So this is what’s been bothering me about the religiousity of recent American politics!

I don’t totally agree with this article, but it puts a finger on the pulse of the frightening problem overtaking our politics, nowadays. Somewhere in the past decade or two our elected leaders decided to become our ‘prophets’ (profits?). Somewhere in the past decade or two our citizenry decided thinking for itself was too tiresome, and that we wanted to be told what to believe. Somewhere in the past decade or two we mastered the discipline of forgetting, such that even though Scripture says we should stone false prophets to death, we nowadays re-elect them because they tickle our ears with what we want to hear. And somewhere in the past decade or two, we forgot that the meaning of freedom of religion is freedom to worship (like all the milk cartons once proudly claimed) as we each see fit. Now we are supposed to worship only as our elected prophets see fit, and if we don’t, well, that’s totally un-American.

I’m not ordering in any stones or anything, but I sure would like some sense knocked into us before we become a full-fledged theocracy—serving the amorphous god of the moment, the god whichever politico in power sells us as endorsing his (her) ambitions as gospel.

Here’s the article—

Politicians wield faith as weapon

Seattle Times staff columnist

 
 
  David Domke is married to a Presbyterian minister. Suffice to say he hears a lot of God-talk in his life.But to his ears, the way politics sounds like a sermon these days is jarring. And unprecedented. Candidates for president invoke the Bible incessantly. Hillary Clinton effuses about “prayer chains.” Mitt Romney’s campaign is consumed by questions of faith. Mike Huckabee’s TV ads label him, bluntly, a “Christian leader.”What’s the top issue in national politics right now? It’s not war. It’s who believes.

It’s like we’re electing the Pastor of the United States.

So Domke, a UW communications professor, wants everyone to know: This isn’t normal. Historically speaking. In fact it’s downright un-American.

“This is as far into the realm of religion as American politics has ever gone, at least in the modern era,” he says.

Domke’s got a new book out called “The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America.”

I called him when I saw the word “weapon” in the title.

I don’t mind some political faith talk — the nods to a higher power, the appeals to the better angels. But lately I’ve felt bludgeoned. It’s not only the quantity. The tenor feels different.

Domke looked at more than 15,000 presidential messages back to 1932 — speeches, platforms, proclamations. He found a huge jump in the use of faith language, starting in 1980 and ramping up in intensity under George W. Bush.

More telling is the change in tone he noticed. When politicians of old invoked the Lord, they tended to do so as “petitioners,” those seeking God’s blessing or guidance.

Now, they’re likely to be telling us what God wants. As if they’re prophets. Such as when Bush said we’ll win the war on terror because “God is not neutral” in it. Or when Romney said freedom was dependent on belief in God.

It isn’t that these guys are closer to God than, say, Jimmy Carter was. It’s that they’re using faith as a calculated political tool. It energizes some voters. But the effect is also to divide.

“It was one thing when a politician would ask God to watch over us. Now it’s that we’re the instruments of God,” Domke says. “It’s cultural religious war talk. It’s a very dangerous shift.”

And the solution?

I used to believe in John F. Kennedy’s answer, that faith was personal and “the separation of church and state should be absolute.”

No more. It’s a fantasy in today’s climate. Many politicians cast votes or craft policies — some of them disastrous — based on religious beliefs.

So now faith to me is like a candidate’s tax or health-care plan. It’s something to be vetted. Debated. Truth-squadded.

I want to know from the would-be presidents: What are your specific beliefs? How far will you take them?

Yes, this means more God-talk, not less. It’s also not exactly what the founders had in mind — there’s supposed to be “no religious test” for office.

Tough. Candidates are the ones putting faith into politics, for their own ends. If they don’t like being scrutinized about it, they can take it back out.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday.
Reach him at 206-464-2086 or
 
  dwestneat@seattletimes.com
.

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