Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Presidential Candidate's Faith

Sister One is writing tonight's blog, and the opinions expressed herein, are solely my own.  Although my sister and I think alike on the subject of separation of church and state, she was not comfortable writing about the topic in our blog, whereas I, on the other hand, like to stir up a little controversy every now and then.  Raised as Presbyterians, my sister and brother are converts to Catholicism, and I remain the lone protestant in the trio. 

I had the idea about writing on this topic when the media and others began to make such noise about Governor Rick Perry's prayer breakfast held in Houston last week.  His desire to bring people together was misconstrued by many voters.   Preachers and other protesters traveled from near and far to make their opposition known. That, dear readers, is how a democracy works.  I can't say I was pleased, but it was their right to do so, and Rick Perry would be the first to defend it.

Many believe that Gov. Perry gathered folks to pray for the nation as a political ploy trying to endear himself to right wing Evangelical  Christians. Others accused him of being a "Holy Roller" and because of it, he has no business running for president.  It pains me to see that we have become such an intolerant nation.  Growing up on the Atlantic Seaboard, we learned to accept and live in harmony with people of all sorts of ethnic, and religious backgrounds.  It was the American way.

The Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Those words have been analyzed, interpreted, and misinterpreted to suit any number of causes.  Atheists object to the word "Creator", others object to "all men are created equal," but to me, when I first read them as a child they simply meant that Americans are entitled to "Life,Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," or as a popular sign of today reads, "Live, Love, Laugh!"   They still mean the same today.  It is a simple interpretation applicable to the needs of all.

In spite of the provisions made by our Founding Fathers to create a climate of religious tolerance,  anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States, and has spread to Canada and Europe.  Christianity and Christians of all denominations, are under attack for their religious beliefs. Yet,  all Americans are asked to walk on eggshells around Islam.  You see, this is a point that really bothers me, and where I do find controversy.  I will be perfectly honest and admit that I have no respect for a 'religion' that calls for the destruction of MY country and MY way of life.  I'm not in the least bit happy that I fear going to a concert, or a mall, or an amusement park, or any crowded place where some imbecile Islamic fanatic intent on martyrdom will shout "Allahu Akbar" and blow himself up killing innocent people with him.  In fact, I'm not happy that Christian students can't pray, and are times banned from wearing religious symbols, but we are building foot baths and prayer rooms for Muslims.

When Barack Hussein Obama came into office we were warned not to use the term "Islamofascism "  But it is appropriate for Christians to be called "terrorists."  Somehow, it has become acceptable to insult Jews, and call anyone who stands with Israel, Zionists, in a manner that drips with derogation and disparagement.  It is that inequality that has become the "politically correct" and accepted way for Americans to behave, that causes me to  vigorously object. 

In May of 2007, Herbert Klein wrote a paper entitled, "Religion and the Presidency."  In it he states:

"Forty-seven years after voters appeared to have settled the question of whether a candidate's religion should have any bearing on his ability to serve as president of the United States, the issue again is looming as a question in the 2008 race for the White House. "

"The current debate is focused on Mitt Romney and his membership in the Mormon Church, but even Rudolph Giuliani is caught up in questions regarding his stand on abortion right and Pope Benedict XVI's recent hard line against Mexican lawmakers who advocate for women's reproductive rights. "

Those of us who followed that election closely know that Mr. Romney's Mormonism became such an issue, that he was forced to make a statement about his religion.  It was not the first time that a presidential candidate has had to somehow appease the voters by making some sort of declaration about his faith. In the same article, Klein reminds us of the Nixon-Kennedy election in 1960.
In 1960, John Kennedy attacked the religious problem early and aggressively.

 "The Democratic nominee arranged to meet with a group of prominent Houston Protestant ministers in September and emerged from the meeting with the declaration from the pastors and from the candidate that church and state always should be separated. Kennedy said his religious beliefs were his private affair, but “if the time should ever come when my office would violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign from office.”   He goes on to say: "Once in office, Kennedy on numerous occasions proved that “he did not take orders from the pope,” and it appeared that religion was a past issue as far as the presidency was concerned."

"Long before the Kennedy meeting with the Houston ministers, Richard Nixon had given firm instructions to all of us on his staff that we must avoid making Kennedy's Catholicism an issue. That order remained in effect throughout the campaign. "  Klein ends his  essay by saying:

In my view, anyone who criticizes a presidential candidate for his personal religion is likely to be a bigot or someone playing politics. Our Constitution clearly separates church and state. Concern over which church or synagogue or any house of worship a candidate attends should not be an issue in the year 2008 or after. "

Richard Land, a Southern Baptist, states the issue clearly: “We vote for commander in chief, not theologian in chief.” 

This is one of those times that I have to say, "I wish I'd written those words."  I didn't, but I do agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Klein.  I did instead write the words below in reply to the issue of Governor Perry's Prayer for America.  Had I been able to do so, I would have joined him as I did on Super Sunday when he and Sarah Palin held a rally supporting his re-election as Governor of Texas.

Should the president of the United States be a religious man?

I don't see why he can't be.  Have we become so jaded that we don't recall that most past presidents attended church on Sunday?  Michelle Bachman too has come under fire for professing her faith.  Presidential candidates are above all else, human beings, and have the right to practice their religion
. "The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, especially those of the Bible. While we reject state sponsored religions, the Constitution protects religions – they have a special protected status in the 1st Amendment. There is a reason freedom of religion is in the 1st Amendment – it is vital to the health and survival of our nation!"

The question then is this:  Should Rick Perry have held an event which focused on praying for the nation?  My answer is a resounding "Yes!"  The Media might have had a field day with Rick Perry's Prayer Breakfast, and Christian pastors  may have been critical of him, but since when is leading a group in prayer the prerogative of preachers only? Rick Perry is an astute politician, and an Evangelical Christian. I don't for one moment believe that he did this to appeal to voters. He's too smart a politician to know that he would be raked over the coals for his actions. He did it anyway, because he's a stronger Christian than he is a politician.  We have a president who cancelled the National Prayer Breakfast but remembers to honor Ramadan, and Gov. Perry gets the criticism?  I heard a Jewish Rabbi speak out against Perry, but kept silent about Obama's predilection for Muslims. What has come over the American people? Practicing our faith is a fundamental, constitutional right. Our Jewish brethren should remember that we unite in prayer with and for Israel. For the record, Perry's prayer event was planned in December of 2010.

There is nothing wrong with a Governor expressing his faith. Read the writings of our Founding Fathers and see how much they, in their wisdom, relied on God's guidance. This country is in a mess. What we need is a return to the value system that made us great, and  to eradicate the ridiculous political correctness behind which so many hide. America needs a lot more prayers than those that were offered that day. Whether or not  Rick Perry runs for president, I thank him for being honest about his faith and courageous enough to practice it publicly.

As one who admires our Founding Fathers, it is fitting to close with the words of President John Adams.

"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate..., for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship. " John Adams
= Thoughts on Government, 1776 =

These and many more quotations like them,  are  the words of our Founding Fathers whose vision created the United States of America. I doubt that any of them would be critical of Rick Perry.



At August 10, 2011 at 10:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sister Two here. As always, I agree with Sister One's excellently written editorial. My discomfort with candidates like Perry (which she mentions in her opening paragraph) lies in the traditional and ever-present clash between politics and religion. At this stage of the game, what we need is to get a conservative (or at least someone who's not a radical leftist) elected to the presidency. THAT is our primary goal, and in order to do that it's necessary to present a candidate who is not so closely associated with his faith that he will alienate many voters.

As a Christian, it hurts me to acknowledge that, because ours is a loving faith that tolerates all others and has the potential to be a great uniter of people from all walks of life. Other faiths -- like the Jewish faith -- are equally loving and tolerant.

However,today's social atmosphere is not "religious-friendly". People would rather believe that we are running this world without any interference from the hand of God. America is in the process of removing any mention of God from society, and those of us who disagree have been entirely too quiet and too acquiescent. With the help of a biased and unscrupulous media, many voters will see candidates like Perry and Bachmann as "religious freaks" who are trying to shove religion/Christianity down their throats. That's the way they will be portrayed, and that's the way they will be seen. The media's power is undeniable!

Because we want Obama defeated in 2012....because we want a return of traditional Judeo-Christian values....because we want the best possible chances for the election of a conservative president, we need to present America with candidate who will be embraced and endorsed by the masses...not just by a few voting blocs. We need a candidate who will attract as many voters as possible. We need a candidate whose trappings will not alienate people who would otherwise share his views. In short, we need a candidate who is not closely associated with any religion.


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