Politics and Religion-Presidential Style

silhouettesPresident’s Day is just around the corner.  Whether you agree with the Commander in Chief or not, it is the President’s responsibility to communicate with and lead people from all social economic statuses.  He or she must reach out and relate to the rich, the poor, the powerful, the meek, the majority, the minority, and everyone in between.  There is an old saying that you should not mix politics in religion. It is a wise policy, but today I would like to share some examples where our presidents ignored that advice and went for it anyways. (Perhaps they didn’t get the memo!)  Just as the “old book” is an inspiration for literature, cinema, and music, it is also a universal message that can bind a culture together.  Presidents have passed along biblical allegories and quotes to tell a story, convey a belief, or provide a glimpse of the faith that sustains the office of Commander in Chief.

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President George Washington

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible.”

President Abraham Lincoln

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good of the Savior of the world is communicated to us through the Book.”

President Theodore Roosevelt

“A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education.”

President Dwight Eisenhower – favorite verse

 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

President John F. Kennedy
- favorite verse

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)

topics_reagan_395President Ronald Reagan

“Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.”

President George W. Bush

“Turning to prayer in times of joy and celebration, strife and tragedy is an integral part of our national heritage.”

President Barack Obama

“Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

New stories from the old book can be more than a familiar theme in an upcoming movie.  It can be more than a song about angels.  In my opinion, biblical themes are the familiar thread that binds our culture together in good times and bad.  Have a Happy President’s Day weekend!  I look forward to hearing from you!

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*Disclaimer: Thoughts and opinions are my own and not the views of all contributors of NSOB

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Posted on February 15, 2013, in Holiday and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I get what you’re saying – that it isn’t just in fiction where the bible gets quoted, but I am finding it difficult not to respond to the controversial can of worms (#cliche) you just opened here, Jamie!
    I have to say that I really don’t believe that religion has any place in politics. It’s one thing to use biblical characters and make stories with their recognizable characters – it’s another to quote from the Bible when on the campaign trail.
    We are a diverse nation, filled with many different religions. Our political leaders should respect that and leave religion out of it. It’s even worse when they say this themselves, then go quoting Biblical passages.
    Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  2. It’s SUCH an important topic that NEEDS to be discussed, so thank you, Jamie 🙂

    When I look at the way religion is pulled into politics, I can’t help but be sad that the politicians don’t often put it into the perspective of the fundamental principles from the Bible, rather than the actual doctrine. Peace, love, harmony, humility, acceptance, reflection/accountability… these are all important themes in the Bible, but it gets worded as “God said we should do this, so we must.”

    My family does not practice a Christian religion anymore. My background is in Catholicism and I’m endlessly grateful for the fundamental principles I’ve carried forward – peace, love, harmony, humility, acceptance, reflection/accountablility. But when my daughter’s public school teacher asked for examples of believing things, and they wrote on the board, “We believe in God,” we encountered a problem.

    My daughter is a black-and-white thinker, and when she read this, she was shocked and came home worried that she didn’t fit in the classroom or didn’t belong in that classroom because I’m teaching my children to believe in Mother Nature and the power of light and warmth and air and water and goodness without using the word “God.” So I had to explain to her that God is an EXAMPLE of a belief, but her whole classroom doesn’t have to believe in God. I helped her handle it privately without coming down on the school for it, which was to make her life easier, even though I felt the topic was not proper for a public school classroom with mixed beliefs.

    When a leader of a country (or classroom, or corporation) expresses a blanket statement about the deeply personal beliefs of those within his scope of influence, people are left feeling ostracized for being different. People of different faiths need to have the same, balanced representation as those with disabilities, all ethnicities, and all sexual orientations. For the government to mix church with state in any way leaves some people feeling shoved out, and is such a far cry from progress toward equality. The integration of church and government needs to stop.

  3. Can politicians espouse religion? It really depends on what your perspective of a politician is construed as. The separation of church and state doesn’t go as far as to say politicians cannot have and share religious beliefs. It states the government cannot dictate nor mandate one single religion. Instead of saying politicians can’t show their religion because it makes me uncomfortable in my own belief system – you could take the corollary stance and say a politician showing their religious beliefs is what allows me to practice mine, whatever those beliefs may be. At what expense does uniformity come with? If a President believes in physical fitness, by him or her jogging does that mean that I am forced to jog or I am at a disadvantage for not being a running enthusiast? Family, education, beliefs, lifestyle, and even religion (again no matter what that religion is) is not something to fear, they are the parts that make up society and the individuals in that society. Just because someone holds public office does not mean they need to hide their character from society. If society does not care for the whole of person they should not elect them. Government cannot force and should not ever force religion upon society, but again where do you draw the line of a leader being a person? If they have a family does that affront single people, if they are skinny does that affront those who are not, if they are from the country is that an affront those from the city? The separation of church of state should protect the people, not preclude them, even our elected leaders.

  4. One of my favorite sayings is, “The last time politics and religion mixed, people were burned at the stake.”

    That being said, it is always a tremendous comfort to me when a president or leader is comfortable enough in their beliefs to express their religion. No, I do not think it should be expressed as the only way of thought, but I want to know exactly who I am electing. Will I feel more comfortable with someone whose values mirror my own? Of course. I feel that as a democratic republic, we are entitled to know and understand the most intrinsic beliefs of our elected officials, if not, how are we to predict how they might act in certain situations?

    Here’s my favorite to throw it in: Thomas Jefferson: God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.

    Thanks for bringing up a fantastic subject, Jamie!

  5. I think the separation of church and state has often been taken to an extreme that wasn’t intended. In fact, the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear in the constitution. It was in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a church, and was intended to allay the fears the members of that church had that the government would dictate a specific religion or official church (like the Church of England). It was intended to be a government that would not infringe on the rights of people to worship in whatever method they chose, not to prevent people, even politicians or government officials, from having and expressing their religious (or non-religious) views. The founders were a mix of religious beliefs themselves, from devout Christians to Deists to agnostic. It was not to be an ‘officially Christian nation,’ but it was a nation that was primarily made up of Christians (of various denominations, beliefs, and degrees). That has changed over time, and the country is a lot less Christian and a lot less religious than it used to be, so culture and society change and adapt. But to say that a politician shouldn’t quote the Bible or express his religious views is just as intolerant and discriminatory as saying a Jewish politician shouldn’t wear a yarmulke (as Joe Lieberman would do) or that a Muslim politican shouldn’t quote the Koran (as Keith Ellison does), or that a black politician shouldn’t quote Martin Luther King or a gay politician shouldn’t espouse his personal religious or moral views that support gay marriage or… the list goes on. Freedom of speech, expression, and religion mean that Christians should be just as free to express their beliefs in public as anyone else is, and we should all be tolerant and accepting of those views even if someone says something we don’t believe in or agree with.

    To silence one person’s views means that someday someone can silence your views. To hold your voice because it might offend someone who disagrees or doesn’t believe the same is absurd. (Just ask Hannah…ha…couldn’t resist the plug because it’s a topic rather near and dear to her.)

  1. Pingback: Happy Presidents Day! | JBodnarDrowley

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