Saturday, December 22, 2007

Enough, Already!

The Christmas season is not my favorite time of the year, and hasn't been for a long time. It has become a commercial holiday (how's that for an oxymoron?) dependent on non-stop commercials on early store openings and discounts on the perfect gift for loved ones. This Christmas has turned out to be the worst on record for me because it lands during one of the most disgusting election campaigns ever. Everyone involved in races from the presidency on down is busy trying to out-Christian everyone else, even though the Constitution makes it clear that there is to be a total separation between church and state and that religion is not to used as a test for the qualification of a candidate.

Of course, even those already in office and not running for re-election are also laying on the Christian message right now, starting with the current president, who sent out this card to the thousands of his close and personal friends:

During the Christmas season, our thoughts turn to the source of joy and hope born in a humble manger on a holy night more than 2,000 years ago. Each year, Christians everywhere celebrate this single life that changed the world and continues to change hearts today. The simple and inspiring story of the birth of Jesus fills our souls with gratitude for the many blessings in our lives and promises that God's purpose is justice and His plan is peace. [Emphasis added}

Why the man wasn't immediately hit with a lightning strike for his audacity in using words like "justice" and "peace" is one of those mysteries that religion is so perversely fond of. That aside, the fact that this American president could so glibly promote Christian theology from the White House is at best hypocritical, and at worst, openly hostile to the Constitution he allegedly swore to defend.

With leadership like that, I suppose we should expect similar pronouncements from those who hope to succeed him, even when those assertions of deeply-held religious belief are forced by a press which has decided that religiousity is an important factor when selecting a candidate. Steve Early covered this nicely in an op-ed piece published yesterday in the Boston Globe:

...In the United States, while still far from being a theocratic state, the "live and let live" tolerance of an earlier era has given way to in-your-face proselytizing - or, in Romney's case, demonizing. On the presidential campaign trail, ritual professions of Judeo-Christian faith have become a precondition for admission to the first, second, or any tier of candidates. Among the Democrats, you must have a favorite Bible passage or parable ready to cite. In the GOP camp, you better believe every word in the book as well.

On candidate resumes, church attendance is no longer enough. Now, would-be occupants of the White House flaunt their past roles as "Christian leaders" ...
[Emphasis added]

Why is this happening? Well, somehow the meme that the United States is a "Christian Nation" took hold, contrary to the history of our founding. About a week ago, shortly after the Romney "Mormonism 101" speech, James Carroll, a regular columnist for (again) the Boston Globe took on that meme and pretty much demolished it by looking at what actually happened in our history.

WHAT IN THE name of God is going on in American politics? Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" speech, riddled with mistaken assertions about religion, was itself a warning. But other presidential candidates, debate moderators, pundits, and religious leaders all share a dangerous confusion about questions of faith and citizenship. Here are only a few:

Is America's goodness grounded in God? When Romney and others assert that American virtues, generally summed up in the idea of "freedom," are based on faith, a cruel fact of history is being ignored. The politics of human rights, like the idea of individual freedom, were born not in religion but in the Enlightenment struggle against it. When Thomas Jefferson located "inalienable rights" in an endowment from the Creator, he was decidedly speaking from outside the mainstream of any denominational faith. Jefferson's point was not to affirm God, but to deny King George.

It is not an accident that "God" does not appear in the Constitution. Following the American lead, religions, too, learned from the nonreligious improvements of modernity, but it is dishonest to claim after the fact that religions somehow sponsored them.

Were "the Founders" religious? It is a convention of political speechmaking to ascribe faith to the Founders, but what kind of faith, and what Founders? The Pilgrims, for whom "freedom" and "rights" meant nothing, wanted a theocracy. One hundred fifty years later, the Deist revolutionaries assumed a distant God whose interest in creation, much less the young nation, was minimal. ...
[Emphasis added]

What is so hard about that? The founders wanted a truly free society, one that allowed as much for freedom from religion as freedom of religion because they saw what state sponsored religion had done to England and Western Europe. They envisioned a secular state in which citizens would be free to worship without the strictures of the state or be free to not worship at all.

Apparently the revisionists think they've won. If they have, and I'm not certain we've actually reached that point, they are in for a surprise. Once the state takes over religion, then the state gets to decide what is acceptable in terms of belief and practice. I'm not so sure they're going to like that.



Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Nice post, Diane.

"God's purpose is justice and His plan is peace."--Bush Xmas card

Bush is a walking repudiation of God's purpose.

As numerous Atriots have said, irony died when Bushboy attained the US presidency.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Why the man wasn't immediately hit with a lightning strike for his audacity in using words like "justice" and "peace" is one of those mysteries that religion is so perversely fond of.

proof positive against the existence of a 'just' (or any other kind of) 'god.' as if you needed any more...

8:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I don't like the hijacking of Christianity as a campaign plank (even though I'm not Christian). Accuracy is important, however. Unless I missed something, the Constitution has only the establishment clause and the provision against a religion test. The "wall of separation," I believe, was a Jeffersonian construct and does not exist in the Constitution.

5:13 AM  

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