Thursday, August 21, 2008
I don't follow baseball. So it should have come as no surprise that my last-minute decision to quickly check team colors before heading to Petco Park last Sunday revealed that I was - you guessed it - wearing the opposing team's colors. (To my credit, I was wearing Padres blue. But layering it with red resulted in what could easily be mistaken for Philly pride.)
But I should introduce myself as something other than an ignorant sporting event attendee. I am your new conservative KPBS (stop right there - did I just use "conservative" and "KPBS" together?) citizen blogger, and my attendance (sans red layering tee) at a Padres game brought politics, faith, and patriotism into focus. Perhaps there's just something about singing "God Bless America" with 30,000 strangers during the seventh inning stretch that triggers feelings of unity, pride, and yes - true thankfulness. This, combined with the Saddleback Church Civil Forum of the evening before, got me thinking about the place that religious beliefs - anyone's religious beliefs - hold in American politics.
It is important to recognize and practice the separation of church and state. We do not live in a theocracy, and this country was founded on the principle that every individual is free to practice his or her religion. Separating religion and government, however, does not render a candidate's faith irrelevant. Without morality, a government has no reason for existence - what need would there be for law ? And as long as morality is an important feature of our nation, so too will the religious perspectives of presidential candidates be of interest. This much is made clear by the attention given to the recent conversations Pastor Rick Warren had with Barack Obama and John McCain
Warren was an excellent moderator, posing serious and thought-provoking questions that went beyond what one might expect during a faith forum. And before we rush to judge Warren's motives, it should be noted that he said in a CNN interview last month that he would not publicly support one candidate over the other. In reading Alma's most recent post, it occurred to me that had Obama and McCain been interviewed by a Muslim imam or a Jewish rabbi (interviews I would find newsworthy and interesting), very few would express suspicion at the motives of the interviewer. If Warren had an "all encompassing mission," as Alma puts it, I believe he made it quite clear: "I think I can set up an environment that people can actually say, oh, so that's what that guy's really like." Why must "Christian" be a code word for "Crusader"? I certainly don't believe that "Muslim" is a code word for "terrorist." But back to the forum...