Friday, June 22, 2007

We don't do God

Tony Blair got smacked down by his cabinet when he tried to end a speech with a "god bless." Oh to be in England where preachers preach and politicians end their speeches with a simple "thank you."

Not that Tony Blair can't have a deep and abiding faith, he can, but he does need to keep it personal. Seems in Jolly old England the unwashed masses are much less jolly about having Religion shoved down their throats. It is seen as uncouth for a pol to blabber about God in his public pronouncements.

This is good thing, as most pols really have no moral standing to talk about God in the first place.
This is why they have the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, he gets to do the God stuff. Rowan Williams seems a decent sort and has quite the resume . He seems more than qualified to dispense blessings.

On this side of the Pond, we didn't seem to get all God crazy until Carter. Maybe Nixon might have uttered "God Bless America" or some such, but as it was Tricky Dicky no one took him seriously. Carter on the other hand was a true blue "Born Again Christian." Before Carter, it was seen as rude for a politician to mention faith or God in the course of his work. After Carter the dam definitely broke. Don Renaldo the sainted Gipper was more than happy to blabber about God and morality. Being a Republican that is all Regan did was talk a good game. In the real world of policy Regan acted more like Lucifer than Jesus.

It is an odd sort of Christianity we have here in the U.S. While 90% believe in God they don't believe enough to bother to go to church once a week. Only about a third of the US show up in Church on a weekly basis. The other 2/3 are praying at the first church of Consumerism at the mall. It is telling that during Football season that most preachers make it a point of pride that they will get their parishioners out in time to view the game in their homes. Shows where are priorities really are; eternal salvation looses out to Bears vs. Cowboys.

Even for the minority that are "Evangelical" or more to the point dominionists it is less about faith than an authoritarian will to power. Being brutally honest, real Christians don't need to advertise.

The USA was not founded on Christian principles. The USA was founded on the Lockian and Jeffersonian idea of the right of conscience. Read the constitution, God is never mentioned. Who is? It's "We the People." Jesus makes no appearance, Muhammad is a non-entity, Buddha is a no-show, none of the Hindu panoply show up for even a cameo in the constitution. The only mention of religion in the constitution proper is ban on religious tests for public office. The first amendment makes it even clearer with the two nos: No Establishment, No government interference in religion.

But this never stopped the Authoritarians in the pulpits. New England nearly broke away from the newly minted US because the constitution forbade them from running a puritan theocracy. Virgina had a huge donnybrook over how the state would be run. Jefferson beat out Patrick Henry and established Virgina as a secular republic. Henry wanted an Anglican Hegemony over Virgina just like there was a Anglican Hegemony in Great Britain at the time.

Patric Henry's heirs are still at today. They are trying to make the USA a "Christian" nation "again." Too bad so sad if you are agnostic or atheist or a Buddhist or Taoist or Wiccan or other oddball. You are going to be a second-class citizen in this brave new "Christian" world. Oh, by the way, if you happen to follow the faith that is espoused by a nice German man who is now living in some very nice digs in Rome you're on the curb too. Unfortunately these "born again" Christians have never really liked the Roman Catholic Church. To the Bible-Beaters the Pope is really the Anti-Christ . So even though Ratzinger is making all the right homophobic noises the Pope and all those good God fearing Opus Die types still don't make the grade. The "Cafeteria Catholics?" well, they are definitely screwed.

Odd thing is that Jesus had the real answer two thousand years ago "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." In their public pronouncements our Caesars need to render policy not religious platitudes. As a public official they represent all of us even the atheists. If they need to close with something pithy they can quote Keith Olbermann quoting Edward R Murrow "Good Night and Good Luck."
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