Religious Outsiders and the Presidential Race

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 7, 2007 — Leave a comment

God-talk in the Presidential race, especially for the Republicans, is heating up. Everyone is trying to prove just how Christian and Jesus-loving they are to the nation. Recently, Mitt Romney’s “don’t be scared of my Mormonism” speech, and the sudden rise of Southern Baptist (and former governor) Mike Huckabee (the new evangelical fave sucking votes from Romney) have intensified talk about God and the executive branch even further. They, along with John “we are founded on Christian principles” McCain, seem to be reinforcing the notion that only a man of (Christian) faith can properly lead America.

“Romney delivered an address that simultaneously pleaded for religious tolerance and urged intolerance of what he termed the “religion of secularism.” The former Massachusetts governor at once declined to discuss the specific dogmas of his own faith while seeking to convince the bigots in his political party that, like them, he accepts Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his Savior … Whatever bland assurances they may offer to the contrary, both Romney and Huckabee have implicitly endorsed religious tests for a presidential candidacy. Both suggest that only leaders who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are qualified to lead. Huckabee says that we should choose a president who speaks “the language of Zion,” meaning a fundamentalist Christian like himself. Romney says that among the questions that may appropriately be asked of aspiring presidential candidates is what they believe about Jesus Christ…”

The values of secularism, the values that protect religious minorities, atheists, and agnostics from being isolated and discriminated against are called “anti-religion” by Romney, while the other candidates (with the exception of Giuliani) all try to prove their anti-abortion bona-fides by gaining endorsements from groups like the National Right to Life Committee. It comes down to the fact that there is an “unofficial” religious test for President, be sufficiently Christian, or don’t bother running.

The scary thing is, this is just the beginning. Once the Presidential primaries actually start, expect things to get vicious on the religion issue. With both Democrats and Republicans struggling to prove they are sufficiently monotheistic and Bible-believing to head an (in theory) secular office. Obama wants to build “a Kingdom right here on Earth”, Clinton is a member of a scary underground Christian organization called The Fellowship which seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill, and all the Democratic front-runners have a hard time granting equality to homosexuals (while Republicans have no trouble denying an equal role for gays at all).

“Democrats are tiptoeing around gay issues, probably because they believe the gay vote is theirs regardless. Republicans are poised to make gay marriage a major, divisive issue again in 2008, since they know it will mobilize so many single-issue voters to go out to the polls and vote Republican … And no one wants to talk about the fact that marriage, at least in the legal, government sense, is a “civil union” with all the rights that go along with that, and has nothing whatsoever to do with God, the Bible, or religion…”

So where does all this religious fervor leave modern Pagans, agnostics, atheists, and adherents to minority faiths? Out in the cold. Second-class citizens in the race to build a “Kingdom” based around a single religious outlook. In a race where everyone is trying to prove their fidelity to Jesus (instead of sticking to issues of running this country), anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus as their role-model or savior is removed from the conversation.

Jason Pitzl-Waters