50 years ago, one of the major concerns some of the electorate had was whether the candidate’s religion would impact his decision making, so much so, the candidate addressed it.
“I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me.” Kennedy questioned rhetorically whether one-quarter of Americans were relegated to second-class citizenship just because they were Catholic, and once stated that, “No one asked me my religion [serving the Navy] in the South Pacific.
Back then, it was apparently a big no-no for a candidate to let their religious beliefs (or directions from their religious leaders) determine public policy. It wasn’t that officials weren’t religious, but the idea was that your religion was supposed to be your own business, not the public’s. That’s changed, and these days in some parts of the country you can’t turn around without seeing a politician waving a Bible and screaming about how they have been “saved!”
I was reminded of this at the beginning of the year when reading a news story about the new governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley making this statement:
”I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor … I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind,” Bentley said in a short speech given about an hour after he took the oath of office as governor.
Then Bentley, who for years has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, gave what sounded like an altar call.
“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”
Which then had to be “explained” by the governor’s office. It’s one of those increasingly common things you see, and has been going on since the growth of the Religious Right over the past 30 years. That’s why you see so much proselytizing from various politicians on the Right. It’s no longer “Oh, look, they’re going to church on Sunday” routine, it’s often a full-fledged revival meeting,
That’s right. YOU are the government! You are God’s minister to punish evil and reward good conduct. But, too many Christians have refused the figurative “sword” or the power that in this great country, this little experiment in democracy as a republic, is supposed to be held by YOU.
Phillips explains that he was formerly a member of the church, but he left because it’s “the first Church of Karl Marx,” and “little more than the “religious” arm of socialism.”
The definition used is “I disagree with this church’s stance, therefore they aren’t Christian!” It’s not just local officials, or an occasional member of Congress that’s doing this. It’s become a “litmus test” on the part of the Republican Party. Just look at the recent presidential candidates’ debate in Iowa:
The Republican candidates tried to outdo each other in their level of piety. Ms Bachmann told the audience that “My view of the world is a biblical worldview” while Mr Cain said “the political correctness police” had made devout people reluctant to express their faith.
Funny how that reluctance hasn’t stopped them from touting it all over the place, even as a justification for advocating attempts to insert their religious beliefs into the law. This is why we have efforts to insert “creation science” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) into the curriculum going on in school districts around the country, attempts to legislate people’s private lives, and lots of statements about this is a “Christian country.” Never mind that a reading of history shows that the Founding Fathers had a very, very different view of that. What makes me say that? The US Constitution, Article 6: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States,” along with the 1’st Amendment, and a number of other writings to explain it. It wasn’t because of their personal beliefs, it was due very much to their knowledge of history. Religion and the State were the causative factors of a huge numbers of wars, along with some of the more egregious persecutions in history – even then. Today, we have a number of other examples of what happens when there is a “state religion” or when religious leaders are the government, and it’s not a particularly pretty picture.
Personally, I wish that the protestations of how “religious” they are weren’t such a major portion of the Republican candidates. I really don’t care that “God told you to run.” If God did, the deity has a particularly nasty sense of humor, since all the candidates who claimed that are having … tribulations. More correctly, spiraling down in flames as ineptness, arrogance, and revelations of infidelity work their way. I wish we could return to time when we didn’t expect – or even really want – a politician’s religion to be “relevant.” I’d even be happier if they actually practiced it, particularly this instruction: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”