Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Praying for a Doubt-Based Presidency

"God wants me to be president," George W. Bush told fellow believers before 2000. If the rest of us had known His intentions, we would have started building an ark.

After eight years of war and political plague from this faith-based presidency, most voters may be ready for some rational doubt and ambivalence in the White House. Yet the candidates still seem mesmerized by Bush's breakdown between the separation of church and state.

After Barack Obama gaffed about "bitter" voters turning to God and guns, Hillary Clinton was quick to play the God card. “I grew up in a church-going family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith,” she is telling Indiana voters. “The people of faith I know don’t ‘cling to’ religion because they’re bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich.”

John McCain left it to a spokesman to do the piety pandering, decrying Obama's elitism and disrespect for "the American traditions that have contributed to the identity and greatness of this country."

Ironically, Obama may take his religion more seriously than either Clinton or McCain. What damaged him in the Jeremiah Wright affair was not rejecting his pastor quickly enough to suit otherwise pious voters who want a president with the "right" kind of religious belief.

In the century before Bush, politicians stopped having to "pour God over everything like ketchup," as Gore Vidal put it during John F. Kennedy's presidency.

JFK himself said it best: "I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office...

"I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none...and whose fulfillment of his Presidential office is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual, or obligation."

With that attitude, he couldn't get elected today.

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