Last week, President Donald Trump came through on one of his campaign promises, to end the great, great “War on Christmas,” which is the latest example of fusing Church and State, which I believe is morally unacceptable.
Since my first name is Christian, MSU’s School of Journalism gave me the forum to speak on the intersection of Christianity and politics.
Not really, but I wanted to point that out.
To be serious, a person’s religious and political identities, does not change the way I perceive them.
You could hail Satan while marrying Hillary Clinton’s photo — but as long as you are a good and accepting person who does not hurt anyone and has an expansive, open mind — I could care less about your beliefs. Why? Because we are given that right, as Americans, to have our own beliefs.
What does change the way I see someone is the way they treat others, especially those who are different from them.
In primary school, history classes taught Puritans settled in the United States of America, sailing the ocean blue in the name of religious freedom. Fast forward 387 years later, the great country of Red, White and blue has hundreds of religions.
Since then, Americans have debated when and how religion should be used in governmental affairs, from Thomas Jefferson’s call for a wall to the Supreme Court cases that separates church and state.
Politicians politicizing their religious views – An overview
“This sort of thing has ebbed and flowed throughout U.S. history,” said Frank Ravitch, an MSU law professor and Walter H. Stowers chair in law and religion. “In modern times, many people think that Ronald Reagan’s bringing of religious conservatives into political power may have had some impact on this.”
The close-knit relationship between religion and politics is evident in Thomas Jefferson’s political career, according to Jonathan Hartog’s “Patriotism and Piety.” Federalists would attack Jefferson and other Republican candidates for infidelity in any form.
In more recent years, Reagan used the conservative Christian right to help him get elected. Some of them were even invited into government positions, such as Everett Koop, who vehemently opposed abortion on religious grounds, and Charles Heatherly who joined the U.S. Department of Education. According to Ravitch, the legality behind these actions are a little unclear.
The issue with Reagan, Trump and many other politicians actions is that not everyone in America celebrates the same religion or a religion at all. Beginning with Koop, who opposed abortion on religious grounds, why should any man or woman, without a medical degree dictate what a woman does with her body because of their own religious beliefs?
As Arthur Caplan, professor and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center said: “Many scientists would say they don’t know when life begins. There are a series of landmark moments. The first is conception, the second is the development of the spine, the third the development of the brain, consciousness, and so on.”
So, why are politicians, who have no medical degree, no priesthood and for the most part, no education besides what most Americans know from high school biology, have a right to say when life begins, and what the woman hosting that life is to do with it?
If politicians are so concerned with protecting life in the name of their God, what about protecting the health of those already here, who use services like Planned Parenthood for medical screenings? For, if we are supposed to, “Love thy neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these,” why would we deny medical care to those who cannot afford it?
While the organization does provide abortions to women, (who have a legal right to participate in the service), it also provides medical checkups, cancer screenings, STD/HIV testing, LGBT, men and women health services as well as a multitude of other medical services.
So, if politicians like President Trump, want to de-fund Planned Parenthood, they will be taking away medical services from the roughly 4.5 million Americans who visit the clinics each year.
In addition to abortion, politicians use religion to oppose same-sex marriage; it’s a crazy concept, to allow two people who love each other to enjoy the tax, health insurance and securities that marriage gives.
First, most scientists know it is something a gay person cannot control, as the National Post points out, “researchers who looked at the complete genome – a person’s entire DNA code – for more than 1,000 gay men and compared it to genetic data from a similar number of heterosexuals, found the DNA was different for gay and straight men in at least two genes.”
Third, many religious leaders are moving toward acceptance of gay culture, as is the case with University Lutheran Church in East Lansing, Mich. Pastor Haley Vae of University Lutheran said, “we are reconciling in Christ which means we are accepting of all people, no matter who they are.”
Also, 71 percent of Catholics believe gay people should be accepted, and 62 percent of Americans believe gay marriage should be legal, according to a PEW Research report.
The point of this article is to address why politicians should leave their personal beliefs at home when trying to make a better country for the rest of us. Not everyone practices the same religion or even at all. We all lead different lives and some of us will have to go through things like abortion, Planned Parenthood or same-sex marriage, and when those select people do, they should have their government’s full support. While the United States of America is incredibly religious, it is not a theocracy, and it should not be governed as such.