Monday, August 29, 2011

presidential religion & article 6

The other day Michele Bachman was questioned by Byron York of the Washington Examiner regarding what it meant for her to submit to her husband. The audience booed and since then lots of talking heads have said that her faith is a private matter and is out of bounds for questions. She answered, “Thank you for that question, Byron. What submission means to me—if that’s what your question is—it means respect.”

Then there was a blog on the Washington Post written by Richard Dawkins attacking Rick Perry on some of his faith stances, particularly his dismissal of evolution.

All of this makes me want to write about the 6th article of the constitution again. Article 6, paragraph 3 of the constitution says, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The argument that has come from some quarters, both liberal and conservative, is basically that you cannot vote against someone on religious grounds. As I said in the previous post, that is just plain stupid.
The article is referring to a legal test. Nobody can be excluded from running for president on the grounds of his or her religion or lack thereof. The article says nothing abut an individual's right to vote for whomever they want for any reason that is important to them. If I want to vote for someone just because they practice one religious tradition or against someone because they practice another, that is my right.

I want to know and everyone needs to know what Michele Bahman means when she says she is submissive to her husband. If she is thinking about bombing Palestine, decides against it, and then her husband tells her it is the right thing to do, they discuss it and still disagree... I want to know whether that means she will just acquiesce. If I vote for her for president, I want to know what role her spouse will play. Will he be an important advisor, as I would expect virtually all presidential spouses have been, or would he be the final say, after all, she said that she submits to her husband. And frankly, if she really means that means that she respects him... then she is lying to everyone about her theology and that tells me even more.

I want to know if she truly believes that the earthquake and the hurricane were messages from God to control spending? And how does she know they weren't messages from God to cut back on greenhouse gasses or to provide medical care for the poor? And are all disasters to be read as messages from God?

I want to ask Rick Perry what he thinks about education when he writes off commonly accepted scientific conclusions, about which, I'd bet he has very little real information? Does he really believe that a majority climate scientists are fudging their data to further their careers? And if he thinks that, what does his understand about the way that scientific research works? I want to know why, when disasters hit places other than Texas, it is the judgment of God while when a terrible drought hits Texas, it is a call to prayer rather than an indictment of the present administration's sin? And the cynic in me wants to know why he thinks God did not answer their prayers?

Hey, it isn't about conservatives only. I was thrilled to see that Obama was a member of Jeremiah Wright's church and likely has/had a good understanding of liberation theology. As I've said before he was not my first choice but that piece of knowledge would have made it much easier for me to vote for him as I think liberation theology is a positive theology and reflects a good general understanding of the scriptures. I was saddened when he left that church and that told me something about the role of faith in his life.

All of this is to say that religion or lack thereof is an important facet of what makes a person and must be fair game when we're trying to figure out who to vote for. The same is true about their education, I'd like to know what they studied and where... it does tell us a good bit about their formation. I even want to know about their career paths. A lawyer is trained to think like a lawyer. A physician is trained to look at the world through a very specific set of lenses. A business owner or a career military person likewise seems things in a specific way. And I want to know where they grew up. Did they spend their childhood years in a wealthy white suburb or a mixed race middle class neighborhood in a large city or did they grow up on a farm in the heartland? Clearly, none of these characteristics are necessarily definitive, but they are all part of the puzzle and they all deserve consideration and tell us something about the candidate.

So Mrs. Bachman, was does it mean when you say you submit to your husband and how will that play out if you are elected? Mr. Perry, how is it that you write off a scientific theory that has virtually unanimous support in the scientific community and how does that impact how you understand education and how you understand the judgement of experts in any given field? Mr Obama, how do you understand the theme of liberation in the Bible and the prophetic tradition that stood against those with power and for those on the margins and how would that impact a second term if you receive one?


Bev Barnett said...

Wouldn't you just like the three of them to be struck by the same quirk as Jim Carey in "Liar Liar," where its impossible for them not to tell the truth? Just for a day?

Michael Mahoney said...

I think I agree with you in principle, Roy. However, I think that the forum in which the question was asked was inappropriate for a discussion of the finer points of Ephesians 5. I think she gave the best answer she could, given the situation. How do you answer a deeply theological question in a 30-second soundbite?

While I understand Mr. York's reasoning for asking, (and I think it is a question worth exploring) that was the wrong time and place for it.

roy said...

I understand what you're saying Michael... the question then would be, what is the proper time and place to ask the question? What venue do we have where there is true question and answer with any of the candidates where they answer with anything other than 30 second sound bites and/or hear the question and then answer with what they were planning to say on whatever topic anyway? And, what questions are fair game in a forum like the one where this was asked? Finally, do we really care what the candidates think if only inconsequential questions are asked that can rightly be answered with a 30 second answer?

Michael Mahoney said...

She got into it a little more on Meet the Press, but she was pretty much bushwhacked there.

Clearly her views on Eph. 5 don't echo mine. You can take what you want from that. But that work "submit" is pretty much misunderstood in context, anyway.

As to the debates themselves, I find them of limited value. They are so defined, so scripted that they are practically meaningless. Candidates might as well write position papers - it's pretty much the same thing. There hasn't been a decent moment in a debate since Benson took Quayle to the woodshed.