Of Course There’s a Religious Test for Office

Of Course There’s a Religious Test for Office October 19, 2015

GI_voting_in_GuantanamoIt’s called the voter.

And all of the beliefs, values, ignorance, convictions, stereotypes, and knowledge that s/he possesses.

When Ben Carson made some news last month asserting that he didn’t think a Muslim could or should be president, rather than turn voters off, it drew more to him. Because plenty of voters agree with him, that Islam is somehow inconsistent with the Constitution and their version of American values.

Polling consistently shows that U.S. voters are very unlikely to vote for a Muslim or an atheist for President. I think that the reason is fairly obvious: They assume that Muslims and atheists can’t possibly be good and decent people with moral values and leadership skills needed to lead this complicated democracy. Because they aren’t Christian.

At work in both cases, it seems to me, is Christian privilege. In a country where Christianity is the social norm and the demographic majority religion, it becomes an unquestioned good. Anything that deviates from it is automatically suspect. Such thinking becomes more problematic when evermore narrowing definitions of Christianity are used:

White Christian (Barack Obama must be a Kenyan Muslim!)

Male Christian (Hillary Clinton must be evil!)

Evangelical Christian (Mitt Romney is part of a cult!)

Heterosexist Christian (Kim Davis is a hero!)

Ben Carson and other candidates benefit from voter ignorance about what sharia law is, stereotypes of what the beliefs of American Muslims are, and prejudice against anything outside a specific type of Christianity in this country. I’d rather spread the benefit of respect and inclusion so that more voters can see beyond their own social and religious privilege.Whether it’s in the classroom or in writing or in speaking, I’m cursed with the hope that dispelling ignorance, interrupting stereotype, and correcting falsehood matters. It might not matter to some candidates who continue to spout misinformation, or to some Christians who are convinced they are the only persecuted ones, but it might matter to a voter out there somewhere.

They reveal that there is a religious test for office.

For more of what I have written about Christian privilege, click here.

Image via wikimedia commons.



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