None of my damn business

>> Monday, July 14, 2008

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: -- "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States."

U.S. Constitution, Art. II, sec. 1

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

U.S. Constitution, Art. VI

There's a story I ran across somewhere--I can't vouch for its accuracy or truth, but it sounds true--that Dwight Eisenhower, legendary general and thirty-fourth President of the United States, was asked shortly after his election what the worst part of being President would be, and Ike bitched that it meant he'd have to start going to church on Sundays. It's the kind of story that reflects a certain admirable irreverence and humantity on Eisenhower's part, but it's also a story that illustrates the kind of silly hypocrisy that religion causes in America's public sphere. Regardless of Eisenhower's religious beliefs, it seems he had better things to do with his Sunday mornings than to make a public specatcle of his faith (like many millions of Americans, I'm sure those things involved sleeping in or knocking a little white ball all over a large grassy expanse with a sort of hooked stick and then following it). The fact that Eisenhower's presidency saw the addition of god-talk to the Pledge Of Allegiance and the coin of the realm only heightens the absurdity--not even irony--of the whole thing.

It's annoying me again because Newsweek's cover story this week is a chronicle of Barack Obama's personal journey of faith or whatever; I have to be honest, I'm not going to say anything about the piece itself simply because I really can't be bothered to read the whole thing. I'm only going to comment on it's existence for the purposes of saying that I don't really care, and neither should you. After all, notwithstanding what polls seem to show, it doesn't actually matter all that much what either Barack Obama or John McCain believe happens when you die or make certain kinds of wishes or where the universe comes from or why we're here.

It only matters at all if there's some reason to think it would affect policy or action if elected: if Obama thought that launching the entire American nuclear arsenal at Jerusalem would hurry up Jesus or if McCain's educational policy was based on burning all texts not directly related to the Qur'an, or if either one of them appeared likely to be blackmailed "fair gamed" by David Miscavige if they moved away from the Church, then it might make sense to care about what they believed. Maybe. I mean, John Kennedy did a pretty good job in 1960 of making it clear he would be everybody's President, and not a Catholic President, and if his duties as President Of The United States ever conflicted with his obligations as a President who happens to be Catholic, he'd step down.

So it's tenuous, is what I'm saying. Would it matter if Obama was a Muslim, or if McCain was a Rastafarian? Really matter?

And then I think, maybe I'm wrong about that. There's a religious component to the same old debate or war or whatever it is over the legality of abortion. And there are all those asshats who want to "teach the controversy" between modern genetics and rambling ca. 5th century BCE Jewish texts. (Hey, who you gonna believe, some dork in a lab or a guy from the Stone Age?)

No. No, I'm not. I should read what I just wrote: "John Kennedy did a pretty good job in 1960...," etc. Regardless of what you think about Kennedy's actual achievements (or lack thereof) as a President, he did point out that there's a bright line between one's beliefs and one's obligations as a national leader. The question isn't, "Hey, do you believe war in the Middle East is a precursor to the end times?" The question is, "Dude, you're not going to let your derranged misreading of the last few pages of the Bible control your foreign policy, are you?" The answer to the first question really doesn't matter if the answer to the second question is a flat "No." I don't care what the President thinks about abortion as long as he's going to uphold whatever the law is; I might care about what kinds of people he nominates to the Supreme Court, sure--but that's really a broader question than abortion anyway. (The real question is how the nominee would decide Constitutional questions: does he respect stare decisis, does he have a legal philosophy and what is it?)

I don't care that Barack Obama is a Christian and he came to his faith through many years of yada yada yada. I wish people would give it a break. I wish people would stop assuming one's church attendance says anything about them other than that they attend church--no, really: if you're a church-goer, how many assholes are there in your church? Be honest. I'm guessing it's close to the percentage in the general population.

Hey, media! I don't care. You can stop. It's none of my damn business. It's none of my damn business and I don't care, and you can please, please, please just stop.


Janiece Murphy Monday, July 14, 2008 at 3:14:00 PM EDT  

(Hey, who you gonna believe, some dork in a lab or a guy from the Stone Age?)

Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! PICK ME!!

The Dork, right? YOU BELIEVE THE DORK!

vince Monday, July 14, 2008 at 5:12:00 PM EDT  

It's like C. Everett Koop, the evangelical Christian Surgeon General under Reagan who, despite his religious beliefs, treated AIDS as a public health rather than a moral issue in the report he was asked to write in 1986, and penned "Understanding AIDS," the PHS brochure based on CDC guidelines that was sent to all 107 million households in the United States in 1988, the largest public health mailing ever done.

He pissed a lot of religious conservatives off by doing this, but he fulfilled his office as he had sworn to do.

John the Scientist Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 1:42:00 PM EDT  

One of the best sermons I ever heard was by a (Baptist) preacher who held up a Quarter and preached on Matthew 22:21 (render unto Caesar...) That was a radical thought back then, pretty much unique to Christianity within the major religions.

I belive that this attitude is the cornerstone of Western advancement over all the other cultures of the time period that had intertwined religious and politcal authority. Certianly without this tradition, the idea would not have come to the Founders, as they would have come from a Roman-dominated Europe with a state cult of personality.

Ancient Western culture was arguably lower than Chinese and Indian, and certainly no better. Throughout the following centuries the power of the Curch waxed and wained, but always there was a division between secular and religious power in the West, except in Italy. The West moved forward, the rest of the world remained largely stagnant (that's an over-simplification, but the Deification of Confucius led to a solidifcation fo the don't-rock-the-boat mentality in China).

I belive that lack of division between Chruch and State in Italy is what allowed the Germanic peoples to leave the Italians in the dust, culturally and technologically. In Roman times, the Italians were at a higher level than the Germans, and Rome was the pace to find engineers with a mindset of accuracy and precision. As Italy wasted that talent up through the Renaissance, the Germans began to become the people you want to go to for a good engineer.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the Christian tradition has always been one of separation of Church and State, at least to some degree, and when Christendom hsa strayed most from that principle, it has progressed the least. The beauty of European versus CHinese culture was that there was always a Court somewhere in fragmented Europe for a frustrated genuis to run fomr Rome. Diversity is not only good in biology.

The idiots who push for more inclusion of religion in public life need quite a few history lessons before they should be allowed in the public debate.

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