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July 3, 2008

Keep religion out of presidential politics

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/keep_religion_out_of_presidential_politics_20080702

Since last summer, when I volunteered for a Barack Obama event, I have received many nonsensical e-mails and heard many nonsensical arguments -- from friends and family as well as on TV -- about Sen. Obama's alleged lack of allegiance to the United States of America. Bias and inaccurate conjecture have infiltrated the good judgment of many people I know regarding Obama's disloyalty to this country through the avenue of his prior membership in his "radical church." But before people tar and feather Obama, they should educate themselves further about what they are claiming.

The founding fathers of this country constructed an ideal for a society where religion would not be a roadblock to fair government representation. The intangible and the untestable were to remain in the completely separate sphere of church, while the practical and scientific were to constitute the sphere of state.

While our nation has made great strides toward the ultimate goal of a secular government, many Americans continue to associate morality with religion. Therefore, presidential candidates are rigorously scrutinized for their religious beliefs. After assertions that presumptive Democratic nominee Obama is a Muslim, his actual church, Trinity United Church of Christ, came under a series of attacks.

Indeed, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Church has made ludicrous statements. For instance, Wright has preached that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a symbol of some sort of worldly karma when he stated: "America's chickens have come home to roost!"

In addition, Wright continues to voice his opinion that the American government planted AIDS within the black community to sabotage its potential success and preserve the system of white supremacy.

But black liberation theology's roots are deeper than one 21st-century preacher's fiery sermons. The black community that has adopted this theology relates to Jesus through the common portal of struggle in the face of an unjust opposition, and it purports, whether figuratively or literally, that Jesus was black. There is much philosophical depth to this theology, but it is unpopular simply because it does not have as big a following as the other more thriving theologies in our society.

Interestingly enough, the same type of irrationality can be found among the most popular of theologies or religions throughout history -- just look at crusades, jihad, the Spanish Inquisition, blood libels, witch hunts and countless other aspects of insanity in world history. Because religion, based on faith, often lacks rational credibility, yet its supposed absolute truths have been accepted as such, it has been endowed with the ability to create and support some of the most monstrous acts of human indecency in history.

As one of the leading Christian voices of support for Israel, the Rev. John Hagee has been invited to speak at pro-Israel venues many times. The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, also successfully solicited, then recently renounced, the support of Hagee. But as I recently learned, Christian evangelical support for Israel rests largely on the idea that in order for Christian prophecy to be fulfilled, the Jews must retake Israel and have the Jewish Messiah arrive. This Jewish Messiah will then be demolished by the second coming of Jesus. Hagee's backhanded support for Israel was confirmed with the resurfacing of his assertion that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jewish people back to Israel.

As a Jew, am I supposed to care that Hagee supports McCain and that he thinks the Holocaust was just another step in God's plan for the second coming of Jesus? Or should I care more about Wright believing that Jesus was black? Should I care that every presidential nominee truly believes that I, a non-believer in Jesus, am denied eternal salvation? Absolutely not.

The fact is that irrational divisiveness is found in every religion. For this reason, it is simply unfair for the media and the American public to fault Obama for his religious affiliation. Given that any religious affiliation can be portrayed as ethically deleterious, let us not turn our backs on the separation between church and state. Let us not mix practical politics with irrelevant claims of religiosity. Let us not, as a nation with a conscience, shoot down Obama for his affiliation with a less popular form of absurdity.


Adam Deutsch will be a senior at YULA boys high school in the fall.



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