qui existe chez Bach avec des accords parfaits, des tonalité en mi majeur ou en sol majeur, une culture fermée où chaque mot signifiait ce qu’il voulait dire et seulement cela, voilà ce qui a disparu avec Auschwitz et le totalitarisme. Comme Arnold Schoenberg [1874-1951, qui a révolutionné le langage musical en renonçant au système tonal de sept notes] l’a fait pour la musique, j’ai découvert, avec mon écriture, une « prose atonale », qui illustre la fin du consensus et de la culture humaniste, celle qui valait à l’époque de Bach et ensuite. Dans Etre sans destin, j’ai renversé le Bildungsroman, le roman de formation allemand. On peut dire que mes livres sont des récits de la « dé-formation ».

Vous avez parlé, dans un recueil d’essais, de « L’Holocauste comme culture »(Actes Sud, 2009). Que vous inspire la renaissance de l’antisémitisme en Europe ? N’y voyez-vous pas comme l’annonce d’un échec de cette « culture d’Auschwitz », devenue si centrale, notamment après la chute du communisme ?

Cette recrudescence de l’antisémitisme, qui est un phénomène mondial, je la trouve bien entendu effarante. Avant même les attaques terroristes de janvier à Paris, j’avais fait la remarque que l’Europe était en train de mourir de sa lâcheté et de sa faiblesse morale, de son incapacité à se protéger et de l’ornière morale évidente dont elle ne pouvait s’extraire après Auschwitz. La démocratie reste impuissante à se défendre, et insensible devant la menace qui la guette. Et le risque est grand de voir les gardes-frontières qui entreprennent de défendre l’Europe contre la barbarie montante, les décapitations, la « tyrannie orientale », devenir à leur tour des fascistes. Que va devenir l’humanité dans ces conditions ? Auschwitz n’a pas été un accident de l’Histoire, et beaucoup de signes montrent que sa répétition est possible.

Dans « L’Ultime Auberge »(Actes Sud, 318 p., 22,80 euros), vous affirmez également que le « juif d’Europe », le juif assimilé, est « un vestige ». Pourquoi ?

Tout dépend de ce que l’on entend par judaïsme. J’ai fait ma bar-mitsva et me souviens qu’à cette occasion on m’avait offert une montre en or, que les gendarmes hongrois m’ont confisquée lorsque j’ai été arrêté et déporté. Est-on juif par naissance ou bien parce que l’on a été élevé dans cette tradition ? Je suis un Européen, j’ai été éduqué en Europe et je n’ai pas beaucoup de notions de la tradition juive. J’ai lu peu de philosophes juifs et ne suis pas citoyen d’Israël… Selon moi, il y a trois façons de percevoir le judaïsme européen après l’Holocauste : celle de Primo Levi, qui le regarde selon le point de vue d’avant Auschwitz, celui de la bourgeoisie assimilée ; celui de l’écrivain polonais Tadeusz Borowski [1922-1951, survivant d’Auschwitz et de Dachau], qui décrit Auschwitz ; et la troisième, la mienne, qui souhaite s’occuper des conséquences d’Auschwitz. En tout cas, je me sens juif quand on persécute les juifs.

A la différence d’autres survivants de la Shoah, vous avez conservé une relation ­intime à la langue et à la culture allemandes, que vous parlez et traduisez en hongrois. Au point d’être allé vivre une dizaine d’années à Berlin, d’où vous êtes revenu récemment pour vous réinstaller à Budapest. Pourquoi ?

Je ne crois nullement que chaque Allemand porte le nazisme dans ses gènes, et je suis sur ce point en désaccord avec l’historien américain Daniel Goldhagen [auteur des Bourreaux volontaires d’Hitler (Seuil, 1997),pour qui il aurait existé un « antisémitisme exterminateur » spécifique à l’Allemagne]. Ma relation à la langue allemande a quant à elle été déterminée par le fait qu’à l’époque de la dictature Rakosi il était impossible de trouver en Hongrie de la littérature correcte. Je me suis procuré des œuvres de Thomas Mann, et c’est grâce à la littérature allemande que j’ai réussi à me préserver de cette propagande réaliste soviétique. Nietzsche était considéré comme une lecture interdite pendant la période communiste, et je me suis mis à traduire La Naissance de la tragédie en hongrois à la fin de la période Kadar. Juste après la guerre, alors que j’étais un apprenti journaliste, je suis allé à l’Opéra. La Walkyrie était au programme. J’avais 19 ou 20 ans. A cette époque, on ne pouvait rien savoir de Wagner, et je n’avais pas la moindre idée de ce que je voyais sur scène, aucun livret n’était disponible. Et pourtant, cette représentation a déterminé ma vie.

Pensez-vous que dans l’ex-Europe ­communiste la mémoire d’Auschwitz joue le même rôle qu’à l’ouest du continent ?

Mon expérience d’Auschwitz est singulière et n’est guère comprise en Hongrie. C’est seulement maintenant qu’on commence à prendre quelques distances dans ce pays avec l’idée que dans ce camp il y a eu une « guerre germano-juive » ! En Europe occidentale, le travail sur l’Holocauste est certes plus avancé. Mais même les soixante-huitards allemands qui demandaient à leurs parents ce qu’ils avaient fait pendant la guerre n’ont pas obtenu de réponse à leur question. Il a manqué une génération.

Dans « Dossier K. » (Actes Sud, 2008), vous parlez de votre découverte de Kant. Y a-t-il une philosophie possible après Auschwitz ?

Un jour, je suis parti en vacances avec ma première femme près du lac Balaton. A cause d’une pluie incessante, on ne pouvait ni se baigner ni aller à la plage. Tout ce qu’on pouvait faire, c’était se mettre sur une terrasse et lire. C’est alors que j’ai jeté un coup d’œil sur La Critique de la faculté de juger, et je n’ai pas pu reposer le livre. Cela a eu un effet incroyable sur moi, même si je ne pratique pas du tout la philosophie, et surtout pas en tant que discipline. Mais cette lecture m’a marqué. Ce que Kant m’a enseigné, c’est que le sujet, le moi, est au centre. Marx oppose le monde, la matière au moi. Dans un pays dont la philosophie officielle était le marxisme, la centralité du moi était une énormité. L’idée d’un monde extérieur absolument indépendant de moi ne m’a jamais plu. Je n’ai rien lu d’autre de Kant, et tout ce que j’en sais est dans cette œuvre. Il m’a enseigné que je suis, que rien n’est indépendant du moi, car si je meurs, le monde meurt avec moi.

(Traduit du hongrois par Natalia Zaremba-Huzvai)

9 novembre 1929 : Imre Kertesz naît dans une famille juive de Budapest.
1944 : à 15 ans, il est arrêté et déporté à Auschwitz, puis dans le camp de travail de Zeitz. Il est libéré par les Américains à Buchenwald. Il retourne à Budapest où il devient journaliste, auteur de comédie, traducteur, et un écrivain au style ironique.
1975 : parution en hongrois du récit de sa déportation Etre sans destin. La plupart de ses œuvres sont axées autour de la Shoah.
2002 : prix Nobel de littérature. Installation à Berlin jusqu’en 2013, avant de retourner à Budapest après la maladie de Parkinson qui le frappe.

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Voir enfin:

« Batman vs Superman » : c’est Aristote contre Kant (en plus désespérant)
Simon Merle
Philosophie supra-héroïque

Le Nouvel Obs


LE PLUS. Prenez Batman et Superman dans le dernier film de Zach Snyder, où les deux super-héros s’opposent. Prenez maintenant deux philosophes célébrissimes pour leurs réflexions autour de la morale et de la justice : Artistote et Kant. Quels sont leurs points communs ? Qui gagne à la fin ? Les explications de Simon Merle, auteur de « Super-héros et philo » (Bréal).
Édité par Henri Rouillier

La bonne idée de ce nouveau film des écuries DC Comics, c’est de mettre en opposition deux conceptions de la justice, en leur donnant vie à travers l’affrontement de deux héros mythiques. Mais le sérieux du propos, à la fois force et faiblesse d’une œuvre qui exclue la distanciation de l’humour, est-il assumé jusqu’au bout ?

Superman et Batman ne sont pas des citoyens comme les autres. Ce sont tous les deux des hors-la-loi qui œuvrent pour accomplir le Bien. Néanmoins, leur rapport à la justice n’est pas le même: l’un incarne une loi supérieure, l’autre cherche à échapper à l’intransigeance des règles pour mieux faire corps avec le monde.

Superman, un justicier inflexible

Le personnage de Superman évoque une justice divine transcendante, ou encore supra-étatique. À plusieurs reprises, le film met en évidence le défaut de cette justice surhumaine, trop parfaite pour notre monde. Superman est un héros kantien, pour qui le devoir ne peut souffrir de compromission. Cette rigidité morale peut alors paradoxalement conduire à une vertu vicieuse, trop sûre d’elle même.

On reprochait au philosophe de Königsberg sa morale de cristal, parfaite dans ses intentions mais prête à se briser au contact de la dure réalité. Il en va de même pour Superman et pour sa bonne volonté, qui vient buter sur la brutalité de ses adversaires et sur des dilemmes moraux à la résolution impossible.

Batman, un justicier de l’ombre

Le personnage de Batman incarne quant à lui une justice souple, souterraine, infra-étatique et peut-être trop humaine. Le modèle philosophique le plus proche est celui de la morale arétique du philosophe Aristote. Si les règles sont trop rigides, il faut privilégier, à la manière du maçon qui utilise comme règle le fil à plomb qui s’adapte aux contours irréguliers, une vertu plus élastique.

Plutôt que d’obéir à des impératifs catégoriques, le justicier est celui qui sait s’adapter et optimiser l’agir au cas particulier. Paradoxalement, cette justice de l’ombre peut aller jusqu’à vouloir braver l‘interdit suprême ; le meurtre; puisque Batman veut en finir avec Superman.

L’affrontement n’aura pas lieu

Il est bien dommage que la deuxième partie du film brouille la distinction entre ces deux conceptions du bien, et que l’alliance occasionnelle des deux héros la rende finalement inopérante. De la même façon, le film pose dès le départ, à travers les discours d’une sénatrice, le problème critique du recours au super-héros.

Ce dernier déresponsabilise l’homme, court-circuite le débat démocratique et menace par ses super-pouvoirs toute possibilité d’un contre-pouvoir. Les « Watchmen », adaptation plus subtile de l’oeuvre de Alan Moore par le même Zack Snyder posait déjà la question : « Who watches the Watchmen ? » La dernière moitié de son nouveau film est bien moins interrogative, et elle semble même légitimer l’inflation annoncée du recours au super-héroïsme dans de futurs « League Of Justice ». On peut regretter que le combat des idées n’ait pas eu lieu, en cédant trop rapidement sa place au trop classique combat des poings.

Simon Merle, auteur de « Super-héros et Philo » (Bréal, 2012)