Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Palin vs JFK on Church and State

In an intellectual mismatch, Sarah Palin is now instructing John F. Kennedy about religion and the presidency by critiquing his classic 1960 speech on church and state.

This gives new meaning to the Catholic fallacy of invincible ignorance, wherein someone "simply refuses to believe an argument, ignoring any evidence given" and is absolved from sin on the basis of pure wooden-headedness.

Nonetheless, there is still a Kennedy to smack down Palin's presumption--JFK's niece, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has been a lieutenant governor and written a book, "Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God With Politics and Losing Their Way."

She notes that Palin finds JFK's speech "'defensive...in tone and content' and is upset that Kennedy, rather than presenting a reconciliation of his private faith and his public role, had instead offered an 'unequivocal divorce of the two.'

"Palin's argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not."

This exchange brings back Gore Vidal’s 1960 play and later movie, “The Best Man,” in which a former President recalls the old days when politicians “had to pour God over everything like ketchup.”

At a time when Americans were electing their first Catholic President and saying, in effect, that religion is a private matter for those in public life, that line always drew a laugh.

Now the ketchup is flowing again, and nobody is laughing. Leading the pack for the 2012 GOP nomination, Palin aside, are Mike Huckabee, a former minister who doesn't believe in evolution, and Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon who will believe anything that gets him votes.

This oncoming wave of religiosity, as opposed to true faith, is the counterpart of truthiness' relation to truth.

Such a prospect may drive Americans of all faiths, or none, to pray for divine intervention before we all drown in ketchup.

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