Michael Paul Williams ~almost~ gets it right

5 May

Honestly, I rarely read the columns by Michael Paul Williams. To be fair, I almost never read the print version of the Richmond Times-Dispatch anymore. But when I do, I generally skip over anything written by Williams. Let’s face it, he has a tendency to be whiney. But this isn’t about him, not really anyway.

Today Williams says that politics and religion are a bad mix. In his opening:

Either we need to elect an atheist as president, or we need to push the preachers and piety out of politics.

Well the founding fathers would disagree:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

~ That’s from the Declaration of Independence in case you didn’t recognize it.

Seems like God was into politics in this country from the very beginning. Indeed the Puritans came here for the very purpose of establishing freedom of religion.

But, in a sense, I can see what Williams is trying to say. This year, almost more than any other religion has become a distraction. At least it has in the Jerry Springeresque atomsphere of the Democratic primary process.

See, I don’t think we need to push for any one religion to be dominant in the White House. Many of my fellow conservatives (if they’ll still call me that) would disagree. I could have accepted a Mormon President or a Jewish President. More important that a candidate’s particular religion (politically speaking of course) is a solid grasp on morality. A solid grasp of what is right and what is wrong. And a healthy measure of integrity, a difficult thing to ask in any politician.

Which is why this whole episode with Reverend Jeremiah Wright is so troubling for Barack Obama. Wright’s comments were outrageous to be sure. But more troubling is Barack Obama’s response. Or should I say responses. He’s changed with the political winds, most recently throwing the man who was once his spiritual mentor under the bus. That’s the more disturbing aspect of this whole Wright/Obama episode.

But back to Williams. He says that religion should be irrlevant and notes that The two most pious U.S. presidents of the modern age are the born-again Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican George W. Bush.

He then calls Carter and Bush the worst Presidents of that era. Kudos to Michael Paul for recognizing the failure of the Carter Presidency. But really, this whole “Blame Bush for Everything” campaign has just gone over the edge. I’ll admit George W. Bush hasn’t been the President I thought he would be, and I’ve been disappointed on numerous occasions. But to name him one of the worst? Hardly.

Williams is also wrong in the assertion that faith has no business in politics. What he doesn’t recognize is that faith defines who a person is. Truth faith cannot be separated from the individual. And I don’t think he’s really thought through the implications of having no person of faith in any position of power.

Williams quotes Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State as saying “We have a secular country.”

The founding fathers certainly didn’t think so:

“The great hope, and for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world”
~ William Bradford, The Mayflower Compact, 1620

“The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
~ John Adams

“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Convention of 1787

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
~ Patrick Henry, 1765

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

And yes, there are the detractors who would say that the quotes are wrong or taken out of context. That will be argued for generations.  But to deny that faith has played an integral part in this nation’s history is simply to show an ignorance of that very history. Faith was key in the founding of this nation. Faith was key in the abolition of slavery.

Our national motto, for today at least remains “In God We Trust.”

People of faith always have, and always will be involved in the political process. And no doubt, some will continue to exploit their religion for political purposes. But it’s wrong to suggest their won’t be issues of religion intermingled with politics.

Wouldn’t be prudent.

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4 Responses to “Michael Paul Williams ~almost~ gets it right”

  1. RVA Foodie May 6, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    If MPW can admit Carter’s failures, surely you can admit that the most unpopular president in US History is also one of the worst presidents. And don’t you think that G.W. Bush’s religion has weakened his leadership and his decision making? Although everybody has their own analysis on the misdirection of our village idiot president, I would say that a big part of his trouble is his alleged faith. If Bush had the will to govern nationally and communicate internationally, perhaps he could have acheived greater success. Instead, the dufus arrogantly trumpets his god-given mission, refusing any attempts at understanding other perspectives, and has mislead the American public into muliple catastrophies. Even now, he’s probably thinking that all of his troubles must be god’s will. You can quote all the 17th and 18th century figures that you like. The principles of this country include freedom FROM religion.

  2. Michael May 6, 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    I’m more than willing to admit that George W. Bush has failed in many areas. Heck, he’s admitted that. But there’s also a string of accomplishments over the last 7 1/2 years. His unpopularity is largely related to two things: 1) the incessant hounding by the Democrats and the Media, including the refusal to report any progress in the war on terror and 2) his own refusal to govern based on the polls. He does what he believes to be right. You can disagree with him all you want. But he’s no failure.

    As for your misunderstanding of history. I’ll wait here while you find the phrase separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution. Let me save you some time, it’s not there. Instead what the Constitution says is that Congress will make no law regarding the practice of religion. In other words, there won’t be a state religion.

    If the “principles of this country include freedom FROM religion” then why is our Motto “In God We Trust?” Why is there prayer at every Presidential Inauguration? Why do the Senate and House open in prayer every day?

    Why were the churches full on the Sunday after 9/11?

    You are correct that you have every right to be free “from” religion if that’s your choice. But you can’t do away with religion or its influence on our country’s history and our government.

  3. Alex May 6, 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    The motto ‘in God we trust’ was adopted in 1956 during the anti-communist hysteria when we came closest to having a fascist government(McCarthy) in this country. If you didn’t or wouldn’t proclaim your belief in some invisible being then you ran the risk of being labeled a ‘godless-communist’ and ran the risk of losing everything. Not unlike the people today who claim you are not a patriot if your don’t have a flag pin permanently affixed to your lapel. A proclaimed belief in some supreme being doesn’t make you a good person and an enameled pin doesn’t make you a patriot.

    Church attendance after 9/11 is a bad anecdote. Maybe it was a nice day. Maybe there was nothing on TV. I’ve met lifelong church-goers who have no belief in god but talk-the-talk and find it a good place to drum up business. Maybe they thought they could con a few new people.

    Here is my question to you, Michael, and I challenge you to answer it honestly. Why are you a Christian? Did you explore all the options and decide on that or were you just brought up that way? Had you been born in Saudi Arabia would you be a Wahabbi Muslim railing against the US with the same fervor that you lump on liberals in this country now?

  4. Michael May 6, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m well aware of when the motto was adopted. But it was and remains complete consistent with the writings of the founding fathers. Youl do well to read Jonah Goldberg’s book on Facism (I’m about 1/3 of the way through).

    Church attendance on 9/11 is the perfect anecdote. People were scared and they were looking for answers beyond themselves. Yet they turned away quicker than they forgot the horror of what happened that day.

    Honestly Alex, I don’t see the relevance of your asking why I’m a Christian. But the answer is that I am a Christian simply by the Grace of God. It was never my merit, my worth or my deeds that prompted Him to call me to Him and I accepted. Yes, my heritage is strongly Christian but there are countless stories of those who were drawn out of Islam, Buddhism and more and who became Christians. No one is beyond His reach. And determining why some are called and others are not is beyond my pay grade.

    And with all due respect, your assertion that the “fervor I lump on liberals” has any comparison to a Wahabbi Muslim railing against the US is as ignorant as it is offensive.

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