I am a believer, a person of faith. I grew up closely within the context of a particular religious tradition. I still attend and take part in services when I’m able. My moral principles are heavily dependent on my personal history within this tradition. I studied religious history in school, working under several well-known and respected scholars. For several years, I served a religious institution professionally in a leadership position, and continue to consult with others. I have had the great good fortune to meet and come to know many religious leaders, thinkers and scholars.
I am no enemy of faith, or even organized religion.
All that said, I’m appalled at what I’m hearing this campaign season. We have entered a frightening place in which candidates are literally tripping over each other in a race to be more radically Christian than their competitors – outlining ways we might more closely align civil law and public behavior with their narrow-minded interpretations of the Christian Bible.
Here, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum offers but one example. And what’s so galling about this is the self-righteous presupposition shared by so many candidates that, of course, American law OUGHT to be based on the Christian Bible. In this brief clip, Santorum, again, argues about the “moral” basis of American law – but his “moral” compass clearly points toward a very particular direction, and this direction is never questioned by his competitors, the moderator, or anyone else involved with the campaign.
This is not American.
Look at the photograph (below) of people coming to this country, sometime in the early 20th century. Are they Christian? Who either knows or cares? They came, on shoestrings and guts, with faith in and admiration for our American experiment. With their muscles and talent and ambition and freedom, they built the country we know today. Their descendants, myself included, continue to build and thrive, and enjoy the blessings of liberty afforded us by living in this country.
Let’s get one thing straight: America is not a Christian nation, if by Christian nation we mean a country with social structures, laws and government based solely on Christian principles, especially as interpreted by a narrow-thinking band of Christians. America is also home to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and those of many other religious traditions. And atheists, agnostics, Druids, Wiccans, and so on.
They have their social relationships, laws, and sacred texts too. I happen to live by mine, they by theirs. As an American, I’m in no position to say mine is better, greater or more important when it comes to how we live in the public sphere.
Want a country based on one particular interpretation of one particular religious text? America is not for you. (And, thank God, it never has been.)