Of the many questions that have resounded throughout the nation during this presidential campaign, two stand out: Is America ready for a black president? How about a female vice president?
The real question for me is: Are we ready for a president that isnt a Christian?
Historically, every single president has had some sort of Christian faith. But is this faith sincere, or is it a calculated political move designed to court an American population that is predominately religious? How real is a presidents faith?
Could Richard Nixon, a man with a notoriously foul temper, mouth and personality a man whose lasting reputation is that of a crook really have been a strong believer?
Could Ronald Reagan who passionately supported military action and whose policies toward the poor and AIDS victims seemed less than Jesus-like have really been profoundly Christian?
What about Bill Clinton?
In a lecture Friday night titled Religious but Not Too Religious, distinguishedLouisiana State Universityprofessor David Holmes detailed the faiths of several of our most recent presidents, including Reagan, Nixon and Clinton.
According to Holmes, their faiths may be more genuine than might at first be obvious.
The venerable professors research into these mens lives reveals most of them were, like anybody else, highly influenced by their parents. Most of them retained the same basic faith with some variation. When professor Holmes described the faith of these presidents, he sounded like he was describing any average Joes faith journey.
Each of them went to Protestant church as kids, each of them rethought their faith in college and each of them proceeded to join a marginally different Protestant church as adults.
All of the presidents discussed in the lecture followed this common path or maintained their religion of birth throughout their lives. There were no atheists who magically became Christian, no reformed Satanists and no former Amish although Nixon was raised a Quaker.
Other than a few interesting tidbits, the lecture was a little boring, but that alone means something. The very fact that these presidents faith journeys are so much like any other persons detracts from the cynical theory that a presidents faith is an ingenuine construct used for political gain.
Unless real life is like the Manchurian Candidate, a president cant control the family he is born into. But we as Americans do control what kind of people enter that office. Since Americas founding, a candidate without at least some kind of rudimentary Christian faith hasnt been able to survive.
Ever heard of Michael Dukakis? I rest my case.
It seems to me that such a rule is detrimental to our society. Shouldnt we be electing presidents based on their credentials, plans and statesmanship? What if we stumbled upon a Muslim or an atheist who just so happened to have the answers to the universe shouldnt we at least give him a shot?
I understand the argument that a presidents Christianity supposedly means that candidate will have integrity and upstanding character. But dont other faiths lead to upstanding moral fiber? Isnt it possible to have good character without faith?
Besides, just because a guy is a Christian doesnt mean hes not liable to, say, send goons to wiretap his opponents, have extramarital official business with an intern or tacitly endorse torture.
If we can have a black president, a female vice president or a really, really old president, then we should be able to have a president who doesnt necessarily ask Jesus who we should drop the bombs on.