Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain caused controversy this week by stating his belief that America was founded on “Christian” principles, and that he would hesitate to elect a non-Christian to office.
“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles…. personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith … I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.”
While the criticism towards this rather narrow view of American history is warranted, Heathen blogger Hrafnkell points out that a large number of people believe exactly what McCain said:
“McCain only represents a very visible manifestation of a much more serious and widespread problem. That 55% of Americans think the United States was founded as a Christian nation and cite the Constitution as proof of this, we are in trouble. And this demonstrates how effective the big lie can be.”
Sadly, McCain’s Christian-centric view of America isn’t unique from either party. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is a member of the overwhelmingly conservative (and secretive) Christian organization “The Fellowship”, which seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill, and Christian-oriented “God-talk” has been a dominant theme in the race to the White House.
“This effort is apparent on the stump, where many of the Democratic candidates speak openly of religion and God and present moral justifications for their policies. It’s also going on behind the scenes, with presidential campaigns hiring strategists to coordinate their outreach to religious communities and holding weekly conference calls with religious leaders.”
We still live in a country where the election of a Muslim Congressman who doesn’t want to swear in on the Bible causes controversy, where Pagans who do participate in the political process risk being “outed” by their political opponents, where a Hindu is shouted down in the Senate and not a single candidate decries the action, and where a debate on indigenous issues is blown off by all of the Democratic front-runners. The message to religious minorities is clear: you aren’t valued, and we will pander almost exclusively to Christian voters in order to win.
None of this is to say I expect Obama or Giuliani to start pressing flesh at Pagan festivals. I understand that a clear majority of people in America identify as Christian, but I do want to see more talk about the Separation of Church and State and less talk about how awesome they think Jesus is. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to know who is merely expressing a personal belief, and who is establishing a mandate for a Christian-led society. It is clear we will be electing a Christian President in 2008, but we must be ever-vigilant that it won’t be as the executive of a “Christian Nation”.