In the wake of the U.S. presidential election much fuss has been made about the decline in political power of the religious right, such as in this article by Jon Meacham of Newsweek. As much as I’d like to believe it, I don’t, and here’s why:
- McCain/Palin won 46% of the popular vote to Obama/Biden’s 53%. I find the number of votes for McCain/Palin shockingly high considering that the Republican party was utterly disgraced by the Bush years, had an extremely weak platform, and ran their campaing in an offensively shallow manner. More on these subjects at another time. But, that leaves me with the conclusion that either the number of die-hard party line Republicans is higher than is generally reported, or that almost the entirety of the evangelical christian voting population voted for McCain/Palin in an attempt to vote for morality, as they saw it. I think both conclusions have merit and would bear further examiniation, but I’m leaning towards the latter. In other words, without the votes of the religious right I think McCain/Palin get maybe 30% of the popular vote.
- President Obama, an astute political player, feels the need conciliate the good will of the religious right through such acts as asking Rick Warrent to provide the inagural invocation, continuing the constitutionally unjustifiable faith-based (and community) initiatives of his predecessor, establishing a multi-denominational religious advisory council, and reportedly beginning all of his staff meetings with a religious invocation. I believe him when he says that he hopes for more bi-partisanship in Washington and that he’s making some of these moves to establish a tone that makes bi-partisanship possible. In principal I support attempts in this direction, however until the Republicans can bring something more substantive to the debate than a desire for theocracy and trick-down economics, I don’t think there’s much point. In particular I object to attempts at conciliation that violate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, such as the faith-based (and community) initiatives. I think the council of religious advisors to the President is disgusting, and a dangerous precedent to set; definitely contrary to the spirit of the First Admendment, if not the letter. While I think the pre-meeting invocations are in bad taste and disrespectful of the beliefs of the others in the room I guess they don’t really hurt anything. All of Obama’s religious moves though indicate that he doesn’t think he can, assuming he wanted to, reverse the injection of religion into presidential matters that Bush initiated because of the possibility of alienating that portion of the voting population that believes these things are good.
Part of the reason that I preferred Obama to McCain was that he was a supporter of the separation between church and state, and that he wanted to restore science to the governmental decision-making process. Those happen to be my two biggest issues as a voter because I think that if we get those things right we’ll be on a track to better government all around. So far though Mr. Obama is only carrying through on half of it, the restoration of science. I’m very dissapointed, though, that he has not taken any steps to repair the wall between church and state. In fact, he’s take a couple more bricks out of it. I think we’re a long way from “The End of Christian America,” as Mr. Meacham put it, but here’s hoping! [quaff]