Get religion out of politics

A number of years ago, John McCain did a hilarious segment on "Saturday Night Live" in which he did a spoof commercial for an album called "McCain Sings Streisand."

The "commercial" featured a crooning McCain torturing a number of Streisand hits — "People," "Memories," "The Way We Were."

The senator then pitched, "I’ve been in politics for 20 years, and for 20 years I’ve had Barbra Streisand trying to do my job. So I decided to try my hand at her job."

Pastor Rick Warren’s presidential candidate "Civic Forum" at his Saddleback Church brought this SNL highlight to mind.

I’m picturing a segment with Lou Dobbs or Brit Hume preaching a Sunday sermon in a crowded church and then looking into the camera and saying, "Rick Warren is taking a fling at my job, so I thought I’d try my hand at his."

My apologies to Pastor Warren. Who am I to question a pastor who has sold 35 million books that flick on the light for folks to see that life is more than just about themselves?

God Bless Pastor Warren for this.

But I think his foray into presidential politics carries a lot of baggage and creates problems.

If anything characterizes the problems we’re having today it is relativism and ambiguity. A blurring of lines between everything. John McCain’s "Saturday Night Live" sketch jokes about one part of this. Our elevation of entertainment and celebrity to the point where movie stars start thinking they should be setting public policy, and the public taking them seriously.

In our materialism, we’re losing the distinction between money, power and celebrity as compared with knowledge and wisdom.

Now we’re seeing a world in which clarity between good and evil, right and wrong, knowledge and ignorance, men and women is disappearing into a borderless and indistinguishable gray.

For whatever good intentions, Warren may have, by posturing as a neutral broker between different points of view, many of which have profound moral and religious implications, and he contributes to the moral ambiguity which we’d expect a pastor to be combating.

We have institutions for civic and political forums. The press, universities, town halls, etc. If they’re not delivering well, let the marketplace work to improve what we’re getting. But this is not the job of pastors or churches. If it is, where do we go to learn about good and evil?

What exactly is going on in America when our obsession is to cleanse every inch of public space from religion, yet somehow we think it is appropriate to bring a presidential political forum into church?

Our kids can’t pray in public school. Or read the bible or learn to apply traditional values in managing their lives. The Ten Commandments cannot appear in our courthouses. A creche cannot be displayed in a public space during Christmas season.

Yet somehow we think a church is an appropriate forum for hosting candidates for president?

Our world is turning upside down. Rather than raising our public and private lives to a higher moral standard, we’re politicizing religion.

It’s actually worse, I think.

The pretense of neutrality is really a left-wing illusion. It’s a sleight of hand to buy into relativism and somehow Warren seems to have fallen into the trap.

When a pastor hosts a political candidate that has a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice America and a zero percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee, he gives legitimacy to that candidate. When legitimacy is given to a line reasoning that says that poverty and AIDS are symptoms of anything other than moral breakdown, the relativist views of the left are justified.

To a disproportionate measure, when we are talking about poverty and AIDS in America, we are talking about black communities. These communities are in disarray because of moral ambiguity. They not only need moral clarity and leadership, they crave it.

Partisanship is not our problem today. Healthy partisanship is vital to freedom.

Our problem is moral ambiguity. Anyone that thinks this ambiguity is helpful in addressing poverty, crime, and disease is misinformed.

We need political leaders that are more moral, not church leaders that are more political.

 

(Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org) and author of three books. She can be reached at parker(at)urbancure.org.)

6 Responses to "Get religion out of politics"

  1. bryan mcclellan  August 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you for voicing what has been rattling around in my head for three days now but would not come out because angst has overcome reason on my little part of the ledge.

    The last line wraps it up perfectly, and the Bible is clear on one thing for sure; God is not a politician as he is not attuned to compromise.

  2. Thomas Bonsell  August 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    The author said:

    “Our kids can’t pray in public school. Or read the bible or learn to apply traditional values in managing their lives. The Ten Commandments cannot appear in our courthouses. A creche cannot be displayed in a public space during Christmas season.”

    That is absolute nonsense and undermines the entire concept of the article.

    Our kids can pray anywhere they wish; they can read the Bible at their desire and they can apply traditional values to their lives as wished.

    What isn’t allowed is GOVERNMENT activity in writing and administering prayers; GOVERNMENT using the Bible as a text and GOVERNMENT using religious “values” as standard values.

    The school-prayer decision of SCOTUS was issued in the 1962 session of the Supreme Court, the Bible reading decision in the 1963 session and still this author has no idea of what those decisions were about. The prayer decision (Engle v. Vitale) is an easy-to-understand 11-paragraph opinion. The author should read it.

    The Ten Commandments monument was removed from an Alabama courthouse because the Constitution says government must manage public property by law and the Constitution says “no laws” about things established by religion. And a creche CAN BE displayed in a public place during Christmas season if GOVERNMENT is not the source of that display.

    If a city opens its parks to holiday displays, any religious display is allowed if it comes from the general public or public institution and is part of the over-all pageantry.

    Americans should know something better than this article about the church-state issue.

  3. ekaton  August 19, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Both candidates are being forced to pander to ONE particular religion. They both proclaim Jesus as their savior. Hmmm … Jews constitute something like 3% of our population. I can’t help wondering if we’ll see a similar event held in a synagogue wherein both candidates deny Jesus as the savior. After all its a big “voting bloc” that neither candidate can afford to ignore and insult isn’t it? Or has the government finally formally designated ONE religion as the official government religion?

    — Kent Shaw

  4. churlpat  August 19, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    “Both candidates are being forced to pander to ONE particular religion. ”

    Forced? You are kidding, aren’t you? Please tell me you are kidding.

    Churlpat — a plutarch by any name is still a plutarch

  5. almandine  August 19, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Where’s Sandy Price when you know she’s chomping at the bit?

  6. ekaton  August 20, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Forced by circumstances. Why should religion enter into it at all? They fear the “christian right voting bloc” and pander to them for votes. What would be wrong with an atheist or an agnostic or yes, even a muslim candidate? What about a buddhist candidate? Who would Jesus vote for? Both want WAR WAR and MORE WAR.

    — Kent Shaw

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