Religion and Politics in the US

Welcome to RelPol, a student peer reviewed online magazine. This magazine is part of the assessment for the module "In God We Trust" @ the University of Hull.

The Republican Party and the US as a Christian country

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This political cartoon shows the issue of the Republican Party’s belief that the US is a Christian nation. This in turn, leads the party to want Christian beliefs to influence the country’s laws.  This idea that the US is a Christian country causes many problems due to the variety of religious affiliations in the country and the first amendment, which promises citizens of the US the freedom to practice the religion they choose.  It also causes problems during political campaigns, with candidates criticising each other’s religious beliefs, and in the case of claims made against Obama, that they are lying about their religion entirely.

The belief of the Republican Party that the US is a Christian nation can cause many problems. The fact that it is a direct violation of the first amendment is the most crucial one. The first amendment, which promises freedom of religion, is a law that the vast majority of Americans want to remain in place. The law, which protects atheists and other religious groups, makes it impossible for the government to pass laws, which favour one religion over others. According to a pew forum poll, 70.6% of the country identify as some type of Christian denomination (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/).  However, despite Christian faiths being the majority, the differing beliefs between the different denominations would make establishing the US as a Christian country and adjusting the laws to align with the beliefs impossible.

Another reason why the Republican Party’s insistence causes problems is that it often distracts the party from issues that affect large areas of the US. According to Green, Guth and Wilcox, the Republican Party and the influential Religious Right, do not see it this way. According to them the Christian right leaders believe “the movement has voiced legitimate grievances of millions of conservative citizens inspired by deep religious faith, using old-fashioned grass-roots politics to take advantage of favourable electoral circumstances” (John C. Green, James L. Guth, Clyde Wilcox; http://faculty.georgetown.edu/wilcoxc/guth.pdf).  While the conservative Christians may be right in assuming the majority of the country identifies as Christian, what they fail to realise is that there are many denominations that fall into the Christian category. Green, Guth and Wilcox also state that critics of the conservative Christians, see the groups “influence in “elitist” terms: a tiny band of well-organized zealots, peddling an extreme agenda, has seized Republican organizations by guile and stealth, exploiting institutional flaws”  (John C. Green, James L. Guth, Clyde Wilcox; http://faculty.georgetown.edu/wilcoxc/guth.pdf).

The Republican Party’s focus on Christianity and the idea that to be a patriotic American you have to be Christian has caused other issues for the party. This usually shows itself through attacks on democratic politicians for being un-American. The most notable case is the attacks on Barak Obama. Despite being a practicing Christian, many who oppose Obama’s presidency have made claims that he his in fact a Muslim. This, in some cases, has even led to people in the Republican Party to claim that Obama is not even an American citizen. Donald Trump, republican presidential nomination candidate, is one of the most notable people in this group. Writing in the conservative magazine ‘American Thinker’, writer Jack Cashill writes in support of Trump, adding his view to the belief that Obama is lying about his faith.  According to Cashill “”The fallacy that President Obama is a Muslim has tripped up many a politician,” said NPR’s Jessica Taylor hopefully on Friday, “and on Thursday night, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump was its latest victim.” Trump’s presumed faux pas was his failure to correct a questioner who asserted that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Taylor’s real error as a reporter, like that of all her mainstream colleagues, was to dismiss the questioner’s assertion as a “fallacy” without providing any evidence to the contrary” (Jack Cashill, 21st September 2015, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/09/so_is_barack_obama_a_muslim_or_what.html). He then goes on to add claims from former teachers and books by Obama, which Cashill claims shows Obama is lying about being a Christian. Later in the article he states that “To those paying attention, Obama’s conversion seemed as calculated as his choice of wife. Early biographer David Mendell noted that in 2004 “Obama, without fail, would mention his church and his Christian faith when he was campaigning in black churches and more socially conservative downstate Illinois communities”. While Cashill sees this as Obama lying about his faith, he makes no reference to the countless times republican politicians focus on Christianity, especially when in so called bible belt areas where they have a stronghold. Articles such as this clearly show the issue of that the idealism of Christianity has on right wing supporters.

The idealism of Christianity and the want among the Right for the US to have it as an official religion has the ability to cause many issues for the Republican Party. Some of the issues, such as the ones stated, can have far reaching implications, as it can increase tensions between different faiths, and even between those of those of the same religious beliefs. These divisions can already be seen with GOP candidates accusing rivals of being the wrong type of Christian. This is especially clear with Donald Trump making derogatory remarks about the faith of rival Ben Carson. This can also detract from more important issues and can cause people to become disinterested in their role in politics and led to an increased distrust of politicians. This would cause major problems in the long term, which shows just how dangerous the Rights insistence on the US being a Christian country can be.

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2015 by in A Christian Nation?, Vol 3, 2015/16.
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