Miss Manners tells us to avoid religion and politics in polite conversation. But the gloves are off in the letters section of this newspaper, where the link between God and government is the favorite subject of habitual letter writers. Depending on the individual's reading of the Bible and the Constitution, we live in either a Christian nation, assailed by the godless left, or a secular one, threatened by the religious right.
A local church leader weighed in on the God gap last month, writing, "We're out of our pews now, and we're coming in love to you at the polls ... to propose for conversion to God and peace in the heart." His name and denomination are not important. An Internet search of his homilies reveals the pastor's path from the pews to the polls.
Here's a sample of direct quotes taken from sermons he gave a month after the 2008 presidential election and a month before the midterms two years later: "Socialism is our god, and Obama is his prophet ... Jesus came to save us from abortion, homosexual lust, socialism, liberalism. ... We can establish the Kingdom of God here in the U.S. and still respect our Constitution. ... That means we exclude abortion, exclude gender confusion, exclude some people from marrying because they don't want to marry someone of the opposite gender ... and if we're the majority we have the right to do so, and we say no, the minority doesn't have the right to impose itself upon us."
During my entire Catholic education, from elementary school through college, I'd never heard of Jesus' plan to save us from turning gay, liberal or socialist, or that majority rule trumps minority rights.
In a recently published essay, "God and Caesar in America," based on their 2010 book, "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us," a couple of university professors explained why mixing religion and politics is bad for both.
David E. Campbell of the University of Notre Dame, and Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam tracked the changing religious and political views of separate age groups from 2006 to 2011. They found "religion" to those in their 20s "means, 'Republican,' 'intolerant,' and 'homophobic.' Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves ---- or wish to be seen by their peers ---- as religious."
The researchers concluded, "All sides ---- progressive and conservative, religious and secular ---- should be concerned that placing a partisan label on religion has hurt the ability of religious leaders to summon moral arguments on behalf of causes that transcend left and right."
Before the pastor and his flock head to the polls, maybe they should think about what they're leaving behind in the pews.