Way to go, Kathleen Parker! Today’s column, “Giving Up on God,” may be a little over-the-top even for Ms. Parker, but it made me laugh and nod my head in agreement, so I’m more than happy to pass it on.

Simply put,” she says, “Armband religion is killing the Republican Party…. Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

Exactly. I mean, does anyone who isn’t an evangelical Christian at ease with publicizing their faith really feel comfortable with evangelical Christian members or supporters of the GOP publicizing their faith at every opportunity? (And I’m sure the people who answered “No” to that include some evangelical Christians who prefer to keep their faith private.)

The Republican Party’s traditional base includes a large number of conservative Christians, which in the last thirty years has come to include the often reactionary organizations of the Religious Right, most of whom believe they should have significant influence on the party’s platform and candidates. (Case(s) in point: Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson.)

Having large blocs of people with similar beliefs who vote together isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s one of the main ideas behind the democratic process. But having large blocs of people who think their common belief should be imposed by the government on everyone who doesn’t already agree with them is certainly not democracy, and is in fact the very antithesis of what the founders intended.

So, actually, is giving up on God. One of the many exciting things about being a citizen of the United States of America is that you’re actually commanded – by the First Amendment to the Constitution – to believe whatever you want. So don’t give up on God – or do – your choice. More to the point, don’t give up your beliefs whether they include one God, six gods or no gods at all.  Keep faith in the Constitution alive by continuing to adhere to your own personal faith – whatever it may be.

So let’s keep religion out of politics and the government out of houses of worship and see if we all can’t get along with just a little less tension than we’ve seen throughout this (very long and finally over!) election season.

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  • Andrew

    “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” – George Washington (1732-1799), first president of the United States.

    “The Bible is the sheet-anchor of our liberties.” – Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), eighteenth president of the United States

  • Jessalyn Pinneo

    The quotation from George Washington has never actually been documented. It’s often mistakenly quoted as having been part of his Farewell Address (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp), and other times as having been said during his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=17901) in 1795 (before Thanksgiving became the holiday that it is today).

    The quotation from Ulysses Grant is actually “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts and practice them in your lives.” Since none of us have ever met Ulysses Grant, his statements are subject to interpretation – my interpretation of this statement is that it was the underlying morality of the Bible he intended us to embrace, not necessarily the theology of the Bible. Regardless, the founders – of whom Grant was not one, having been born more than a generation too late – established the United States as a country that did not and would never have a national religion, or any theocratic principles or documents as part of its government, and would welcome people of all faiths and none to live and worship as they wished.

  • Jessalyn Pinneo

    In response to the Reformed Pastor (the link to his blog post is in his comment, above):

    Just to clarify, the post on the State of Belief blog quoted here was not written by Rev. Gaddy but, as stated at the beginning of the post, by me – I’m an Interfaith Alliance staff member.

    And I certainly don’t equate a vote on a political issue with the imposition of one religion’s beliefs on an entire society of people. Although I do agree that some ballot measures in this election crossed the line, like Prop 8 in California, Prop 102 in Arizona and Prop 2 in Florida – marriage is an issue for individual religions and houses of worship to decide, and shouldn’t be part of the government’s domain.

    The structure of our democracy exists to allow majority rule within its basic framework of universal rights and freedoms, a major part of which is freedom of belief and the separation of religion and government. Within that structure, the point of our democracy is absolutely for “people of like mind” to vote together and see their political beliefs translated into public policy. But politics are not religious. Nor can religion – in general or one specifically – govern a nation as large and diverse as ours.

    Speaking again for myself, not for Dr. Gaddy, I’m not “consumed with the notion that the religious right is…wrong about public policy questions” – as individuals with political opinions, the religious right is entitled to believe whatever they want about public policy. They’re also free to believe whatever they want about religion – as long as they don’t insist I believe as they do on either subject. I understand a set of morals that stem from religion driving a set of political beliefs, but the religion behind those morals – if there is one – cannot be allowed to rule policy in a secular democracy such as ours.

    If it’s silly to believe in the promise of our Constitution and in the freedoms – namely, in this case, our religious freedom – we’re granted as American citizens, count me in. I wouldn’t want to live in a country that equates government with religion or rules on the basis of theological law. Another of the great things about America is that you’re free to disagree with me – in a theocracy, one of us would likely be legally denied our opinion, depending on the ruling religion.

  • David Fischler

    Jessalyn: Thank you for correcting me. I’ve revised my post slightly to take into account your authorship of the post. Now if you’ll allow me a reply, which I’ve also posted to The Reformed Pastor.

    Let me rehearse a couple of the points that you made in your post. One is that conservative evangelicals “believe they should have significant influence on the party’s platform and candidates,” as if this is a bad thing. What exactly is it that you think disqualifies them from doing so? The fact that they are Christians? That they are evangelical? That they are conservative?

    A second is that you seem to have an definite problem with people living out their faith in a public way. You write, “I mean, does anyone who isn’t an evangelical Christian at ease with publicizing their faith really feel comfortable with evangelical Christian members or supporters of the GOP publicizing their faith at every opportunity?” What difference does that make? Michael Lerner makes a big deal of being Jewish–does that mean that Democrats shouldn’t listen to him? Michael Kinnamon is head of the National Council of Churches–does that mean that he isn’t allowed to mention that fact when he speaks in public? And your reference to “keeping faith private” at the end of the paragraph–I believe you’ll find that a hard sell, not only to evangelicals, but to mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims: in fact, to anyone who believes that their faith has a public dimension, that it should have an impact on the world around them, and on the society they live in.

    One final thing. You seem to think that what conservative Christians want to do is impose a “theocracy,” i.e., make evangelical Protestantism the law of the land (I’m sure conservative Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, frequent partners of evangelicals on a wide variety of moral issues, would find that surprising). The reason you think that, near as I can tell, is because you believe that certain people–moral conservatives, of whatever religious stripe–have no business seeking to persuade their fellow citizens of the rightness of those moral beliefs. On the other hand, by specifically mentioning the anti-gay marriage referenda, you make clear that you think that there are other people–moral liberals, of whatever religious stripe–who have every right to do that. To my mind, that means that, whether you admit it or not, you are in favor of a kind of theocracy, one in which religiously liberal ideas hold sway. But then, you aren’t alone; see my various posts entitled “Theocracy Watch” for more information.

  • Paul M

    Amen. I’d just add that a fundamental confusion on the part of the most publicly pious is their identification of their political opinions as particularly “Bible-based” or religious. They don’t get that their takes and their emphases – for example, seeing the Bible as a kind of manual on sex and reproduction, including homosexuality, abortion and stem cell research – is just their take. And a rather peculiar one at that.

    Paul Maurice Martin

  • Jessalyn Pinneo

    Pastor Fischler:

    I appreciate the update to your post. If you’ll allow me to respond to your points:

    1. Again, it’s not evangelicals, Christians, conservatives or anyone else having “significant influence on the[ir] party’s platform and candidates” to which I object – and nothing disqualifies an individual American citizen from expressing his or her political opinions. What I find objectionable is a bloc of religious people thinking that the theology of the religious doctrine to which they adhere should have any bearing on our government and its policies and legislation (or their party’s platform and candidates). Personal religious beliefs are just that – personal – and given our Constitution’s First Amendment and Article VI, religion must have no direct relationship with or influence on our government.

    2. Faith certainly should have an impact on the world – people of faith attempt and accomplish great things every day, and can have an incredibly positive effect on the world around them. And they, as individual citizens, have every right to express their faith and their political beliefs. But when they link the two and promote them together, as a unit, things can get very sticky for both religion and politics. We saw that multiple times this election season, when the endorsements made by Rev. Wright, Pastor Hagee and Rev. Parsley ended up doing more harm than good to their reputations and perhaps to their ministries. Morality, which for many people stems from their religious beliefs, absolutely drives our social and often our political beliefs. But morality and religion are not synonymous, and we must be careful to leave religion out of politics and government even as we’re each guided by our personal moral compass – it’s a fine line, but one we must walk carefully, or risk denying the basic rights of Americans as we edge toward theocracy.

    3. No, I do not think that anyone has the right to use government to “persuade their fellow citizens of the rightness” of their beliefs. No one. What I said about Props 8, 102 and 2 is that they crossed the line – they shouldn’t have even been on the ballot. Why not? Because marriage – a religious right and a religious ceremony that varies widely from one religion to another – should not be the purvue of government. Period. Everyone here at Interfaith Alliance celebrated when the CA supreme court passed its ruling allowing gay marriage this summer – not because the ruling allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry, but because it was a victory for both houses of worship and individual rights. Giving houses of worship the right to decide whom to marry and who not to marry was a step in the right direction: getting the government out of marriage, a religious institution. The difference in our views on this, I think, is that I want a house of worship to be able to decide whose union it’s going to bless – even if their decision isn’t in accord with my own social beliefs. If I’m reading this correctly, you want the government to tell people you don’t want to marry that they can’t marry, regardless of what their religion says about it. My view has room for your opinion, and your ideology. Does yours have room for mine?

    I am not in favor of any kind of theocracy. I’m in favor of the country our founders intended – one where people of faith can flourish, worshipping as they wish with no imposition of government, and where the government can rule fairly and freely, with no imposition of religion.

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  • […] it’s early in the day, so I suppose anything is possible, but the Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance may have written the silliest thing I’ll read, not only today, but for a long time to come. […]

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