Wednesday Word of the Week, October 12: Secular

12 Oct

Today’s word is SECULAR

not religious, or not connected with religion – Macmillan Dictionary Online

which is the kind of government we supposedly have. Clearly enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

the principle that government and religion have no business intermingling is part of the bedrock of our country, from Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation” through multiple court cases (including recent decisions by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court). Try telling that to our political leaders.

The absurd dominance of evangelical christian posturing on the Republican side of the aisle is well documented. From anti-choice maneuvers to anti-gay pledges, members of the right from Presidential candidates to participants in local government meetings use their faith as a bludgeon in political issues.

Sadly, Democrats are not immune, as President Obama demonstrated in his misguided invitation to the rabidly anti-gay Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration. Even assuming that a gesture of outreach to the faith community was necessary, the plethora of non-denominational (or at the very least non-demonizing) options made Warren a deeply offensive selection. How ironic that Obama, who has been dogged by “accusations” of being a Muslim, was so insensitive.

Similarly ironic were the attacks on Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress (in 2007!). For his 2007 inauguration, Ellison opted to be sworn in on a Quran rather than a Bible. This prompted a firestorm from the right. Setting aside for a moment how inappropriate it is that secular officials would be sworn in with any religious document, it seems fitting that Ellison would choose the document that has personal meaning to him. Underscoring that point, he used a Quran from the library of none other than Thomas Jefferson.

The latest bizarre manifestation of this intrusion of religion into politics comes (big surprise) at the hands of Rick Perry. At the hideously misnamed Values Voter Summit last week, Perry was introduced by a pastor who attacked Mitt Romney as a member of a “cult” because of his Mormon faith. Let us be clear: his faith is utterly irrelevant unless he (like so many of the Republican candidates) says that it will be a foundation of his politics, which would violate the Constitution. Amusingly, the other candidates assumed vividly contorted positions, trying to attack Perry while not supporting Romney. Perhaps equally amusing was the winner of the Summit’s straw poll, Ron Paul, who, despite his faith-based opposition to any form of reproductive choice for women, is one of the least religion-wielding of the Republican candidates, more proof that polls can mean little or nothing.

When it comes to faith, in fact, the greatest irony of this latest tempest in a baptismal font is that any of these candidates would be lousy presidents fully independent of their faith. The rigid adherence that most of them display to the sacrament of the teapot is just further proof that they have no business in governance.

For anyone who is interested in protecting our electoral process from these religiously inappropriate fools, I offer this prayer to Saint Dymphna.

Hear us, O God, Our Savior, as we honor St. Dymphna, patron of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness. Help us to be inspired by her example and comforted by her merciful help. Amen.

Amen, indeed.

5 Responses to “Wednesday Word of the Week, October 12: Secular”

  1. James Queale October 12, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Religion plays a huge role in government in this country. Though Church and State are supposed to be separate, it never seems that way. Some of the religious folks have even begun to use secular language in order to disguise their religious language. Like, they will say that they don’t hate gay people (religion), it is studies that show gay people ruin families or straight parents make the best parents (secular). They try to make it scientific, when it is really just religious bigotry.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt October 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Jamie, you make some very good points here. I do fear that much of religion (all religions) have been taken hostage by right wing bigots that operate out of fear rather than love.

      • James Queale October 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

        That is one among many reasons I remain a non-believer. I truly think that societal evolution comes through secular thinking. Then religion drags its heels behind and eventually catches up with society.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt October 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

        I, too, am not religious, but I do believe we will have to enlist the support of our religious brothers and sisters to achieve any significant change.

  2. James Queale October 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I completely agree, I don’t discriminate against any religion. I have friends of many religions and love them all. We all need to come together to achieve our rights. I just get upset when religion becomes oppressive or tries to be dominant in a debate.

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