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G-d’s President

Posted by Rick · October 26th, 2004 · 2 Comments

This article is the second in a series. The first article in this set, titled “This Christian Nation,” looked at the Foundation of the United States of America — particularly at the point that while the nation was founded by men (sorry, ladies; I mean no disrespect; I’m just noting a historical fact) who, in most cases, had Christian-like upbringings, that did not mean the nation was intended to be a Christian nation.

As I noted there, the government of the United States was created for a particular purpose. Similar to the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, or Wal-Mart, that purpose was not aimed at the glorification of G-d; here, it was to protect the unalienable rights of citizens. And just as the existence of the NYSE, NASDAQ, Wal-Mart and a host of other non-religious corporations does not, by virtue of its existence, impinge anyone’s freedom of religion when they fail to vocally and vociferously glorify G-d, so, too, is the fact that the Founders deliberately intended to exclude religion from the list of governmental functions not a blockade to anyone else’s freedom to practice whatever religion they choose. Those who argue most loudly for the opposing point of view actually intend — whether they recognize it or not — to destroy the accomplishments of the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America and the belief in the “self-evident” truth of the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” that belong to all human beings.

They are encouraged in this by G-d’s President.

When Ron Suskind had written an article the President didn’t like, one of his aides told Suskind,

[G]uys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt” (October 17, 2004) p. 6, ¶ 11, The New York Times.

Setting aside, for the moment, the arrogance of such a remark, let’s consider the kind of reality the Bush Administration wishes to create.

President George W. Bush, in a rare on-the-record session with religion editors and writers on Wednesday, said his job as president is to “change cultures.” Sheryl Henderson Blunt, “Bush Calls for ‘Culture Change'” (May 28, 2004) ¶ 1, Christianity Today.

Notwithstanding the fact that the job of the President, according to the Constitution, Article II, which outlines the President’s responsibilities, doesn’t seem to include this duty to change cultures, I have no real problem with it. After all, to the extent that our culture might benefit from changing, I think it’s the responsibility of all citizens — not just the President — to work for such change. The question is, what kind of culture are we talking about? And, more importantly, how do we bring that about?

In wide-ranging comments inside the Roosevelt Room, Bush spoke passionately about . . . his desire to promote cultural change in the United States through his faith-based initiative, and his belief in the power of prayer. Appearing relaxed and self-assured, the President also reaffirmed his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment[.] Blunt, supra, at ¶ 2.

Perhaps, when you have a direct line to G-d, when you are His Choice, when you and you alone understand what he wants for this country and the world, that kind of talk makes sense. It is, however, at distinct odds with what the Founders of this great nation felt.

As I intimated in my last article, “This Christian Nation,” one of the greatest innovations of the Founders of the United States was that they “reconceived a ‘constitution’ as a form of law that set enforceable limits on government power.” Paul E. McGreal, Ambition’s Playground (March 2000) 68 Fordham L. Rev. 1107, 1168. Thomas Jefferson frequently noted that this included limitations on the government’s ability to incorporate religious principles into the law. As he noted,

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Mayer, supra, at pp. 162-163, quoting Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII, Lib.Am., 285.

Although it is not my purpose in this article to discuss homosexual marriage, I might add that like polytheism, “it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Perhaps this view — that government should legislate only with respect to those things which harm others — is why the Founders, writing our Constitution, said,

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. U.S. Const., Art. VI, Cl. 2.

The Supreme Law of the land is not Christianity, or any particular set of Christian beliefs, but, rather, it is the Constitution. And the Constitution was not founded upon Christianity or anyone’s interpretation of the Bible. So seriously did Thomas Jefferson believe this that he deliberately “dug into his lawbooks . . . to disprove the thesis that Christianity was a part of the English common law” which the United States adopted as the starting point for its own law. Mayer, supra, at p. 165, quoting Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 10 Feb. 1814, Lib.Am., pp. 1321-1329. And, in fact, when he was attacked by the clergy for his refusal to support governmental endorsement of their religious beliefs, he said “their ‘hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States’ would be doomed.” Mayer, supra, at p. 164.

So why the push by President Bush to use the law to change our culture, rather than allowing our culture to evolve in the environment of freedom envisioned by our Founders?

The answer is simple: George Bush is not our President; he’s G-d’s President, or so his followers would like you to believe. And we cannot possibly determine how G-d wants us to live on our own. We need a world where fundamentalist Christianity is ensconced in our laws. After all, they are the most vocal and powerful “majority” in our nation today, aren’t they?

But wait…

It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. The Federalist No. 51, at p. 320 (James Madison) (Clinton Rossiter, ed., 1961).

Remember that the reason for having a government in the first place — or at least the one outlined in our Constitution — was to “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” U.S. Const., ¶ 1. The Founders recognized that,

In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. The Federalist No. 51, at p. 321-322 (James Madison) (Clinton Rossiter, ed., 1961).

Bush’s supporters say, “Bush is a godly man. He is a representative of Jesus.” Roger Cohen, “Ardent Faith Squares Off Against Earnest Reflection” (October 24, 2004) ¶ 7, The New York Times. And I’m glad that he has this faith. But I’m not Jesus and I need a representative, too. And my preference is that that representative not listen to “one part” of our great nation to legislate the intimate details of the lives of “the other part.” Like our Founders, I believe even in “toleration to those who entertain opinions contrary to those moral rules necessary for the preservation of society.” Mayer, supra, at p. 159, quoting Jefferson’s Notes on Locke. It’s not that I want to see society destroyed. Quite the contrary, it’s because I don’t trust the mob — the majority — to select which laws are necessary to the preservation of society.

To the extent that George Bush wants to implement — by law, or merely by the government support of “faith-based” initiatives — a particular religious viewpoint in the law, I am afraid. As Thomas Jefferson noted,

Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Mayer, supra, at p. 163, quoting Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII, Lib.Am., 285.

Like Jefferson, I deplore the “singular anxiety which some people have that we should all think alike.” Mayer, supra, at p. 356, note 43, quoting Jefferson’s letter to Charles Thompson, January 29, 1817.

And like the true majority of Americans (get out there and vote, people!), I value my freedom and my unalienable right to make my own choices. I do not need G-d’s President to tell me how to live, to transform my culture for me, to re-write the laws of our land to ensure my conformity to his worldview.

This is the freedom the Founders of the United States of America fought for. This is the freedom we should not so readily give up. Come this Tuesday, get out there and vote for the United States of America. Vote to maintain the accomplishments of the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America and the belief in the “self-evident” truth of the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” that belong to all human beings, independent of their religious views. Vote to remove George Bush.

For, in the end, this man who wages war on other nations, including his own, who legislates according to the will of only a fraction of our population, who abrogates the rights of the majority, is not really G-d’s President. He’s not even yours.

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Categories: 2004 Presidential Election


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark King // Oct 26, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    One of the problems I have with anyone who uses their position in government or any other tool, for that matter, to try to shove their particular religion down everyone else’s throat is that everyone I have met (so far) who claims to be a Christian is very selective about what parts of the bible they choose to quote.

    Last Friday night on his HBO program, “Real Time,” Bill Maher reminded me of something I heard as a child when he quoted the Christian god from the bible as telling (all of) us to, “beat our swords into ploughshares.” Maher then looked grimly into the camera and quipped, “God — wrong on defense, wrong for America.”

    Nearly every Christian I have approached with a bible verse that made them uncomfortable has insisted that I was “taking it out of context.” They are never able, however, to explain the proper context for the bible verse that makes them squirm.

    The Jesus I was told about when I was a child said, “Sell everything you own and give your money to the poor.” This is a decidedly un-Republican concept. In fact, it is virtually the antithesis of everything I understand the Republican party to stand for. Yet, Republicans like to view themselves as being more Christian, somehow, than the rest of us. If someone had taken the podium at the Republican National Convention and said, “Sell everything that you own and give your money to the poor,” he or she would have been hooted off the stage before being escorted away by security. Yet the bible says Jesus said those very words. In what kind of context can anyone read that and say that they are doing god’s work when they accumulate loads of material possessions?

    Everyone is entitled to their own personal religious views. I have no problem with someone having a strong faith.

    But when a person of “faith” tries to cram their particular beliefs down my throat or the throats of others through positions of power, that’s about as un-American as anything I can imagine.

  • 2 Bob // Nov 2, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    This is a portion of an email I sent to Mark & Rick about Mark’s comments regarding Christians.

    Regarding the blog, I admit to being miffed at Mark’s comment to your God President article. In my deep down, most honest opinion, you and Mark don’t “get” Christianity. I don’t mean to offend but it’s my observation. I know about your translations and Mark’s supposedly Christian upbringing but neither of you really understand any premise of the religion.

    Not that you have good examples to follow, I’ve said it too many times that the right wing is a political, not a religious movement (and don’t get me started about Clovis…). They get all the attention, make the most noise.

    We are in complete agreement that a president has no business bringing religion into the Oval Office. (I am very impressed with many comments by Lincoln regarding this.) Religion and politics are a very bad mix. Period.

    I just am weary of seeing “Christian” equated with “badguys”. Yes, I have seen your disclaimers, I would just prefer you call them “Republicans” or “Right Wingers” and leave “Christianity” out of it completely.

    In my experience, people engage and explore their world in different ways. Some engage physically, some intellectually and some spiritually. You and Mark obviously have very high intellectual abilities and engage the world that way. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy our emails and articles.

    But obviously I am not primarily an intellectual. I am one of those spiritual types (that’s where the music comes from I guess). It just means more to me to see Christianity related to right wing assholes. I have an honest visceral anger when I see that and I’d like to see less of it on the blog (since you asked). When I see it, it makes me less motivated to write or participate since it seems I can’t get this message through to you guys.

    And let’s face it, this blog may be the ONLY place where I MIGHT have any influence that can effect change.

    Please don’t misinterpret. I am not pissed and writing this out of malice. It’s just fact to me. I appreciate both of you guys as you are regardless of this, I just wish we could get off that one nerve that keeps getting stepped on.

    And just for the record:

    Matthew 19:16-22
    16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

    The context of this passage is that God comes before money. You don’t “get in” just by paying lip service to a few rules. You truly have to put God above your possessions. It does not require you to give away all you own, just put all you own into perspective. All you are, all you own comes from God. Even our spouses, those remarkable people who chose to spend their lives with us, are from God (talk about miracles!).

    No amount of money will improve your standing in God’s eyes. You either respect him more than objects or your heart is not in the right place. That is the context.

    Now let’s put something else into perspective. I am human, just like everyone else. I am waiting and hoping that my vices will someday become virtues (they won’t). I have no business telling someone else how to run their lives. I’m just asking we give my faith a break on the blog, once and for all.

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