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Is America Doomed If The President Is Not A Christian?

If it is not illegal for a devout Muslim to become the president of the United States, why are people so hell bent on trying to prove that President Obama is one? Would it matter if any president we’ve had who is still alive were to admit that he was not really a practicing Christian? Is it possible for Americans to consider electing someone to the presidency who has no religious beliefs at all? I’ve had it with the obscene amount of time we spend in our political process obsessing over religion, religious leaders, and presidential candidates who profusely profess their faith in God and metaphorically wave the Bible around as if it is a law enforcement badge.

Belief in a theistic God, that is, a supernatural ruler of the universe, was universal among the Jews and, in different form, among the early Christians. Philosophers tell us that belief in such a being relieved the anxiety that humans felt with their selfhood and the uncertain limits of life. A theistic God offered stability and the sense that someone all-powerful was in charge. Belief in this theistic God is now undermined by what science and technology have taught us about the world, knowledge that has created a new anxiety and uncertainty and led many to take refuge in fundamentalism.

Derrick Bell  from Ethical Ambition

I finally got around to watching the movie The Ides Of March, an inside baseball look at the politics of running for president. The best thing about the movie was the way it called attention to the role opinion columnists play in shaping the political opinions of the public. The second best thing about the movie was the character Governor Mike Morris that George Clooney played. Morris was a fictional governor of Pennsylvania turned presidential candidate, a politician who had been Catholic once but publically renounced any association with any religious belief on the campaign trail.

Emphasis on structural beliefs as tests of faith rather than the development of spiritual power has served to rationalize the necessity of unquestioned adherence to church doctrines drawn from the Bible’s often contradictory admonitions. Treating the Bible as infallible requires ignoring what we know of modern science, technology, knowledge beyond anything those living in the first century could possibly have imagined. The application of literal interpretations to issues involving race, women’s rights, anti-Semitism, abortion, and homosexuality, among other matters, has led to results that are unjust, unfair, and, to my lay mind, far from Christian.

Derrick Bell  from Ethical Ambition

So are we a nation of latent altar boys and choir girls, who feel a certain amount of guilt whenever our more prominent religious representatives open their mouths? Is it possible that our news media is more than a little complicit in allowing the subjects they interview and the guests they televise to make unfounded assertions about the nature of Islam, or misrepresent the views of the Muslims both here and abroad?

Our failure is that we have sometimes not reported accurately, rigorously, fairly, and with adequate nuance and pushback, on issues that involve Islam. We have allowed the Islam-as-bad idea to fester unchallenged and to grow. And we are now at a point where legitimate connections can be drawn between a president’s disapproval and the inaccurate belief that he is a Muslim.

Columbia Journalism ReviewObama Not Muslim, Islam Not Bad

Being pious or devout is not synonymous with being logical, rational, or reasonable, yet there are millions of people who will nod their heads in affirmation when Franklin Graham and other religious leaders of his ilk insinuate that the president is a Muslim, even though Graham offers no evidence other than rhetorical tautology to back up his claim. Some, like Cokie Roberts, have posited that conservatives are using the moniker “Muslim” as a racial code word in order to avoid saying “I don’t like him because he’s black.”

Franklin Graham and Rick Santorum wield the existence of their faith as if their religious belief is really a weapon with which to pummel their political opponents.  When I see the lips of either of these two moving, it is as if I am transported into a time machine where all the voices of all the people throughout history who have used the exact same religious doctrines to justify enslavement, oppression, and gender inequality have joined together with them into one big chorus to intimidate the rest of us into submission. In some ways, conservative Republicans seem to use the “faith card” in the same way they allege their liberal counterparts use the so called “race card” – as a safe house into which they can retreat without fear of being attacked by their opponents.


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