The Republicans are doing a lot to restore my faith in President Obama.
First Rick Santorum accused Barack Obama of being the most anti-religious president in the nation’s history. Then Mitt Romney said that Obama sought to substitute a “secular agenda” for one based on faith.
What a relief to know we have a secular president.
What a relief, especially after weeks of hearing Santorum, Romney and the other Republicans talk about introducing religion into public policy and political decisions in one way or another.
What a relief to have reaffirmed the fact that President Obama, unlike his immediate predecessor, follows the U.S. Constitution and the wishes of our mostly deist founding leaders and promotes a secular agenda.
We are, after all, a secular country, one that is not supposed to have religion enter into government decisions, nor to favor one religion over others.
I understand that a good 20-25% of voters think differently. They believe that we are a Christian nation. What’s more, they want to force a set of values on everyone that they associate with Christian practice.
But we have to go no further than the issue of birth control to recognize how much the real world diverges from the ideals of the Christian right wing. In the real world, 98% of all women use birth control sometime during their life. In the real world, the cost of birth control is far less than the cost of an unwanted pregnancy, which means that when you ask a religious organization to pay for their employees’ birth control you are asking them for no money and in fact giving them money since their insurance costs will decline.
To be sure, both Romney and Santorum are playing to the hard core base that now determines Republican primary elections. But besides pandering to the right-wing “values” voters, the labeling of Obama as “non-Christian” and “non-religious” also has a subtle impact on other voters. It’s another, harder to disprove, version of the “Obama wasn’t born in the United States” canard. Wherever we fall on the political spectrum and however devout or non-practicing we are, most Americans have a Christian background and live their lives by an ethos they identify as Christian. To say that Obama is not Christian or is anti-religious (which is just another way for them to say “anti-Christian”) turns him into the “other” or the “stranger” who has historically been so feared in American culture and politics. The ultimate outsider, of course, is the Black.
There’s an economic aspect to the accusations, too: that old saw that communists and socialists are godless. Americans for decades are used to hearing the words “godless” and “socialist” (or “communist”) pronounced one after the other to describe progressives and liberals. To say that Obama is against religion is also a veiled way of saying that he is against our free market capitalist system.
And yet, I think many will share my desire that religion not enter into a president’s decision-making. I think most of us prefer that decisions are based on facts, science, reason, the law and what’s best for the country and its people.
That Romney and Santorum affirm that our current president is following a secular path gives me more confidence in what Obama is doing. That the Republican candidates don’t like Obama’s secular path is scary. Because they could get elected, and that would be trouble. We recently had a faith-based president and it didn’t really work out, unless you like useless, goalless wars, state-sponsored torture, catastrophic environmental change and the largest deficit in American history.