When the great social experiment, the United States of America, was in its formative stages a few hundred years ago, it was settled by people who wanted to get away from the oppressive religions in Europe and worship the Lord the way they wanted.. What's interesting is that all these religions were Christian and worshipped Jesus -- including the Church of Christ, Seekers and Quakers, Baptists, Anglicans,, Lutherans, Huguenots, Calvinists, Puritans and many, many more--and they all distrusted and disliked each other -- and they all hated the Catholics. When the Puritans came to America they included their religion in the public discourse, Roger Williams left the colony to form Rhode Island because he believed that religion was private and did not belong in government or the public discourse.
The Founding Fathers knew how polarizing religion was -- which is why there is no mention of G-d or Jesus in either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights -- it was not an oversight -- it was intentional. Amendment 1 of the Constitution -- "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof" -- and Article 6 of the Constitution states, "but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or Public Trust under the United States."
So can someone explain to me why religion is in the forefront of the national news? The Republicans seem to never want to win a national election again. When I look at most of their potential candidates for president -- their soundtrack is Barbra Streisand singing "Send in the Clowns" -- or where is Elmer Gantry and his Revival Show -- and taking a page from Chris Berman at ESPN. Let's look at their line up:
Mike "Half" Pence -- would a full pence allow to happen what just did in Indiana? The most important capital is human capital. Half Pence forgot that. As to his national chances, he can kiss them goodbye.
Rick Sanitorium (Santorum) -- who would bring America back to its 1750 social values and end birth control for women. Jesus is front and center; the people who know him best are in Pennsylvania and they would not re-elect him.
Mike Huckleberry (Huckabee) -- Jesus is front and center; his book G-d, Grits and Gravy misses the essential point that while we have rural America, due to the internet, there are very few rural Americans -- we all have access to the same information on a minute by minute basis; charming speaker; totally irrelevant.
Bobby Jinglebells (Jindal) -- another religious candidate; and Governor of Louisiana; and under his leadership, his policies and his agenda, his state is now broke.
Rick "Oops" Perry -- who will attempt to out-Jesus everyone; who needs to know that just because he now wears glasses doesn't make him any smarter than he was before; and it doesn't give him national gravitas; he tried to mail it in last time, now he says he's prepared; makes you wonder; what the hell was he thinking the first time? That he could fool everyone; not then not now; but this time hopefully he can count to 3.
Dr. Ben Carson -- He needs a check-up; there are no words.
Scott Walker -- panderer to the base; won't say whether he believes in evolution; his state under his leadership has budget issues from his policies; first expense he wanted to reduce: Education -- reduce the budget at the University of Wisconsin; first presidential candidate in history where his constituency could join him at his high school reunion -- doesn't have the bandwidth or the backbone.
Ted Cruz on out of here -- most dangerous of them all; son of immigrants; Harvard educated; the smartest and the worst; instead of being compassionate on immigration and recognizing he has lived the American Dream, he is the most mean-spirited, self centered narcissistic, and religious ideologue. Jesus is in every conversation and campaign speech; his father is a Dominionist and in this case the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; was responsible for shutting down the government last year; demagogue in training; from the Country that brought you Joe McCarthy; and the country can clearly do without him
What all these candidates have in common is that they genuflect to their base. And who is that? The Evangelicals -- you remember them -- they brought Prohibition to this country and we know how well that worked out. Look, this is America and I believe, as we all do, in the right of free speech, so I clearly respect their right to voice their views. Freedom of Speech is essential to the American way of life. Having said that, there is very little that they stand for that I agree with; and neither does the rest of the country. The dignity of every citizen is also essential to the American way of life. Its freedom of and from religion -- they can believe whatever they want and so can I but they have no right to bring religion into politics or insert it into the national dialogue. It doesn't belong there; the Founding Fathers knew that and so would the Evangelicals if they read anything but their Bible (a great book). And make no bones about it, part of the polarization in Washington is due to religion.
America is a magical place. At the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics lived in the same communities in America and managed to live side by side. We don't hold grudges for 200 years or 500 years or 900 years like other cultures do. We can't remember two weeks ago. The 4th or 5th generation of the Hatfield's and McCoy's are building an amusement park together to make money from their ancestors' feud. The secret sauce of our great, fractured, rough and tumble democracy is that we spend our lives looking through the front window of our car -- not the rear view mirror.
What America has, with all our flaws and faults, is tomorrow -- the hope for something better: the need to go forward, the need to dream and the need to succeed. This is the only country in the world that people are trying to sneak into to live in. For human beings to reach the maximum of their potential is something that this country strives for -- and while we are far from perfect, we, in my opinion, are better than anywhere else. Which is why what happened in Indiana is a disgrace (fixed to an extent today -- but still never should have happened). Religion was in the forefront of getting that law passed. What's wrong with being respectful of other people's lifestyles or religious or non-religious preferences? If you don't like it, no problem -- move on; it's none of your business. What the Evangelicals -- "The Base" -- have never learned and need to learn is this simple lesson: I respect the right for you to believe whatever you want; just don't inflict it on me and I won't inflict my views on you. That's called tolerance and respect. You are not a neglected or picked-on minority. Your problem is that you are a small percentage of the population of this country and you cannot impose your views and will on the majority. America's strength, creativity and innovation comes from its diversity and empowerment of the human spirit.
Why is it that on women's issues, it's always pasty-faced middle-aged white guys making decisions over women's bodies and reproductive systems. And how can you be pro-life (a valid point of view -- and one I respect as much as I respect pro-choice)? It's an individual's right to make that choice; not the government's. But here's my question to every politician: How can you be pro-life and then cut out every social program for the poor and disadvantaged who need it the most? To be pro-life, you have to be consistent and care about that person after they are born. Otherwise you are really a hypocrite because then you are not pro-life -- but that's a column for another day.
In summing up, can't the Republicans find someone who is smart, capable, experienced, successful, worldly, tough and compassionate (and who privately has faith) -- instead of this group of religious zealots who represent a narrow non-inclusive slice of America?
In ending this column, I have one more question: How can Mitch McConnell be against Obamacare? One look at him and you know he's in serious need of a colonoscopy. But that too is a column for a later date.