The list of announced and probable Democratic, Republican, and third-party and independent candidates for the U. S. presidency grows. Seemingly, by the day.
These aspirants for the highest office in the land have begun to articulate their political viewpoints and policy concerns, with more details to come in the ensuing days, weeks, and months. I also anticipate that we will hear statements of the candidates’ beliefs – their perspectives on God and their personal histories regarding religion and faith. We will hear these sacred stories because we will ask. For, I think, we Americans care that any potential President of the United States believes in God and not especially, but rather particularly, decidedly in a Christian God. (Remember the 2012 presidential campaign and the intense scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, whether it was a Christian religion and if so, how much, and if not, how far removed? With John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s 1960 election, we resolved that Roman Catholicism was, indeed, acceptably Christian despite some skepticism about undue papal influence over Roman Catholic office holders; though JFK has been our only Roman Catholic president.)
If my characterization of our American predilection, indeed, prejudice about religious belief and presidential candidacy is accurate, then, it seems to me, it signifies that a need-not-apply banner, verily ban is imposed on Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, in a word, all other religions and faith traditions, and, needless to say, agnostics and atheists. Although I am a Christian and an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I find this problematic.
America, from the time of its founding and before in recognition of Native American societies, has been, is, and will be a richly heterogeneous tapestry of peoples and cultures, together embracing, embodying varieties of religions and non-religions, theistic and non-theistic beliefs and rituals. To make Christian profession a sine qua non for a presidential contender is necessarily exclusionary and, in my mind, not in a self-evidentially commendable way. For we eliminate the possibility of hearing, honoring different worldviews. Moreover, we commend, compel a candidates, depending on the audience, to form and frame their religious views in ways that potentially violate individual integrity (and, truth be told, no matter what candidates say about their Christian beliefs and values, as human, their behavior and, in fact, what they truly believe will fall short and distant from what “Christian” means in the understanding of any given voter). Furthermore, we also put ourselves as a nation in the position of failing to esteem one of our sacred liberties enumerated in Article One of our U. S. Constitution, the freedom of religion, which also inherently bears within it a freedom from religion.
Now, some do cleave to the viewpoint that America is a Christian nation. (Of course, it depends on what one means by that statement. That most Americans are Christian? That our national formative documents, principally, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, prove that intent of our founding forebears [and that, of course, can be a matter of interpretation]? That America, by official governmental enactment, should be made a Christian nation, thus, a theocracy?) However, for me, in the light of our national origins and historical evolution, again, ever and always a richly heterogeneous tapestry of peoples and cultures, I respectfully disagree. I also disagree with our national request, demand, whether publicly declared or tacitly understood, to have our presidential candidates be Christian.