The presidents of the USA and religion
To the editor: As a practicing Quaker, I was taken aback by Reverend B’s comments on “religious” presidents of the USA.
Now I wouldn’t care to make any religious observations based on Bill Clinton. However, saying that Jimmy Carter was “ashamed” of his Baptist roots sounds like aiming at a buck and taking out your own truck: Carter is famously committed to his Christian faith.
I agree that Harry Truman was honored for his honesty. I hope his honesty would extend to recognizing that, before Israel, Arab nations were strongly pro-American. Pro-American, believe it or not! Arabs believed we stood for democracy and freedom, whereas the British and French tried to colonize them.
It was a huge shock to Arabs when Truman supported the founding of Israel in 1948. Wanna know how to turn friends into enemies? All those Palestinian deaths and refugees started the rise of anti-Americanism and radical Islam. It isn’t the only factor – in the complicated spider-web of current world affairs, who can honestly point to only one factor in anything? But it contributed, big time.
What puzzled me most, however, was the statement that “Donald Trump has already taken more actions to restore full religious freedom than any president in my lifetime.” Really? What actions? Do you seriously know anyone who’s prevented from going to church by the government? Or saying “Merry Christmas”? Or having a committed Christian marriage because some gays in San Francisco got hitched?
Yeah, he signed an executive order to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.” But the order doesn’t actually do much. It says religious groups cannot be targeted by the IRS for making political statements. Big fat hairy deal. Pastors already make political statements, look at Pastor B.
Even some Christian leaders, like Evangelist Russell Moore, said the order is “more symbolic than substantive.” Or to put it another way, a lotta hot air but no heavy lifting.
What ought to worry us is that Mr. Trump seems to honor only Christian religious freedom. Why should we worry, we’re Christians, right? Well, on the practical side, Mr. Trump’s example facilitates bigotry, and bigotry invites violence, and that brings backlashes. Do we really want to facilitate terrorists who want to recruit yet more terrorists? Not me!
On the spiritual side, we should remember that Jesus said to love our neighbor. As interconnected as the world is today, all America – all humankind – is our neighbor. You think we’re exempt from Jesus’ words because it was easier in Jesus’ day? Hah! With Jews ruled with a rod of iron by Rome, subverted by pagans, and facing violent factions inside the Jewish community? Read thy history.
“By their fruits ye shall know them.” If we want to look at presidents’ religion, I think we should look at the real effects of their actions.