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Christians, as leaders, both in politics and political activism…
There are so many ways for me to finish that sentence. Most of them, though, after years of frustrated debating, would be rather harsh. Harsh, only because Americans remain, to this day, programmed into acquiescing to quiet respect for those of faith. For the most part. Even for those who enter the public arena, dragging their mythology along with them.
It’s still controversial to confront the insanity which is faith mixed with politics. Despite our claims to the separation of church and state, Congress still utilizes the Bible, even drags preachers in to lead prayers. All of our Presidents, including Obama, consistently include God in their speeches, make sure they’re recorded in church, and invite priests to speak at their events. Obama included one homophobe preacher and one gay preacher in his inaugural proceedings. Is that progress? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I guarantee you though, that not all politicians are Christians, far from it. They’re simply managing their job security, pacifying their base. Why can’t America keep religion out of government? And why are Americans who are the most flag waving and patriotic the same ones who scream when someone suggests taking "God" out of the pledge of allegiance? Rhapsodize all you want, but religion and faith entangled in virtually every aspect of our government and politics is a direct assault on everything this nation supposedly represents.
When are we going to learn? We’re losing ground regularly, with everything from restricting abortions, to Pharmacists able to deny medication based on their beliefs, to the current threats to the latest LGBT marriage victories in…well, everywhere. The responsibility for all backward evolution in America when it comes to rights and freedoms lays at the feet of religion and faith. Yet the LGBT equal rights movement, for example, continues to this day to covet more and more religious influence. Condemning those of us who denounce religious intervention or choose occasional vocal confrontation over silence or prayer, is now common, even routine. Meanwhile, religious Americans spew fabricated lies all over us and have, for the most part, been quite successful by doing so.
When do we stand up and demand that religion be removed from politics and political action, and that anyone involved in these arenas step aside if they aren’t strong enough to separate the two? If a politician or leader, who has influence over the equal rights of others, cannot get through a public speech on non religious issues without throwing in some personal god or faith, we should have a problem with that. And if leaders are heard at any time praising the fact that their judgment is guided by some form of "other worldly" belief, we better do what we can to remove that person from any position of political power.
No one is saying Americans can’t believe whatever they want, personally. But any kind of mythological belief system is in direct conflict with debates in politics and government. It’s not just inappropriate, it’s dangerous. That is, after all, what the separation of church and state is all about. Despite the consistent wailings by Christians and others of faith that by working to keep mythology out of government we’re restricting their rights, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It has to do with the rights of others and the danger of allowing mythology a voice in government and politics. The founding fathers came up with the concept of the separation of church and state because they understood that people of faith and religion use power to enforce their mythology onto others. This is not debatable, it’s fact, history. So while they secured "freedom of religion" for Americans, this was not just a protection for INDIVIDUAL systems of belief and institutions, but much more importantly, it was, and is, a protection for government FROM individual systems of belief and their institutions.
Consider this recent development. The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, a devout and vocal Christian, has redefined "dependent" for Arizona’s state employees, ending all benefit coverage put into place a year prior, for domestic partners, children of domestic partners, full-time students ages 23-24 and disabled adult dependents.
Brewer has publicly stated that “God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor", as well as “it is important that we don’t check our religion at the church door. We want to apply it to the rest of our lives.” Bingo. That’s the issue. The Governor, and all other political leaders who are unable to leave their religion out of their political discussions, are too weak to hold office or lead. They’re not applying their belief to their lives, they’re applying it to other people’s lives. (Of course, it’s always Christians who are operating politically with Jesus on their shoulder. Picture a Muslim in politics suggesting their belief be used to guide them through their judgments. How long do you think they’d be in office? Remember when the first Muslim congressman was sworn into Congress with a copy of the Koran instead of the Bible (which shouldn’t be anywhere near Congress either), and the controversy that ensued?)
Fortunately, there are rational Americans of faith who are not only not crippled by the idea of religion being locked out of government, they endorse it. The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance suggested to the Arizona Governor that "Articulating these beliefs that so closely link religion and government directly contradicts the First Amendment". This gem was included in a letter to the Governor urging her to re-think her position, and to put an end to "fostering entanglement between the institutions of religion and government that compromise the integrity of both". This step taken by the Rev. Gaddy is the way all Americans of faith should think and act.
Of course, in cases such as this, with Americans of faith unable to cork their rhetoric, there’s a mountain of irony. If American Christians would just keep their mythology to themselves, not only would most of the inequality in this country disappear, but the backlash against religion would soothe to a simmer. American Christians really are their own worst enemy. They’re granted the freedom to believe what they want as long as they don’t try to infringe on others based on it. So what do they choose to do regularly? They choose to work to infringe against others based on their beliefs. They say things like America is founded on Christianity, and it’s not. They say morality comes from God, and it doesn’t. They say our laws should be based on the ten commandments, and that’s crazy (and not just because 99.9% of them would go to prison for one commandment or another), they label judges who rule based on the constitution as activists. For the most part they simply can’t accept that their belief is not allowed to hold power over others. There are more than a few nations where religious belief controls the actions and rights of its citizenship, and we all see how that turns out.
There are reasons Americans of faith have stepped up their game recently. They see the precipice, the water crashing below, and the vulnerability of a system of belief they’re unable to reason with. In the United States, faith is losing ground, and with the current glut of outspoken mavericks like Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens getting major media play, it’s likely to lose much more in the near future. So Christians are up against the wall. Americans are historically a very "group minded" people. Once rational thought gets a foothold, it’s over for Christians exercising political and social control. It won’t be as easy to invade neighborhoods on Sunday mornings in hopes of abolishing opposing beliefs. You’d think, given that scenario, that Christians would back off and stop blurting their mythology all over everyone else. My guess is, they won’t.
Someone needs to teach them the meaning of irony. Gotta go, there’s a knock on my door.