I was tooling down the road the other day, listening to Public Radio, when I heard the National Public Radio reporter smugly refer to some politician as ‘overtly religious….’.
It wasn’t a compliment. It was condescending. In context, it was a pseudo-intellectual chiding, as if to say “Poor simpleton. Probably grew up that way, raised by the kind who cling to their guns and religion.”
“Overtly religious” was meant as a negative…but I got to thinking…. If a politician is religious, would you prefer they be “overtly religious” or “covertly religious”? It’s been played both ways over the years.
The left has long been accustom to separating their religion and their politics. JFK worried Protestant America until he assured them in a speech to The Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance that his faith as a Catholic would not direct his judgment as a president.
Oddly, he closed that speech this way:
“…without reservation, I can “solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God.” (Find the entire speech here)
It would appear that God can be called upon at certain times, such as the beginning of a term, but must be avoided like the plague in between inaugurations.
Perhaps we rewrite that to say “So help me God, until the next time.”
Republicans have only recently gotten on the bandwagon of Covert Religion. In the 2008 election, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism raised red flags. He famously commented:
“If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.
There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.” (Find his comments here).
So there you have it – covert religion on both sides of the aisle. Kennedy remained Catholic on the inside. Romney vows to be true to his Mormon beliefs, but not in a way that we might actually notice.
Both of them seeming to channel the political character from hipster Steve Taylor’s song “It’s a Personal Thing”, which contained the lyric…
“I’m devout, I’m sincere, and I’m proud to say
that it’s had exactly no effect on who I am today”
(listen to entire song here.)
Is that ‘personal thing’ the goal? A ‘total separation between church and mind’? Is that the covert religion we demand from our public figures?
It seems like we’ve asked for – and received – some sort of religio-bipolar disorder. We want our leaders to have a strong faith, but we’d prefer that they’re not guided by it. We demand a heartfelt commitment, but only if it never affects one’s behavior. I’m not so sure I could trust a politician that professes a belief system in one breath while denying it’s influence over their life in another. Somebody is lying to someone, be it God or voters.
Call me simple minded, but I’m almost certain that covert religion is creepier than overt religion any day of the week.
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