Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Faith in Politics: Difficult but Necessary Questions for the Presidential Candidates

by Nomad

Newt Gingrich warns the U.S. is becoming a secular country, which would be a "nightmare." Rick Santorum says there's a clash between "man's laws and God's laws."

Religious conservatives see an escalating war with the Obama White House. One Catholic bishop called it "the most secularist administration in history." Another bishop says it is an "a-theocracy." Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' new Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, believes the First Amendment is clear: The government cannot make people choose between obeying the law and following their faith.

from an NPR article, Has Obama Waged A War On Religion? 


Whether Newt Gingrich knows it or not, America is NOT becoming a secular state. It is a secular state and has been since its inception. It is in very real danger of becoming a theocratic state and that, many people would say, is the potential “nightmare.”
The statements above are extremely revealing about the current mindset of most of the Republican candidates in this year’s election. And for some, this mindset is extremely worrying. 

After all, why should any candidate say there is a “clash” between man’s law and God’s law? A president  takes an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible. The issue of any supposed clash has no bearing on his responsibilities. If a candidate feels there is a conflict and that that conflict may make him or her unable to fulfill his duties as president, then he must not take his oath and he has no business running for office in the first place. As far as I can see, anybody who sees a clash should not be entrusted with such a vital position as running the nation.
In a secular society, such as ours, when candidates for higher office make a special point of using their professed religious beliefs as credentials in order to gain support from radical religious groups, then, unfortunately, the matter of private and personal faith becomes a legitimate subject for inquiry. It is a shame that it should, but it must.

Give Unto Caesar
While in most cases, the matter of faith is a private one, this subject has been thrust to the fore-front not by opposing parties or even the mainstream media. In this election, it has become an important point only because the candidates themselves have made it so.
If faith plays such an active role in the candidate’s judgement, why shouldn’t the public have a right to ask openly about his or her religious views, especially if they may impact on his political decisions? 
It is simply negligent for journalists to ignore this situation. The only way to effectively deal with this problem is to confront it directly. 
Is it fair to allow the politician to play religious peek-a-boo, saying one thing among his religious followers and saying quite the opposite among secular voters? Don’t voters have the right to ask whether any of the candidates might be unduly swayed by their religious beliefs, beliefs that might prevent them for properly implementing the Constitution? 


Perhaps it is time to begin to demand serious answers of any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who decides to make his or her faith as a selling point, such as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. (I didn't include Sarah Palin only because she has declared she is absolutely not running for president.) Should moderate secular voters be forced to accept religious fanaticism as a norm in all elections?


Pinpointing The Clash

In order to clarify the point, I have composed a list of list of questions I would ask candidates who have openly stated that their private faith (in this case, Christian faith)  played a predominant part in their daily public lives.


1. In your opinion, is the Bible an infallible article of faith in your life? Do you believe, for example, that every word written in the Bible is true in the literal sense? Do you believe in the prophecies of the Book of Revelations from the New Testament, specifically Armageddon?
2. If your spiritual advisor, your pastor or bishop for example, advised you against implementing a legal public policy would you follow the law or would you follow your religious counselor's advice?
3. Do you personally hear the word of God when making political decisions? When was the last time you heard the word of God speak to you? What advice did He give you?
4. Do you think Christianity has a special place above all other religions? Are Christians “chosen people” or special in the eyes of God?
5. Do you believe in the concept of evolution or in what some people called creationism? Generally speaking, does science have more or less value than religion in our lives in your opinion?
6. Is the United States a Christian nation? Why? How do you interpret the phrase “a Christian nation”?
7. Do you think homosexuality is immoral? Does God punish or reward immoral behavior, in your opinion? As president of the United States, do you believe that you would be an instrument of God’s will?
8. Compared to other nations of the world, why should Israel be treated any different than say, Portugal or Canada? Would your Christian beliefs affect your foreign policy towards Israel?
9. Do you think that other religions- that were up until recently considered cults- should receive a tax-exempt status? Why or why not?
10. Do you feel that it is acceptable for a person of the Muslim faith to become president? a person of the Jewish faith? An atheist? Why or why not?
11. Do you feel that God has specifically chosen you to lead the country? Why?
12. Among the ten commandments, there is an prohibition against killing. Do you think your Christian faith would therefore prevent you as president from supporting war or the elimination of the nation’s threats, such as Bin Laden or any other dangerous terrorist? Would you be able to ignore this commandment as the nation’s leader?

I am sure that readers can find more questions to add to this list. Even so, the answers to these questions are sufficient to expose the problem with candidates exhorting their private faith as a means of attracting support. This is why wise politicians avoid discussing religion unless forced to. In a secular society, such as ours, there are far too many problems with such a campaign tactic. It has now become an issue than cannot be ignored.. unless we wish to live under the same kind of regime as Iran or as in Saudi Arabia. These are examples of modern day theocracies with only the superficial trappings of democratic representation. 
I must add, this is not meant to be a litmus test for faith (although many conservative religious leaders might well use the candidates’ answers for that purpose.) The questions are meant only a means of clarification of policy and position.

As anyone can see this questionnaire opens an assortment of problems for any serious candidate but that is exactly why they must be asked NOW. No American voter should have to choose between the Bible, the Torah or the Koran or the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law.
And no candidate should be spiritually torn between Man’s laws and God’s laws.

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