Let’s be honest, folks, even though 94% of us profess to believe in God, fewer than half of us darken the door of any church more than twice a year. And, although most of us have one or more Bibles in our homes, only about 3% of us regularly read from them.
Favoring Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party’s nominee this election year, some of my less-than-liberal friends have asked me recently why I’m not concerned about his past connection to Islam or his current membership at Trinity United Church of Christ. According to some reports, the former pastor of this church, the Reverend Jeramiah Wright, preached themes popular among many African Americans, themes that seem to be inconsistent with the candidate’s own message of tolerance, reconciliation and spiritual inclusion.
Well, yeah… this bothers me, not because Reverend Wright’s sermons were tailored to his congregations’ needs and desires for social change in America. It bothers me because detractors of Obama’s candidacy have chosen to make differences of worship style and historical/social perspectives a political issue. In my opinion, this is American politics at its worst.
“Efforts to portray Sen. Barack Obama’s Chicago church as racist and anti-American are absurd, mean-spirited and politically motivated,” said the Rev. John Thomas, head of the United Church of Christ http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=14765.
Sadly, the United States is a divided nation, more so today than ever. We are divided ethically, politically, racially, economically and religiously. But there was a time, and I’m old enough to remember it, when political candidates didn’t have to defend their faith persuasions. In fact, if a political candidate wasn’t partic- ularly devout and active in whatever faith they claimed, or didn’t claim, voters wouldn’t even know. Nobody knew or even asked; it simply wasn’t “politic” to do so. Then, in 1960, John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was chosen by his party to be their candidate for President. Americans became concerned that, if elected, he might be more guided by Papal decrees than by the will of the people or even the Constitution. But in an address to the nation by way of a speech delivered to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960, he answered the peoples’ concerns when in part he said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” You may read his entire speech at http://www.beliefnet.com/story/40/story_4080_1.html.
According to National Public Radio http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7260620, the Los Angeles Times reported the following poll back in June of 2006: The percentage of 1,321 respondents who said they could NOT vote for the following presidential candidates because of religion were…
- A Mormon candidate — 37%
- A Jewish candidate — 15%
- A Muslim candidate — 54%
- An evangelical Christian candidate — 21%
- A Catholic candidate — 10%
A later polling of the same question conducted by Fox News concluded that 24% of Americans would not vote for a member of the Christian Coalition, that 50% would not vote for an atheist, and that 53% would not vote for a Scientologist. Personally, my own faith notwithstanding, I would have more trouble supporting a candidate who professes to believe literally in the creation story found in the book of Genesis, or that Intelligent Design should be taught as a science in public schools than I would supporting a candidate who recognizes that prejudice and bigotry are still alive and well in America.
Who knows or even cares that John Quincy Adams was a Unitarian (more a society than a religion), that Harry S. Truman was a Southern Baptist, or that Dwight David Eisenhower, once a Jehovah’s Witness, was baptized, confirmed, and became a communicant in the Presbyterian Church in a single ceremony on February 1, 1953, just weeks after his first inauguration as president. But most interesting to me, a member of the United Methodist Church, is that our current Commander In Chief also calls himself a Methodist http://www.adherents.com/adh_presidents.html.
In a remarkable display of candor before he was inaugurated for his first term, the United Methodist News Service detailed Mr. Bush’s political differences with the denomination, pointing out that Mr. Bush’s political views have often been compared to those of a rival denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. “Having a United Methodist in office does not mean the president’s policies will reflect those of the church,” said the statement from the United Methodist News Service. “Methodists officially oppose capital punishment and handgun ownership; Mr. Bush supports both.” And the list of disagreements goes on: abortion rights, gays in the military, school vouchers, even Social Security policy.
“United Methodists are extremely diverse, and there would be some who would take a great deal of pride [in Mr. Bush’s presidency], and some who would be concerned about some of his stands,” said Bishop Susan W. Hassinger, the church’s top official in New England. http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/George_W_Bush.html
Then, of course, there are troubling questions involving the Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson campaigns too. Of all the candidates, only Hillary Clinton and John McCain seem to be benefiting from the faith factor this year; heaven help us. For those of you who really care about what the candidates say they believe or how effectively they are using God to levitate their campaigns, there’s an interesting website called the God-o-Meter that you might want to check out http://blog.beliefnet.com/godometer/.
Let’s be honest, folks, even though 94% of us profess to believe in God, fewer than half of us darken the door of any church more than twice a year. And, although most of us have one or more Bibles in our homes, only about 3% of us regularly read from them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States. So don’t you think we are making more out of the faith factor in this election year than we should?
I look forward to receiving your comments on this. If you are anything like me, you’ll be glad when, after whoever gets elected, we can get back to being concerned about fixing what’s wrong with this country. My prayer is that we might come back together so we can get it done.
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