Let’s keep politics and religion separate
To the Editor:
This week a friend posted a Will Rogers quote from 1931 that is certainly relevant today. “Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.”
I find it a fascinating fact that it was approximately 66 years between the Wright brothers’ first flight and man landing on the moon. In comparison, I find it horrifying that with all the advancements in our country during the 91 years after this quote, estimates found 44.2 million Americans did not have enough food to eat in 2022. That number has, of course, grown larger in the last two years. What does this say about us, the richest country in the world?
Let’s put aside discussions of the 1% and the fascinating trickle up for the moment. Let’s go to church. We are constantly being bombarded lately by politicians’ talking points saying we are a Christian nation and using Christianity in order to push their agendas. Many churches are involved in the political process like I’ve never seen before. They are steadily pushing, and getting passed, changes in laws that affect every one of us, not just the people who share their beliefs. Some of these changes take away fellow citizen’s rights.
To maintain tax-exempt status, churches are not allowed to lobby and participate in politics, yet many are doing so. Their tax privilege was partially based on the fact they are expected to use those tax savings to help their fellow man with charity. You know, the kind of stuff Jesus talked about? Current estimates are that U.S. faith-based institutions account for a combined revenue of more than $378 billion per year. It is estimated that it would currently take $25 billion to end hunger in America.
That’s right, if we are looking at income from religious institutions as a group, only 7% of the annual faith-based, tax-free, income would do the job. I acknowledge this is a very complex problem that isn’t easily solved by just whipping out a checkbook. But aren’t those numbers embarrassing? They should be. That being said, I know that there are many churches and many individual Christians who do their part and so much more. There are also many non-Christians that do their part and so much more. One role of the church is charity — politics is not and should not be.
I was raised in the Baptist church. There are dozens and dozens of Baptist denominations alone in America, each with their own tenets of belief, otherwise there wouldn’t be separate sects. Estimates say there are over 10,000 recognized religions worldwide and about 32% of those are Christian. In the U.S. approximately 74% of recognized religions are Christian denominations.
The separation of church and state in this country is to protect all of us and enable us, as Americans, our right to worship our beliefs as we choose. When that wall of separation falls, it endangers the privilege for all of us, regardless of our beliefs. Our country was founded to give people religious freedom. They were trying to escape those in power telling them how to worship. Not being allowed your choice of worship is the actual definition of religious persecution — a phrase which is frequently misused as a dog whistle for political purposes in today’s America. No one has been denied their legal right to be a Christian.
Most of our founding fathers considered themselves Deists, not Christian. They believed in God but not Revelations. They also believed, though not Christian themselves, that a true Christian should be free to worship as they wished. They created the Constitution using both the ideas of The Enlightenment and obviously the ideas concerning humanity and its framework of guidelines for morality, etc., largely based on the teachings of Christianity.
The Constitutional right to religious freedom has served as a beacon to the world since our country was founded. We find ourselves at a big crossroads today where some people are trying to destroy those religious rights for their fellow citizens. I want to clarify that I respect and honor everyone’s right to worship as they see fit. Or, the right to not worship, if that is the case. We all deserve the same privilege of that right as it is given in the Constitution. A Christian and a Christian Nationalist are two very different things. One of them is going to tell you what you are allowed to do based on their tenets of faith, not yours. I pray that enough people soon learn the difference before it’s too late.