Citizen Staff Writer
Editor and Publisher
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, Feb. 10, 1814
Heard the one about the cardinal who walked into the pope’s office?
“Your Holiness, I have good news and bad news.”
“Tell the good news first.”
“The good news is that we got a telephone call from God.”
“A telephone call from God? Are you certain?”
“Your Holiness, we asked questions that only God could answer. We are certain.”
“Indeed, that is good news. What is the bad news?”
“He called from Salt Lake City.”
It’s no joke in the campaign to see who will be the next president of the United States of America.
C’mon, you recognize the country: It’s the one founded on the ideal of freedom and tolerance, by descendants of those who fled religious persecution.
It’s still a national ideal, but the reality is that we Americans have little tolerance for others’ religions and beliefs these days.
That’s whether they are Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Scientologists or adherents to other creeds.
Include Catholics, evangelicals and born-again Christians, and add in pagans and existentialists, because by twisting or interpreting scripture or teaching, many of us find ways to be intolerant of others’ beliefs.
How did this happen?
How did we get 231-plus years into our declared independence having elected among 43 presidents just one Catholic, no Jews or Muslims and no other believers but Protestant Christians?
(Although, likely, a couple of closet deists and atheists held office along the way.)
How did we get to demonizing others’ beliefs and out-of-hand rejecting one presidential candidate because of his religion?
Make no mistake: This is not a pitch for the presidential candidacy of Mormon Mitt Romney.
Rather, it is a plea for a return to the open-mindedness that led Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Washington, Hamilton and 50 others of divergent beliefs to agree on a set of philosophies, creating our Constitution.
It’s also a plea for all of us to maintain perspective when it comes to religion and politics.
Chris Walton, editor of UU World, quarterly magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, said it best: “When you mix religion and politics, you get politics.”
Or, as President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut on Jan. 1, 1802:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
Reach Michael A. Chihak at 573-4646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Candidates and faith
Joe Biden Roman Catholic
Hillary Clinton United Methodist
Christopher Dodd Roman Catholic
John Edwards United Methodist
Mike Gravel Unitarian Universalist
Dennis Kucinich Roman Catholic
Barack Obama United Church of Christ
Bill Richardson Roman Catholic
Rudolph Giuliani Roman Catholic
Mike Huckabee Baptist
Duncan Hunter Southern Baptist
Alan Keyes Roman Catholic
John McCain Baptist
Ron Paul Baptist
Mitt Romney Latter-Day Saint (Mormon)
Tom Tancredo Evangelical Presbyterian
Fred Thompson Church of Christ
Source: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life