Republican’s Obsession With Presidential Religions

As I was reading about how radio host Tim Farley, of “The Morning Briefing with Tim Farley” radio program, immediately cut off Retired Air Force Colonel Dick Brauer, Jr. after he started spewing the wingnut lie about how Obama is a Muslim, I just couldn’t help myself as I blurted out “it’s about damn time.” Someone finally took the microphone away and said he wasn’t going to let him start spouting his untruths.

The Republican’s obsession with trying to convince the American public that President Obama is a Muslim, is just nuts. The man has been elected president twice and not running for the presidency again. Why does it matter anyway.

For the first two hundred years of this country, most of our presidents worked diligently to keep their religious lives private and to keep some sort of wall between their religion and their Presidency. Two of our most famous Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, were unaffiliated with any religion.

Even though he is considered one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln probably would not be nominated, much less elected today because he never joined a church, never publicly confessed a creed, nor publicly uttered belief in God’s endorsement of his policies.

Andrew Jackson conscientiously refused to allow his religion to be a part of his office. Jackson was called on by members of Congress and influential religious leaders to call for a national day of prayer and fasting in response to a cholera epidemic. Jackson refused, stating that to do so would be to transcend “those limits which are prescribed by the Constitution for the President,” and he feared that this religious encroachment could “disturb the security which religion now enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.”

So, during my lifetime I have witnessed the Republicans hatred for President Obama because he might be a Muslim (and he is black); their animosity towards John F. Kennedy because he was a Catholic; and their loathing of Jimmy Carter who was a devout Southern Baptist Christian. Yet, they were more than willing to run Mitt Romney for president and he was a Mormon (nothing bad, just not one of their kind).

The Republicans were so fixated on John Kennedy’s Catholicism and the possibility that his religion (i.e. Pope) may influence his presidential decisions, they made it a national religious issue. To mitigate this Republican obsession with his Catholicism, on September 12, 1960, Kennedy delivered the speech of his political career in Houston, Texas, before a crowd of several hundred mostly Protestant ministers. Kennedy was addressing what he referred to as “the so-called religious issue.” As Kennedy saw it, the nation was facing a raft of issues from the threat of Soviet communism to hunger and despair at home. “These are,” he argued, “the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues—for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barrier.” Nonetheless, JFK knew he had to address the question of his Catholicism. Kennedy famously declared, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the president—-should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote,” and he concluded, “I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me.” Earlier in his career in Congress, JFK once quipped that in Boston they learned their politics at home and their religion from Rome. As JFK put it, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

Now that was a great speech on keeping church and state separate.

Fast forward to today and we see that we have now done a 180º degree flip and the Republicans want exactly the opposite of what John Kennedy said. Now it is all about church influencing and guiding state policies and ministers telling their parishioners for whom they should vote. Do I see a Supreme Court decision in the future stating that keeping church and state separate is unconstitutional?

That is crazy you say. Think about it. Think about how politicized and radical the evangelicals have become in the last twenty years.  Maybe not so crazy.

3 thoughts on “Republican’s Obsession With Presidential Religions

  1. I remember the days not so long ago when the Right Wing as we know it today was in the shadows doing their thing —– going to church every sunday —- plowing their fields —– hunting their rabbits —– and generally saying, “I don’t never mix politics and religion.” —- They were known for being relatively simple individuals who worked hard, were honest and God fearing and usually less well educated than most of the rest of the surrounding social order.

    Then sometime around the 1970s the great televangelists arose touting the idea that because they were God’s Children destined to inherit The Kingdom of God they were licensed by The Divine to “Subdue the earth and all that is therein” and the whole bunch of them started thinking of themselves as superior to almost everybody and everything.

    Add to that the “Traditions” of the Ante-Bellum South —– traditions, ideals and ideas espoused and embraced by a great portion of the Right Wing and mix it all with the prevailing “Evangalicized” form of protestant religion that the newly-empowered right wing followed —– racist tendencies and all —– and we got the rise of a new and powerful force in American politics that was rarely ever discussed or considered before they were brought out of the shadows by their fat, rich, deceiving televangelical religious leaders —– many of whom have long since been defrocked by one scandal or another —- put it all together and this is what you have today: —– What you have today is the descendant element of that movement of empowerment —– people who are superstitious enough to actually proclaim to the incredulous world that “God told them to run for office” or that “God told them to do this or to do that” —- a totally crazy twisting and perversion of a once noble political ideal we used to call “Conservatism.”

    Conservatism has strayed so far off the track because of its’ kidnapping by the crazies who formerly had no voice or very little voice in politics that it no way even remotely resembles what it once was and I am sure that if even such an iconic figure as Ronald Reagan were to appear in a Right Wing Conservative Republican assembly tomorrow he would be shown the door because they would not consider him to be conservative enough for their tastes.

    I think some of these factors I have discussed are part and parcel of the reason today’s Republicans are so split and divided and off course even they do not know what they are supposed to believe or do.

    The whole Right Wing Political movement seems to be moving more and more to the Right —- ever farther and farther to the Right and I believe if they are not damned careful they will eventually move all the way to pure fascism.

  2. All so true. They have been slowly building up over the past 30-40 years to the point where people wonder when, what happened, and how did we get here. With their current far right agendas I believe they are only a couple of steps away from fascism.

    As always, I appreciate your comments and your distinctive point of view.

  3. Pingback: Why does a president’s religion matter? | The John Liming Report

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