Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"This is a Christian Country."

These words, or similar ones, have been used frequently during this too-long election season; even John McCain recently said that the country was founded on Christian principles, justly earning criticism from non-Christian groups.

Unfortunately, these words were also used during the commission of what was apparently a hate crime on the Avenue Q subway in Brooklyn, NY over the weekend.

According to reports, four passengers were beaten after exchanging Hanukkah greetings on the train, with the attackers blaming them for the death of Jesus Christ and saying “This is a Christian country.”

This is what happens when the media and the politicians bring religion into the public arena instead of keeping it in the personal realm where it belongs. It makes the country safe for bigotry. Why, in the 21st century, do we still have Jews being beaten just for being Jews? Because there are a passel of politicians out there pandering to the far right Christian movement, and falling all over one another to prove they are the most Christian of the bunch.

Jesus himself said that his kingdom is not of this world. Why, then, do so many in politics want to make it part of this world?

My guess is it’s a distraction from the real issues, issues that Jesus, were he here today, would have been addressing with gusto: poverty, disease, misery, war. Oh no, that’s too much trouble. Let’s just have a pissing match about who is more Christian instead!

I hate to break it to those who profess this is a Christian nation, but it isn’t. The Constitution doesn’t mention it, and there is actually a document, the Treaty of Tripoli, that spells this out explicitly.

“…a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:

'As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.' "

If there is any doubt about what the Founders meant by the First Amendment, they followed up on its meaning in their correspondence and autobiographies (from the same link):

"Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:

'I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.'

Some Religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and State by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say "freedom of religion," yet the First Amendment implies both.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:

'Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.'

James Madison, perhaps the greatest supporter for separation of church and State, and whom many refer to as the father of the Constitution, also held similar views which he expressed in his letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822:

'And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.' "

So there you have it, in their own words. I am so sick of the politicians pandering to the “Christian” right and perpetuating the myth that we are a nation founded on any kind of religion.

When will a politician have the nerve to stand up and say "I will not discuss my personal beliefs as religion has no bearing on the ability to govern." Probably when pigs fly, or when the polls show that the American public is now sick of this hypocrisy.


Just read an excellent post on the Daily Kos which covers a lot of similar themes: Check out With God On Our Side. (Hat Tip to Balls and Walnuts for pointing out this post.)


Sue J said...

This is a great post -- I hadn't heard about this even in Brooklyn. The link seems to be broken -- was it reported in the MSM?

Sue J said...

whoops -- I meant to say:

"event" in Brooklyn.

(My mind works faster than my fingers sometimes)

Mary Ellen said...

I'm so sorry to hear that something like this is still happening in the US. I would like to say that those who the GOP are pandering to, the Christian right, are really an extreme fringe group of the Christian right. They aren't really Christians, they just use that name in order to try to justify their hatred. They have nothing to do with Jesus or His teachings...they're just greedy hate-mongers.

Jolly Roger said...

No one should be surprised. As we have covered many times in Reconstitution, the "values" movement has racism and religious bigotry at its core. That the bigots feel pretty good about themselves after flipping a Presidential election is an expected result of their ownership of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

Jesusistanis are more dangerous to us than bin Laden could be in his wildest dreams.

splord said...

I, too, have tried to spread the word about the the Treaty of Tripoli, but trying to interject facts into the "debate" with the Christianists is like trying to fly by flapping one's arms. Pointless.

Maybe sheer repetition will cause the info to eventually soak in.

Mauigirl said...

Hi Sue, yes, it was a link to the New York Post - I also heard it on the radio this morning which is what made me look into it. The link should be working now; had a few problems when I first posted it.

Mary Ellen, I totally agree, they aren't real Christians at all, which is why I always like to contrast what Jesus actually said with what they are doing and saying.

Jolly Roger, you're right, they use this as a code symbolizing bigotry without actually saying it. Those whom they talk to understand.

Phydeaux, we can only keep trying. Maybe someday people will understand what the Founding Fathers were really trying to do.

The thing that concerns me is, it isn't just the GOP who are pandering to the religious right - the Democrats are also touting their church memberships and faith. Of course, they're doing it as a defense mechanism rather than outright pandering, but still I'd like to see someone stand up for our Constitution. I think it's fine people have faith. But why should they have to wear it on their sleeves to be elected?

Tom Harper said...

Ironically, Romney is now trying to duck out of answering any questions about his religion. Republicans are the ones who created this hateful climate where everyone's trying to out-"Christian" each other. And now he thinks he can get this party's nomination by saying "religion is a personal matter." Good luck with that one.

Who Hijacked Our Country

Mauigirl said...

The Daily Kos article I linked to in my update talks about how Kennedy handled it - and of course he did what I was wishing for - stuck up for the separation of church and state.

Romney, of course, is trying to have it both ways now and it serves him and his party right that this has become an issue. When his father George was running for president, I believe his Mormon religion wasn't brought into it, because back then it wasn't seen as as litmus test for office.

Fran said...

I had heard about that subway crime.

You know this is all really sad and so so wrong.

You have written a great post on this important topic Mauigirl.

Florinda said...

Thank you for saying this. It seems to me that as the separation of church and state on which this country was founded gets weaker, we're moving closer to the ways of some of the countries we're currently fighting against - the main difference is the specific religion in question.

Many of the beliefs and practices of the religious right (and "right" is what they think they are) are about as un-Christian as it gets.

Mauigirl said...

Thanks, Fran, it really hit me this morning when I heard on the radio that one of the attackers said "This is a Christian country." Makes me sick...

Florinda, thanks for your comment, I totally agree that we are indeed becoming the very kind of country we fear.

M said...

"It’s a distraction from the real issues, issues that Jesus, were he here today, would have been addressing with gusto: poverty, disease, misery, war. " Amen to that!

s. douglas said...

The politicians wouldn't have anyone to pander to if they weren't so many damn idiots in this country.

If I were Emperor, people would have to take an I.Q. test before being allowed to go outside.

Stupidity is more contagious than the Flu.

FreakyNick said...

Romney said we can't have freedom without religion.

I think you can never be free until you are free of the bonds of religion.

You are not free until your actions are not determined by the promise of rewards or the threat of punishments, but by the mere morality or ethic of the action. Actually, that was the philosophy of Jesus, but few understand his teaching. Clearly, the Christians reject his teachings, while still saying they "beleive" in him.

Many Christians use Jesus' name to justify their greedy and bloody deeds. It is their scam.

You must consider this source, I'm a Jewish pantheist. I don't chose this way of thinking, it choses me.

TomCat said...

Jesus clearly believed in the separation of church and state. He said, "Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar's, and unto God, that which is God's."

The difference between that and the subway incident were that the Jesus to whom I referred is the real one. The one you hear about in the GOP and from the subway hooligans is Supply-side Jesus, a theocon, religious right invention to justify their views. Supply-side Jesus favors war, torture, greed, hate, bigotry, intolerance, and the rest of the Bush/GOP value system.

Mauigirl said...

Great comments, all-

M, it's too bad Jesus isn't around today trying to deal with these issues-but probably he'd get locked up for being a subversive.

Fairlane, I wonder why we don't have an IQ test at least for President!

Nick, I agree with you: "You are not free until your actions are not determined by the promise of rewards or the threat of punishments, but by the mere morality or ethic of the action." It is a fallacy that we need religion to tell us what is right and wrong. They recently tested babies and before they're even old enough to talk they can identify the "good" from the "bad."

TC, yes, "supply side" Jesus is a whole other thing! And that's the one the GOP follows...