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It’s been a while since I added the “What I’m Reading” widget to the sidebar. (It’s actually my shared items from Google Reader, and it has its own RSS feed.) It’s intended to be a place to collect and display posts I’ve been reading from around the blogosphere. It’s also meant to be a source of material for “round-up” posts on days like today when I’m hunkered down over work-related stuff.

It’s also been a while since I’ve done a round-up post, and now seems like as good a time as any, with the Obama debacle so fresh that steam is still rising from it.

And why don’t we start with the whole religion thing, since that’s what got Obama inextricably bound up with McClurkin. Via Prometheus comes this video. But first a comment from Prometheus.

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The second caller is a hater who thinks he’s not hating because he says he’s not hating. He’s like the old Usenet folks who close every flame with a smiley face. He says the first caller is kind of funny, but of course he feels bad for Black American and what they’ve gone through. He says he’s not saying X is good or bad, but it IS “disgusting.”

This is common, by the way, and it’s a perfect example of why so many Black people simply do not credit protestations of colorblindness…because they are just so many words that are belied by the beliefs people ACTUALLY hold…the ones they act on.

Now, I don’t know that the second caller is the kind of voter that Obama is appealing to. (My guess is that he’s not likely to vote for a guy with a name like Barrack Obama.) But he’s very likely one of those voters Obama and the rest of the pragmatic “progressives” would rather not offend, especially if it means they might still have a chance to win him over. My guess is the second caller would also applaud Obama for standing by McClurkin (if not completely agreeing with him), but the argument he makes about the whole “Christian Nation” thing, is worth exploring. We might as well, since John McCain brought it up anyway.

“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who has a grounding in my faith,” the GOP presidential hopeful told the Web site in an interview published Saturday.

McCain also said he agreed with a recent poll that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. “I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” he said.

Well, McCain brought it up, but Richardson hinted at it first.

God’s will is for Iowa to have the first-in-the-nation caucus, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson told a crowd here Monday.

“Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary,” Richardson, New Mexico’s governor, said at the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic. “And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson.”

Several people in the crowd snickered after Richardson made the comment.

McCain didn’t apologize for his comment (though he was sorry that it was misinterpreted), and neither did Richardson. Proving once again that there’s what you can say, what you can’t say, and what else you can say, but as long as you’re a good Christian you can say almost anything so long as it’s based in your faith.

After all, it’s a Christian nation. Right? Well, not according to Cenk Uygur.

We had Senator John Danforth on the show this week and he said he was disappointed by John McCain’s comments. The former Republican Senator and Episcopal priest stated emphatically that we are not a Christian nation. We are a nation that brings all different beliefs together and mixing our government with a specific religion corrupts the government and the religion.

He is right. And think about what it says to all the rest of us when people feel perfectly free to go on television and declare that this is a Christian nation. They are putting out a huge sign saying — You Are Not Welcome Here. This country is for Christians!

Read the constitution. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington did not agree. They were careful to point out that this is not a Christian nation. That unlike every other country in the world at the time, they were going to make America a nation that had free exercise of religion — any and all religions. They were not going to let any religion rule the country or identify its inhabitants.

Read the constitution. You’re wrong. It specifically says that all religions are welcome. The whole point of the country was to escape from religious persecution. No one religion can force its views on all of us, even if that religion is Christianity.

Read the constitution. I am an American. And under no circumstances am I going to let you take that away from me.

And not according to James Madison, a/k/a “Father of the Constitution.” Or so Ed says.

For those who still claim, absurdly, that the Constitution intended to establish a Christian Nation, I submit the words of James Madison, commonly called the Father of the Constitution. These words were written in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, a document he composed and distributed to his fellow members of the Virginia Assembly in 1785 to encourage them to vote against a bill submitted by Patrick Henry that would have levied a tax on citizens of that state for the support of religious teachers and to vote instead for the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, a bill that Thomas Jefferson had written and failed to get passed when he was a member of that body 6 years earlier (at the time Madison resubmitted that bill, Jefferson was in France as our ambassador).

…Contrary to those who argue that the founders only intended to prevent the establishment of a particular sect but wanted Christianity in general to be the official religion, Madison argued that those two situations were identical and that both would be a violation of the natural right of citizens not to have their government endorse a religion they do not share:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

For Madison, the establishment of Christianity and the establishment of a particular sect of Christianity were indistinguishable, both in opposition to the principles of religious freedom.

And, according to Chris, even a well known Christian theologian might balk at the notion of a Christian nation, because of what it implies.

…I’ve written a few pieces on Niebuhr in the last year — the US could do to contend with his work more seriously. Reinhold espouses a blend of skepticism and Christian optimism that would help us recover from our terrified, nationalistic post-9/11 politics.

In terms of the Christian nation debate, Niebuhr’s skepticism is particularly needed right now. He, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is dubious of claims to achieving God’s will on earth and stresses the need to take our own sin — not just that of others — more seriously. It’s because of his seriousness about human sin that Niebuhr (if you get him in the right era) cannot put up with the kind of “freedom is on the march” naivete we saw in Vietnam (think Graham Greene) and which we are seeing right now in US foreign policy in the Middle East. (Lee points out, for John McCain’s benefit, that Reinhold Niebuhr opposed the war in Vietnam.) The neo-cons who claim Reinhold as a forefather because of his Cold Warrior days have not taken his work and his pronouncements against that mistaken war seriously enough.

…If they were reading their chosen theological mentor really carefully, they’d be asking themselves whether expanding war and occupation in the Middle East might not be giving away too much of the spiritual store for a bit of fleeting temporal security. Niebuhr is, after all, ultimately concerned with living into the Jesus ethic, which he sees as fundamentally non-violent. If we were indeed a Christian nation, we’d be asking that same question ourselves in the public discourse.

But instead we get a discourse in which candidates are seriously asked questions like “Do you believe in evolution?” and “Do you pray for our soldiers?”, and seriously answer such questions. Instead we get a discourse in which candidates fall all over themselves to prove how much they love Jesus.

…Now I admire people with deep religious convictions as long as those convictions allow compassion toward others with different religious convictions. But if those convictions have any place at all in politics, and that’s a big “if,” I prefer them to inform, rather than lead, political positions. Jimmy Carter, our first born-again president and perhaps the most Evangelical president in U.S. history, was willing to stand on personal principle against the Southern Baptist Convention on the issue of abortion, and he ultimately withdrew his membership from the organization in 2000 criticizing its “increasingly rigid creed.” Given Romney’s religious resume, it’s the “rigid creed” I worry about.

Unfortunately, the same is true with most every candidate. As candidates rush toward religion (read, the Christian Right) in an epidemic of primary race conversions, it’s hard to imagine any of them being able to separate the secular from the non-secular, the church from the State. My friend is correct when she says there’s still a lot of rumoring going on in politics concerning a candidate’s religion, but that is the natural by-product of candidates exploiting their belief in God by offering it up as a prime qualification for being president. That kind of thing turns true religious beliefs into campaign fodder, taking what ought to be personal and private and subjecting it to all kinds of public scrutiny and discussion, rumors included.

When Kennedy made his 1960 speech in Houston to Protestant ministers, he made it patently clear that he was firmly committed to the separation of church and State and would not allow any religious leader to dictate public policy. Now, in order to get elected president, we see candidates clambering over each another in a mad race to claim Jesus as Number One on their Buddy Lists. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does that deserves to have their beliefs questioned, parsed, rumored about, scrutinized and questioned again. That includes Mitt Romney. And Barack Obama. And Rudy Giuliani. And Hillary. And the rest of them.

And the reason they do so is the same reason why people like Ann Coulter get so much air time.

There’s a hint why Today and NBC News is so willing to give her attention in Howard Kurtz’s new book, Reality Show, when the Washington Post media critic recounts an attempt by NBC anchor Brian Williams to call her to task for her comments on the the 9/11 widows.

NBC’s piece led with the question on everyone’s lips back then: “Have you no shame?”

But Williams got a shock, according to Kurtz: “Williams was deluged with e-mails from angry conservatives…Williams had tried to make the case for civility in public debate, but in an age when anyone could unleash a torrent of shame with the click of a mouse, perhaps it had already vanished.”

You’d think Imus would have taught them something. Keep featuring a prejudiced jerk on your air, and soon enough they’ll say something that makes you look awful and insults a huge portion of those people you’re trying to sell Happy Meals and tennis shoes to.

These are the same people, the same conservatives (note: I didn’t say “compassionate conservatives”) who rejoiced over Randi Rhodes’ mugging and offered a look in to the darkest corners of the American heart, apparently a/k/a as the Holy of Holies.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned (though I happen to think that some of our old-fashioned values are pretty good), but the idea of a man or men doing something like this to a woman is deeply offensive. The symbolic nature of femininity is that of nurturing. I believe our culture has lost something valuable in its rejection of respect for that “feminine” quality, as expressed through gallantry (though gallantry was often perverted by chauvinists into domination of “the weaker sex”). But if you read through the many comments by the public posted all over the Web today, such as here, the feminine is no longer valued – in fact, it is no longer apparently even discerned. Instead, we find a vulgar display of the opposite of nurturing – that being pure hate, and the source of that hate is undeniably political. For instance:

– Why doesn’t anyone kick the S**t out of Ann Coulter?

– Ann Coulter would kick your whining, sniveling liberal *ss.

– couldnt happen to a nicer commie

– Her 12 listeners will miss her.

– This picture must have been taken after the attack.

Look into that heart, that heart that calls itself good and Christian, and what do you see?

In the Name of God the Flag and Bush Almighty. This is my America, my New Republic. If the hijackers on September 11 accomplished anything, this is it. They have given us the divine Bush. A man who has said, “you’re either with us or against us.” A man who teaches our children that “they hate us because we love freedom”.

This is my America. An America with Homeland Security, a Patriot Act. An America with paranoia. An America with hatred and ignorance. An America that wraps itself in its President and its flag. This is my America.

Now when I see the eagle of freedom, I see an eagle of fascism. Now when I see the American flag, I’m afraid for my America. We have become an ugly nation. A nation that has wrapped its eyes so tightly in red, white and blue that it has gone blind. Blinded by nationalism. This is my America. And this is why they hate us, and its not because we love freedom. They hate us because we think like that.

It’s an America you are either with or against, says the man who says God put him where he is. His God did, and he says so, and who is anyone to question what he believes as a matter of faith? Whose going to tell him what God said to him is wrong, or that God didn’t say it? Whose going to say it to them?

Those who might be most likely to do so are those who either don’t believe or believe something else, and are thus non-Christians in a Christian nation. So, while they’re allowed to exist and allowed to remain in a nation that, being a Christian nation, must belong less to them than to Christian citizens, they’re unlikely to be listened to. At least not as seriously as those who citizenship is augmented by the “correct” faith.

They are tolerated, but the reality of being tolerated is that tolerance can end if one forgets one’s place, and forgets that one’s place is not on equal footing with real citizens; that is, those with the correct faith.

…Toleration seems so compelling to us as an idea that we find it hard to take seriously reasons – particularly theological reasons – for rejecting the democratic ideas associated with it….

…We speak frequently of the separation of church and state as being fundamental to any modern democratic system of government. But for it to be successful, a prior, and much more difficult, separation needs to be made in a society’s habits of mind. Letting God be is not an easy thing to do, and cannot be induced simply by drawing a line between church and state institutions within a constitution, or dictating rules of toleration. For many believers in the biblical religions, today as in the seventeenth century, sundering the connection between political form and divine revelation seems a betrayal of God, whose commandments are comprehensive. Intellectual separation is difficult to accept and requires theological adaptation to be spiritually plausible; God must be conceived of more abstractly, as having imposed upon himself a certain distance from the mechanics of political life. Such a theological transformation is unimaginable in many religious traditions, and difficult in all of them – not just Islam, but Judaism and Christianity as well.

So, in a Christian nation, can anyone who doesn’t believe and doesn’t conform to the right theology in their day-to-day lives be a citizen? Can they even be tolerated?

Do they or their votes, even matter?

One Comment

  1. I am sick to death of hearing the fake opposition Dems in Congress moan about not having enough votes to end the war in Iraq. They give lip service to the myth that the only way to end the war is to write a bill saying “the war is now over” and send it to Bush for a prompt veto, then override the veto. They then throw up their hands, saying “Well, as you can see, we don’t have the votes to override any veto, so there’s no way to end the war. Sorry folks.”

    This is disingenious and vividly illustrates who the Dems are really serving: the establishment, not their constituents.

    Here’s how to end the war: No bill specifically ending the war is even necessary. Remember those supplemental funding bills the Cheney regime has to constantly ask for, to continue funding the Iraq war piecemeal instead of in yearly lump sums attached to the actual defense budget? That’s the achilles’ heel of their war effort. The next time Bush asks for another $80 billion or whatever to keep the Iraq bloodbath going, all the Democrats have to do to end the war is to say: NO. To say “We won’t allocate one more penny for your illegal war”. Last I checked the Dems have a wafer-thin majority in both houses. With no Dems voting for the next spending bill it won’t be passed and thus it won’t make it to Bush’s desk for signing. Bush (and especially his puppetmaster Cheney) may have concentrated an inordinate amount of power in the hands of the executive branch, but even they can’t send spending bills to their own desk. That necessarily has to come from Congress. If it never reaches his desk he can’t sign it, and will have 2 choices: 1.pull the troops out while there is still enough money left in the pipeline so to speak to allow an orderly withdrawl (and anyone who has five or more brain cells knows that the money isn’t going to run out the next day, that’s a non-issue that the right wing tries to use as a scare tactic but it is ridiculously dumbed down and simply not true; they don’t wait until they have $5 left before asking for another supplemental OK?); or 2.don’t pull them out right away, and leave them to wither on the vine in Iraq until the money DOES completely run out and they have to withdraw from Iraq chaotically, burning their supplies and vehicles. Either way the war will end pretty soon if the Dems refuse to vote on supplementals. They don’t have to write a bill saying they are cutting off funding; this is only a fig leaf so they can pretend to be doing something to end the war when all they are doing is purposely spinning their wheels. All they have to do is to NOT VOTE ON SUPPLEMENTALS. Pretty effing simple. The people NOW need to DEMAND in so many words that if the Democrats are a genuine opposition party that they will carry out the will of the people and NOT VOTE on supplementals. If they are a fake opposition party as I feel they are, and are acting not in the people’s interest but playing for the same team as the Republicans, then continue with more of the same hand-wringing and impotent nonbinding resolutions that resolve nothing. Decision time Democrats. Which are you? Genuine? Or fake opposition? I think I already know the answer to that one but why don’t you surprise me?