Faith And Politics

I am Jewish. No surprise there. I have mentioned it enough times on the blog.

I’m not a particularly observant Jew. As with many other Jews, I look at my “Jewishness” as much an ethnicity as a religion.

I don’t think Jews have found a shortcut to heaven. In fact, Jews don’t believe in heaven. We are not the only nor necessarily the best religion.

I respect my friends who have religious beliefs different than mine.

God knows (he really does), I’ve been in enough churches during my 23 years in Connecticut! I’ve spoken to church groups and church schools. I was honored to eulogize my friend Kevin at a Mormon ceremony.

With all this having been established, I am troubled by things I read which suggests some people running for the White House feel it’s a job for a Christian.

Oh, it has to be the right kind of Christian too… maybe not the Mitt Romney kind. Maybe not the Rudy Guiliani kind either. Is Mike Huckabee OK? Depends who you ask.

We are a secular nation. Unlike England, for instance, there is no state church here. We are a nation of laws, not doctrine. Our leaders are elected by the people, not anointed by God.

In essence, I’m hoping the first amendment covers me when it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

It is right for Christians, or any other group, to act in concert to advance their agenda. It is wrong to do that to the exclusion of others.

My Jewishness should never cause me to be uncomfortable in our society. At the moment, it does.

8 thoughts on “Faith And Politics”

  1. i believe this too will become a none factor soon , people said a woman could never be president , but look who’s in the running. i am still waiting for mike bloomberg ( a jew ) to throw his hat in as an independent after the r & d herd thins out. someone who marches to his own drummer may be what is needed.

  2. Excellent point, Geoff. I’ve always felt that the President (or any elected official, for that matter) should be of whatever religion s/he feels and it shouldn’t matter, or that if it did, only as much as it matters what sports teams s/he favored.

    Seriously. Who cares? Too many people, unfortunately.

  3. I agree with Gary. Religion is a personal preference but it shouldn’t be used by candidates to strong arm folks into voting for “their people” A good person with strength and excellence shouldn’t have to yell, “hey! vote for me, I’m a Baptist”…he or she should be judged on his record and his heart…If they are at services, synagogue or the Giants game over the weekend, who cares… Let’s worry how they handle Monday morning.

  4. I’m hoping those people who won’t vote for Guliani or Romney are basing that decision on other characteristics of the candidate (i.e. smugness, zealotry, incompetence, or lack of soul.) Anyway, as a fellow Jew I can’t say I share your discomfort in society. Have you encountered some anti-Semitism lately? Is there a news article about hate crimes that alarms you? Just curious what spurred you to write this blog post. If it’s just a general sense that our country won’t elect someone who isn’t White Anglo-Saxan Protestant I think your fears are unfounded. Check out this Gallup poll that I looked up. I remember seeing this back when it came out a few months ago.

    One statistic says that only 7% of Americans would not vote for a candidate merely because he or she was Jewish. It has a list of other qualifiers and how people replied.

  5. I don’t agree Geoff. It is their right under the constitution to seek election under any pretense or political platform they choose, including religion. It is our right to vote or not vote for them based on their platform or pretense. However, I strongly believe that it is your DUTY as a journalist to pursue this issue as you see fit and to inspire others in journalism to do the same. I believe that is where the problem is all too often. I think the media does not cover elections and candidates in a manner that benefits America. Too often the issues are personal and the media strays because it is simple to do this. Perhaps if the media forced them to focus on what is wrong and right with America and quit the personal attacks, the country would be better represented. You, Geoff, are one of the only Journalists I have ever seen or heard who I can trust to tell me what he/she really thinks. That is a start.

  6. I don’t think Geoff is arguing that politicians don’t have the right to run on religion, but rather that to do so is unseemly, creepy, and counter to our nation’s founding principles. Our forefathers were mainly deists, not religious zealots.

    I was born in the fifties, a decade for which I have no nostalgia. But one thing I do remember about growing up at that time is that while intolerance was clearly present, most folks seemed to think that their religion was no one else’s business. It was a good idea then, and would be equally good now.

    As a Jew, I don’t see a lot of evidence of rising antiSemitism in this country, but I do feel uneasy about the apparent need for presidential candidates to stamp themselves as Christian. And I’m not much comforted by a poll that says only 7% of the American people wouldn’t vote for a Jewish candidate. What that poll really says is that 7% of those polled were not ashamed to admit

    such a thing to a pollster.

  7. I think the problem, as such, isn’t that they are religious, it’s that it seems to suddenly become a qualification for the job, despite the First Amendment.

    As an athiest, I don’t really care about a persons religion per se, my concern is how their religion has changed their thinking. They still make decisions about things, but they are informed by their religion – so, for example, a Catholic is going to think a certain way about the whole issue of abortion. Of course, part of that is going to be based on how the “public” feels about the issue, since no politician is going to go against the grain.

    Geoff raises a good point, though – does it matter that so and so is or isn’t Catholic? No. JFK was the first to face this issue for some reason, and he tried to make it clear – he was a Catholic running for President, not the Catholic candidate for President. Mitt Romney is a Mormon – does that matter? To me it only helps me understand some of the methodology of HOW he makes a decision, but it doesn’t explain the WHY – and that is ultimately what’s most important.

    To me anyway.

  8. Geoff, if you want a truly frightening read that, sadly, bears out your fears, check out American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips (former Nixon speechwriter and unapologetic critic of both Bush administrations). Sad to say it, but the United States has all-too-willingly become a nation governed by fundamentalist Christians at the exclusion of pretty much everyone else. I harbor hope that the 2008 election will break this cycle, but that’s getting harder to maintain every day.

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