God is on my side. Or on yours. No, wait, maybe He switched to the third guy.
After listening to the way presidential hopefuls invoke the endorsement of The Almighty, He must be backing someone. He might even be working as a candidate’s campaign manager — or, at the very least, a deep-pocketed supporter.
Religiosity — I’m more religious than you are, nanny-nanny, boo-boo — has become such a campaign issue that when I tune into the news, I wonder if I’m listening to some aspiring dictator from a foreign theocracy instead of an American politician. Last time I checked, one of the fundamental tenets of American democracy is the separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers established a secular government as a way of ensuring religious freedom.
What we’ve seen lately, however, is a form of religious bigotry. A few weeks ago, Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, declared that Mitt Romney isn’t a “real” Christian and called the Mormon religion a “cult.” Jeffress, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but since when is Christianity a prerequisite for political office?
While Jeffress isn’t running for anything, those who are, and who should know better, are forever ramming religion into politics. At a summer campaign rally, Michelle Bachmann noted that a quake and a hurricane that had affected the Washington area and the East Coast were signs that God was unhappy.
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” Bachmann told supporters. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.’ ”
A couple of months later, Romney declared that God created America to lead the world.
Wow. Double wow. I think I wouldn’t have such a problem with politicos wearing religion on their sleeves if there wasn’t so much hypocrisy, so much spin, so much game in their fervor.
Granted, Republican politicians don’t have a monopoly on using God for their personal gain. I can think of a few chest-thumping Democrats who have bandied His name in vain only to be found morally inept. Bill Clinton comes to mind. And in the popular folklore of American sports, coaches would like us to imagine that God paces the sidelines as cheerleader for the home team. (As if God truly cared which team makes it to the high school district championship.)
Politics and religion are a dangerous mix, always have been, but I must agree that some points these zealots make are well taken. The most vociferously religious candidates, for example, believe that we’re moving away from God. We are. We’re moving away from God because we’re abandoning the poor and the vulnerable, excluding people who are different and allowing greed and moneylenders to rule the day.
At a time when the powerful want us to believe that God is posing as their personal adviser, it would do us good to remember Abraham Lincoln’s reply to a question posed during one of the country’s darkest chapters. “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”