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Rachel Ben-Avi

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Our Holy President

Posted: 02/08/11 05:46 PM ET

Our president has, of late, been referencing God and Jesus more than usual. Even one such reference proves excessive. That his assuring us of both his Christianity and his deep beliefs in popular deities is pandering to the devout, reassuring the suspicious, not so subtly pleading with the electorate in our seemingly increasingly religious nation would appear obvious and depressing. Even mildly nauseating.

To me, one of roughly 5 million Jews in the USA, his references to Jesus as proof of his acceptability are offensive or, at least, as he might himself say, silly. President Obama knows that there are Jews in our country, and though Jesus was inarguably a charismatic character and a Jew himself, we Jews -- who, by the way, did not crucify him -- do not believe in his divinity, those of us who believe in divinity at all. And certainly would not boast such a belief in the capacity of The American Seal of Approval. President Obama knows that, too.

Our president seems, in his religious protestations, actually to forget that there are worthy people in this country who are not Christian. (There are many who are not even religious, but it seems these days to be an unspoken rule that we Americans, with the exception of Bill Maher, do not acknowledge that fact when waxing patriotic.) He is all too busy reminding us that he is not Muslim. Who cares? I do not. Nor should the country. Estimates are that there are 4 million to 8 million Muslims in America now. They are many, and I assume that for the most part they are American just like you and me. We Americans boast of our religious freedom. The terrorists of 9/11 have, with the help of the Bush administration, damaged us in many ways; let us not cooperate with them by sacrificing our religious freedom in the wake of their acts to add that loss to their list of triumphs. 

So our president assures us he is religious, he assures us he is Christian and he invokes the name of Jesus. We can be thankful, I suppose -- a small favor -- that unlike his predecessor, Jesus does not talk to him.

My question is, my point is, why, when there are a myriad of real crises threatening not only America but the entire planet, is he talking about his religion at all? Trivia. Nonsense. Hokum. God himself holds His weary head in His hands. Mr. Obama is entitled to believe whatever he likes, but what business is it of ours? If he believed in leprechauns, would he tell us that? Would that be any of our concern? 

A belief in little Irish sprites would prove he was crazy you say? No more than believing in Jesus or God. Faith is believing what you cannot prove. I think those who are devout tell us that.

Thomas Jefferson,  for The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, wrote, in 1777: "...all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." The statute became state law in 1786. Surely our president has read this.

The Constitution makes it clear that none of this fervency, devotion, belief or, certainly, affirmation of religious sect is either necessary or relevant in Mr. Obama's role as our leader. And it is to our credit as a nation that it is not. Now, Mr. Obama is a constitutional scholar, if I am not mistaken. He is a smart man, smarter than most of the population of this country. I assume he is smarter than I am, yet this irrelevance, his spirituality, on which he repeatedly insists, is obvious to me as just that: irrelevant. How can it not be obvious to him? How can he mindlessly (I give him credit here) undermine one of our nation's great virtues, kicking out of sight, behind him, into a black hole, a treasure of our democracy, every time he tells us he is Christian. 

The only place in the Constitution of the United States in which there is a reference to religion at all is at the end of Article Six, which reads: "[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

In notes for a speech introducing the Bill of Rights, (June 8, 1789), James Madison  wrote: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed." 

And The First Amendment adds: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..."

So sure, Barack Obama is free to say anything he likes, but in his attempts to convince us he is a good enough American, religious enough, Christian enough, he cooperates with those whom we may suspect would like to rewrite our constitution here and there. And they are likely the same "folks" who would shrink him back to 3/5 of a person, without blinking.

Go mute, Mr. President. Your religion is, thanks to our founding fathers, none of our affair.