Some of my students at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou China have been following the Republican primary in the U.S.
When President Obama was running in the Primary four years ago the Chinese were rooting for him because they felt he was the underdog. Today, the Chinese are not that impressed with him. Many here are also wondering if a Republican will succeed him in 2013.
One of my students following our election process closely asked me why you have to be a Christian to be President in America. I told her that you don’t have to be a follower of Christianity to get elected. I also explained to her there is a separation of Church and State in our country. One’s religious affiliation or one’s non-belief in religion should not be a litmus test to determine one’s fitness to be President.
Rick Santorum who believes he will be the Republican nominee and go on to beat President Obama in November. He is thumping his religious extremism to the mantra that the separation of Church and State in the U.S. is merely a myth.
He claims our country is a Christian Nation not because the majority of people in the U.S are Christians, but that our country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is far from the truth. Christian fundamentalists who spread this absurd notion are known as the Christian Revisionists and they are attempting to rewrite history.
The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists they did not believe the bible to be divinely inspired but rather a book of myths and fables. The Deists of their day believed in god but they did not believe in religion. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not faith.
If the U.S. was founded on the Christian religion, the Constitution would clearly say so--but it does not. Nowhere does the Constitution say: "The United States is a Christian Nation", or anything even close to that. In fact, the words "Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Creator, Divine, and God" are never mentioned in the Constitution.
The Constitution does mention religion in exclusionary terms. When the Founders wrote the nation's Constitution, they specified that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article 6, section 3) This provision was radical in its day-- giving equal citizenship to believers and non-believers alike. They wanted to ensure that no religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had.
The Declaration of Independence also gives us important insight into the opinions of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God. The Declaration of Independence was a radical departure from the idea that the power to rule over other people comes from god. It was a letter from the Colonies to the English King, stating their intentions to separate themselves. The Declaration mentions "Nature's God" and "Divine Providence"-- but that's the language of Deism, not Christianity.
The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was "not in any sense founded on the Christian religion". This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy Muslims-- they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.
Most of the Founders were in fact Deists none were atheists which is to say they thought the universe had a creator, but that he does not concern himself with the daily lives of humans, and does not directly communicate with humans, either by revelation or by sacred books. They spoke often of God, (Nature's God or the God of Nature), but this was not the God of the bible. They did not deny that there was a person called Jesus, and praised him for his benevolent teachings, but they flatly denied his divinity. When taking the time to read our Founding Fathers writings it comes clear that most of them were opposed to the bible, and the teachings of Christianity in particular.
The Founders were students of the European Enlightenment. Half a century after the establishment of the United States, clergymen complained that no president up to that date had been a Christian. In a sermon that was reported in newspapers, Episcopal minister Bird Wilson of Albany, New York, protested in October 1831: "Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism." The attitude of the age was one of enlightened reason, tolerance, and free thought.
Rick Santorum stated if elected he would return our country to its biblical and Christian roots where our Founding Fathers intended it to be. I for one would not want to return to the period of our American history that led to the great American conflict called the civil war. It was during that period that southern evangelical Christians were using bible quotes to justify the institution of slavery. Fortunately, there are now laws against that sort of injustice and not to many people in America today would want to return to the hands of the godly slave holders with their god fearing bible quotes.
I think Mr. Santorum should read up more about the forming of this great country of ours and the history of his own catholic religion. It was during the birth of our great nation that the Roman Catholic Pope declared democracy an immoral form of Government because America doesn’t recognize Christ or the church as its governing authority. That is what sets our great Nation apart from religious extremism including Christian theocracies’.
During the 1960 Presidential election John F Kennedy’s Roman Catholic upbringing became a campaign liability for him. However, he resolved the issue by claiming the Separation of Church and State is absolute in our Country. Rick Santorum now says John F Kennedy is wrong and the Separation clause is merely a myth.
There is nothing to prevent people of faith from getting elected into Government office the same goes for nonbelievers. I told my students in class that the separation of Church and State is the corner stone of our nation’s greatness. It allows all citizens to share their beliefs and faiths openly and freely. The separation clause prevents religious extremists from imposing their will and beliefs on the American people cloaked under Government policies and that certainly is a good thing.
The ultimate power in this election though like in all elections lies in the hands of the American voter and that is where it should be. That is why I believe President Obama is going to get reelected in the general election in November. Today’s (02/29/12) CBS national news poll shows that most republicans are dissatisfied with their choice of republican candidates. The majority polled also said they would vote for President Obama over his republican challenger whoever that person will turn out to be.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill