Friday, April 27, 2012

Passing the “No Religious Test” Test

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Article Six of the Constitution of the United States)

Both the rapidly approaching 2012 presidential election and the not-so-distant past one of 2008 offer clear evidence of just what a great country the United States of America really is.

In 2008 we elected as our President an African-American Christian with an Arabic name and a Muslim father. As we all know, there were people who believed then and there are people who believe now, all evidence to the contrary, that President Obama is in fact a Muslim.

Some folks who accepted candidate Obama’s long–term participation in a Chicago Christian congregation as evidence enough—as if his own testimony was not sufficient—of his Christian faith nonetheless used the preaching of his pastor as political ammunition against him.

My point is that, while the United States Constitution prohibits any religious test for an office holder, that’s not going to stop pundits and voters from applying one.

In the mid-1970s I asked my late great father, who would these days be considered something akin to a Blue Dog Democrat, for whom he had voted in the 1960 presidential election. He looked sheepish as he said, “I’m not ashamed that I voted for Nixon but I am ashamed of why; I was afraid if Kennedy got elected the Pope would be running the country.”

I find it interesting, given the Cold War in which we were engaged at the time, that my father and others did not find Nixon’s Quaker religious affiliation equally or even more troubling, given that faith’s belief in pacifism.

Of course, President Nixon was not a pacifist, was he?

And President Kennedy was not, when it came to his policies, beholden to the Vatican, was he?

As my father and many others have shown, voters tend to pay close attention to the religious affiliations—even though those affiliations may or may not reveal much about the candidates’ actual beliefs—of some candidates and not so much attention to those of other candidates. Put simply, we tend to analyze closely the religion of those candidates whom we oppose on other grounds in the hope that we can find further reason to oppose them.

It will be interesting to see if the left-leaning media examines Gov. Romney’s Mormonism as closely as the right-leaning media examined Sen. Obama’s Christianity.

Regardless, this fall folks down here where I live are going to have to choose between two candidates of whose religious affiliations many of them are suspicious.

One option is Pres. Obama, of whose Christian faith many of them are doubtful and whose particular type of Christianity, at least as seen in the church he attended in Chicago, makes them uneasy.

Let me hasten to add that many of the African-American Christians here in the rural South do not share that uneasiness given that their religious and cultural experience allows them to identify with that of the President and that there are white Christians here in the rural South who are not uncomfortable with the President’s brand of Christian practice, either.

Still, many folks in my neck of the woods don’t think that President Obama is “their kind” of Christian, meaning that he is not Evangelical enough or conservative enough or traditional (as they define tradition) enough.

The other option is Gov. Romney, who is at least three things the vast, vast majority of rural Southerners are not: (1) Wealthy (2) Northeastern and (3) Mormon. I’m not a pollster but I can say with much confidence that as far as most Christians of the standard variety around here—Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and Non-Denominationals—are concerned, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a non-Christian cult about which they know little, understand less, and fear some.

So that is our choice this November: on the one hand, a liberal Christian with an Arabic name that many suspect is actually a Muslim and on the other hand, a Mormon.

That such is our choice is a clear indicator of what a great country this really is.

We grew up a lot when we elected an African-American Christian as our President.

This year we will grow up some more as we choose between that African-American Christian and a Northeastern Mormon.

The 2012 presidential contest is one that honors Article Six of our Constitution.

It is cause for celebration.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why You Should Follow This Blog--I'm Talking to You, Morning Joe!

Welcome to the first post on "A View from the Hinterland," my new blog on which I try my seasoned hand at political and social commentary.

While there is no way to bracket my Christian faith from my opinions and while there is no way to bracket my ministerial identity from my thought processes, I want to make it clear that I see this blog as more "secular" in its orientation.

I want to be transparent about my agenda with this blog, which is two-fold: first, I want to express my interpretation of events and my opinion of those events and second, I want to market my interpretations and opinions.

So come on, Morning Joe--give me a market!

For a long time now I have campaigned for a recurring role on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," which I watch every morning (not the whole show--I do work for a living) and which I enjoy very much, even when it frustrates me very much, which it tends to do when Joe talks to Mika like she's fifteen years old and she does not in response scratch his eyeballs out.

Every chance I get, by today's accepted means of serious communication, namely, Facebook and Twitter, I tell Joe, Mika and crew that they should have me on the show every now and then.

The reasons, I have told them before and now tell them again, is that they need (a) a voice that comes from the hinterland, from rural, agricultural, small-town America, (b) the opinions of someone with "Rev." in front of his name whose name is not Sharpton or Graham, and (c) the perspective of a true, died-in-the-wool, and committed political, religious, and social Moderate.

Let's face it--the only people that we hear on Morning Joe or on any of the other network or cable news programs are the media elites who have no real idea what's being said or thought in the hinterland, in those places far away from New York City, Washington, D.C., or even Atlanta, Georgia.

Joe Scarborough himself often claims to speak for the Northwest Florida/Alabama/Georgia population but really now, Joe is more Washington and New York than he is NoFlaAlGa, which is appropriate and understandable given where he spends most of his time.

My purpose, therefore, is to share my interpretation of the social, moral, and political aspects--and sometimes of all three aspects--of life in America, from the perspective of someone who lives in the part of America whose voice is seldom heard.

As for my credentials--well, I grew up in Barnesville, Georgia, lived for ten years in Adel, Georgia, and have lived for over three years now in Fitzgerald, Georgia. I did spend four years in Macon, Georgia but during some of those years served as pastor of a small church outside of Sparta, Georgia, seven years in Louisville, Kentucky but during some of those years served as pastor of a small church outside of Owenton, Kentucky, and six years in Nashville, Tennessee, but during some of those years served as pastor of a small church in Fosterville, Tennessee, just up the road from Bell Buckle. During my six years in Augusta, Georgia I pretty much stuck to the city.

So, I am in and of rural Southern America but I have spent enough time in metropolitan areas not to have tunnel vision.

I live, I think, and I write.

You should read me.

I'm talking to you, Morning Joe!

Welcome to A View from the Hinterland...