In an article titled Palin breaks with McCain on gay marriage amendment, I found the following:
Palin also claimed religion and God had been “mocked” during the campaign, although she offered no evidence to support that.
“Faith in God in general has been mocked through this campaign, and that breaks my heart and that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit,” she said.
And Governor Palin is right. Religion and God have been mocked in this campaign. In her case, it was done by many who don’t really understand the stream of Christianity to which she belongs. I too have been prayed for by people whose theology might not 100% coincide with my own.
But it started much earlier, at least as early as the reactions to Barack Obama’s church, to his particular faith, and to his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Because Obama’s church is different, not like all those other churches, and it’s liberal, it’s OK to run down his faith and his associations. If it’s Sarah Palin, and a pastor who sends the crowds after a witch, that’s a misunderstanding. And indeed, I think it is a misunderstanding. But there is also a pretty substantial misunderstanding of Obama’s faith on the right.
You see, folks like Sarah Palin cite “faith in God” as the issue. But if faith in God is the issue, why is anyone concerned with the accusation that Obama is a Muslim? I’ve encountered not a few Muslims in my life, and every one of them had an active faith in God. I certainly didn’t agree with them on much theology. In fact, I find very little in Islam that is attractive to me personally. But there are plenty of Muslims who are quite attractive personally.
Of course, Obama must respond with the truth that he is a Christian. And it is a very important advantage in the campaign that he is a Christian with very specific things to say. One may disagree with his theology or the theology of his church, but it is hard to argue that he is not sincere and committed to his faith. But at the same time, I think that religion and faith in God are mocked rather severely by the simple nature of this debate.
“Faith in God” becomes “faith in God as I define both ‘faith’ and ‘God’.” And that’s a rather sad thing.
There is not supposed to be a religious test for office in the United States. Now that is a legal thing. It doesn’t mean that the voters cannot have such a test. And I think they do. Whatever the role of race in this campaign, I think religion has a very dangerous role. Does anyone doubt that if Barack Obama had to say “yes” when asked if he was Muslim, he would be in the position he is in now? Could he say that he is a loyal, patriotic American who also happens to be a Muslim? I doubt that would work.
That’s because “faith in God” is not the issue. “Faith in God” is not what is being mocked. What is being mocked, at many times and from many angles is a faith that is different. When Palin said that Obama doesn’t see America in the same way that she and her audience did, she was underlining this difference.
You may ask whether I don’t think I’m right about religion, and if so, why I shouldn’t state that claim. Yes, I have a bad habit of being pretty certain that I’m right. The struggle is not to believe that people with whom I disagree are bad because they disagree. The method is to encounter those people, listen to them, and try to understand how they work.
Here’s the key: In my experience, they are not evil and they are often not that different from me. We may disagree on something I hold very dear. But on other subjects they are not bad people. They may worship differently, believe different things, consider different books sacred, and come from different ethnic backgrounds, but I generally find they don’t match up to my worst fears.
The are merely choosing to “worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit.” Or was Governor Palin really saying that they (the ones who really have faith in God) worship Jesus in whatever manner they deem fit? Is it a case of any denomination (except the liberal ones) is OK, as long as they are Christians?
But I think the greatest mockery of religion is an ongoing one, and that is the way in which we see public symbolism as an expression of real faith. A candidate in most cases must express some form of religious faith. Do they go to church? Do they trust in God? The political answer is “yes” and “yes.” It doesn’t matter what that means in their behavior; it only matters that the right words are said.
This is the attitude that brings us disputes about monuments to the ten commandments. We are told that to reject the monument is to reject God, yet what goes on in the courtroom is not governed by the ten commandments. Many of the commandments are unconstitutional–just start reading with #1–and others are unenforceable. Do we think God is impressed by false labeling?
Then there is the little slogan “In God we Trust” on our money. Some think it’s a national motto. Actually it’s a national joke. We don’t actually trust in God. In financial affairs we trust least of all. Do we suppose that God is impressed by the words as the bill is slipped into a dancer’s g-string or fed to a slot machine?
I’d personally prefer that faith was kept a little more low key in our politics, simply because I think our current determination to have “people of faith” in public office is one of the greatest invitations to hypocrisy ever.
We don’t trust in God, and if we behave as we have been, as Rev. Jeremiah Wright said in his inimitable way, God sure is not going to bless us.