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Jul 01 2012

Faith Of Our Presidents

Tune: “Faith of our fathers”

Faith of our presidents, on display
So proudly worn upon their sleeve
It doesn’t matter what they do;
What matters is that they believe

(refrain)
Faith of our presidents, pious faith!
Loudly proclaimed with every breath.

Faith of our presidents, pollsters proclaim
Determines who will earn our vote
Of all the problems of the day
No other issue is worthy of note

Faith of our presidents, steadfast and pure
Whatever it is, it must be strong;
Firmly embedded in public mind;
It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong.

CNN’s Belief Blog has an annoying piece up, “Why a president’s faith may not matter“, examining the faith claims of US presidents, and its relation to their actual behavior. Throughout the article, they make the implicit assumption that religious faith is equivalent to morality. For instance, of Nixon:

He called himself a “life-long Quaker and a church-going Christian,” and at first there was no reason to doubt him.

There is still no reason to doubt him; he was a life-long Quaker and church-going Christian, and a liar and cheat.

They note that Lincoln, widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents, was not a Christian, and never joined a church. But they quickly note he was a believer in an active God, and in divine providence. Can’t have him be a disconfirming case.

Or look at Roosevelt, who is virtually a national saint. With his perpetual grin and a cigarette holder perched jauntily in his mouth, he guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. His legacy is built on his New Deal, an array of programs that protected the poor and elderly from the abuses of unrestrained capitalism.

But Roosevelt was no saint in his personal life. He rarely talked publicly about his Episcopalian faith, preferred golf over church (before he was stricken by polio), and likely cheated on his wife, scholars say.

Episcopalian. And yet, in context, he’s presented as one who would not be considered a Christian by today’s standards. Funny, some of the most devout Christians I have personally known were unfaithful in their marriages. The article is not allowing Scotsmen to put salt in their porridge.

Lyndon Johnson plunged America deeper into Vietnam. Yet his “Great Society” programs displayed a concern for “the least of these” in America. Under Johnson, the government launched programs to protect the civil rights of minorities, improve the educational chances of needy children and protect the environment.

Johnson saw poverty as a sin, something that should be attacked and defeated.

But Johnson never seemed to have any problem with a little personal sin. He grew up in Texas, where he affiliated with Disciples of Christ and Baptist churches. But he is widely believed to have stolen one of his earliest elections. He was a womanizer, historians say, and his speech was filled with such vulgarity that reporters had a difficult time quoting him on the record.

The proper word is not “but”, but “and”. He was a religious man, and a vulgar womanizing thief.

Washington refused to call himself a Christian. Jefferson was called a pagan and infidel. This unspoken assumption of theirs is riddled with holes, but still they ride it.

Most presidents, however, didn’t speak out against organized religion like Jefferson. Some took on the high priest role of the office, and few did it as eagerly as our nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson was a devout Presbyterian who read three to five chapters of the Bible daily, built a chapel in his Tennessee home and publicly attended two Washington churches while in the White House. He is known as one of the most devout presidents.

Yet he was also known for his violent temper (he killed a man in a duel) and for being a rich slaveholder. Jackson’s claim to infamy, though, comes primarily from his treatment of Native Americans. Some historians describe it as genocidal. He slaughtered Seminole Indians and their families in Florida, and he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cherokees, who he forced from their homeland in Georgia.

Again, the use of “Yet…” when “and” would be more accurate. His faith allowed him to believe that blacks and indians were not human. His faith enabled his infamy.

Surprisingly, the article quotes a conservative writer who has seen trouble for asserting that Obama is a devout Christian, deeply serious about his faith, and more knowledgeable about world religion than any president in our history.

By now it’s clear–it really isn’t a matter of what morality your faith brings you. It’s purely a matter of what label we can slap on you, to determine whether you are one of us or not. The people who need Obama to be the other will find all the evidence they need to firmly believe he is an atheist Muslim antichrist marxist communist.

2 comments

1 ping

  1. 1
    Thorne

    His faith enabled his infamy.

    I think this statement is a bit simplistic. Yes, they were Christians, AND they did those things. But I don’t think you can claim it was only their faith which enabled it. Culture played a part as well. At those times in America blacks and Indians were NOT considered human by most people, whether Christian or Jewish or atheist. It’s hardly surprising that an elected president would reflect the culture of his time.

    On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the idea that the teachings of the various churches helped to shape that culture.

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    Oh, I would never claim that religion was the only factor–but his religion certainly did not make him a better person. Equating faith and morality was found lacking again and again in their article, but they did not see it.

  1. 3
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