For many years, I have written columns denouncing faith-based politics of both Republican and Democratic Presidents. None however have gone quite as far as President Donald Trump yesterday when he declared that Joe Biden is “against God.” It sounds a bit like a constructive divine endorsement. It is certainly the ultimate expression of the faith-based politics that I have long opposed.
Here is what Trump declared:
“He’s following the radical left agenda, take away your guns, destroy your 2nd Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy. I don’t think he’s going to do too well in Ohio.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden responded “For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful.”
To be accurate, he was not attacking Biden’s faith. It was much worse than that. He was suggesting that a vote for Biden is a vote against God. In other words, Biden could be entirely faithful but he is a tool of the Devil. I doubt Biden would find much solace in the distinction.
I can only state again the dangerous demagoguery that comes from faith-based politics. In a nation that believes in the separation of church and state, such claims erode our secular tradition of government. We have seen countries with long and fierce secular traditions like Turkey taken over by religious orthodoxy after faith-based politics led to religious indoctrination (Erdogan actually claimed when he first ran that he would respect the secular traditions of Turkey).
I do not for a moment believe that we can become the next Turkey. Moreover, there is always a legitimate element of faith in political viewpoints. For example, many people support some laws or policies out of their religious convictions like the opposing to abortion. However, this is raw and direct use of religion is meant to paint an opponent as against God himself.
I do not see either Trump or Biden as particularly religious figures and cannot imagine the faithful taking religious pointers from either man. However, this is wrong. It is unfair to Biden. It is harmful to our political discourse. It is antithetical to our constitutional values.
Besides, if God took a position on our earthy contests, he would never have allowed the Royals to beat the Cubs 13-2 last night. That hurt God, but he has left it to the rest of us to judge.
What I said before the 2008 election holds true today:
“The religiosity in the current campaigns represents an important choice by those candidates who chose sectarian over secular values in government.Obama strongly chastised people who objected to the religiosity that has become the norm in American politics. ‘Secularists,’ he insisted, ‘are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.’ But ‘believers’ are equally wrong to refuse to answer questions of their beliefs once they cross that political river Jordan and begin to proselytize for the presidency. After all, in 2 Corinthians 13:5, the faithful are instructed to ‘examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.’ Perhaps, by testing the politically pious, we can all hope for a degree of enlightenment in this election.”