Devoted Christian Politicians Are presidential candidates being religiously inclusive?
By Stefan Lembo
Religion and politics are two words that, when put together, make most Americans cringe. The issue of politicians leading with their religious values is a point of contest that summons the question: “What about separation of church and state?”
Since this nation was established, religious rhetoric has found a way to creep into American culture and government. From “In God We Trust” to the Pledge of Allegiance, the word God infiltrates all levels of society. Unintentionally, phrases like “God bless you” and “God forbid” have been ingrained into our culture. These phrases aren’t inclusive, as some candidates are blatantly referring to Christianity.
God is not only ingrained into American culture but is also openly embraced by an overwhelming majority of the population. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, more than 70 percent of Americans identified as Christian in 2014. This statistic highlights the unbalanced proportion of Christians in the United States, which then influences the political elections. In fact, according to Pewforum.org, Protestants alone made up 53 percent of the 2014 electorate.
The hope for any election should be to select candidates based on their policies and their ability to affect change. Unfortunately, with Christianity so deeply woven into our culture, the simple task of choosing a political candidate becomes blurred by religion. With the vast majority of the United States sympathetic to Christianity, politicians cater to the religious sectors of the electorate through the use of God in their rhetoric. In doing so, they identify their personal religious views in elections.
On a simple level, this inclusion of God in political rhetoric consists of “God bless America” after public speeches, claiming that you pray before meals and attend church every Sunday. Simple uses of God in political speech are to appease the average American Christian citizen. And it works, as Christianity and the United States culture are basically intermingled.
When George W. Bush was president, the use of religious rhetoric in politics bypassed the casual use of “God bless America.” Instead, Bush started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after God told him, “George, go fight these terrorists in Afghanistan… George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq,” according to a report by Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian foreign minister. Uses of religious rhetoric like this bring personal religious views too far into the public and, in this case, global sphere, deviating from secular government, which is expected in a nation built of diverse immigrants with diverse religions.
In this year’s presidential election, it is evident that candidates have not abandoned their effort to sweet-talk the large number of evangelical voters. Donald Trump recently received an endorsement from “one of the evangelical community’s biggest names,” Jerry Falwell Jr., according to a report by The Washington Post. Trump has briefly spoken about his religious views, stating he has “a great relationship with God” and that the Bible is his “favorite book.” Trump has also gone on record stating that he wants “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in one of his common outbursts of xenophobia.
In contrast to Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic socialist, announced that he is “not actively involved with organized religion,” according to an interview with The Washington Post. If elected Sanders would not only be the first Jewish president, but a president who does not incorporate religious rhetoric into his political display.
It is with this pivotal presidential election that we will see the direction our nation is heading in. Regardless of who is elected, if either Trump or Sanders end up in the White House, we may see the nation come to a religious crossroad: one being political secularity, the other being political bigotry. Regardless of which road is taken, it seems as though the nation will react in favor of inclusiveness, thus slipping away from the stronghold of conventional Christianity.