Because of secular enablers, God is with us in the American public square — whether we want Him there or not.
It’s one of the cultural peculiarities that makes the United States unique, our broadly knee-jerk religiosity in a largely secular, republican system.
Even though our Founding Fathers fervently and pointedly sought to leave religion well outside our democratic government and public policy decisions, our Abrahamic faith has, in a sense, become “baked in” the system — the result, originally unintended, of several centuries of vast Christian demographic dominance in the populace.
So today we have these frequent and curious evocations of the divine by elected officials when talking about policy. Like it’s OK. Like it’s normal.
For instance, there’s Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott’s allusion to God in May when he signed state Senate Bill 8, the cruel anti-abortion “vigilante” legislation that now virtually prohibits every abortion in Texas after the first six weeks of pregnancy (when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant). Private citizens, not the state, will be the enforcers with lawsuits carrying $10,000 rewards for snitches against aborters and their helpers.
Gov. Abbott then thrice claimed, speciously, that “our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives.”
First, there is no evidence whatsoever that an omnipotent supernatural being ever endowed us with anything, much less exists at all. Second, actually fewer than one million abortions are performed annually in the U.S. Third, Texas’ draconian new law, which ostensibly works to save embryos and immature fetuses, also works in tandem to endanger and traumatize the mothers by blocking them — even in cases of rape, incest and health of the mother — from obtaining the constitutionally protected abortions they choose to have, and potentially ensuring a load of often lifelong misery imposed by questionable state fiat.
Such a loving, merciful God, this.
So, this is all bad enough, of course, but for secular Americans in a supposedly nonreligious public square, it’s perhaps equally disquieting that faith — primarily of the Christian persuasion — has been allowed to corrupt the public-policy decision-making process surrounding this issue.
In her excellent recent New York Times column on this issue, titled “God Has No Place in Supreme Court Opinions,” Linda Greenhouse wrote:
“Who let God in the legislative chamber?”
It’s an expansively fair question, considering federal lawmakers giving Christian sermons in the halls of Congress during annual Nation Prayer Week, state legislators passing bills requiring “In God We Trust” be emblazoned on school walls and auto license plates, and even the U.S. Supreme Court in a recent ruling voting to allow an enormous Christian cross to remain on a publicly owned thoroughfare in Maryland, etc., etc., etc.
More disturbing still is that self-same Supreme Court just this month ruling 5-4 not to consider Texas’ unconscionable new anti-abortion legislation — thus allowing it to immediately become the law of the land in Texas.
Although they’d probably vehemently insist partisanship of any kind had absolutely nothing to do with their decision, four of the five justices voting “aye” to ignore the Texas case are Catholic — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett (according to the National Catholic Register). The fifth affirmative vote came from the newest justice, Neal Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic but now attends an Episcopal church (which is like Catholic lite).
Barrett, in a lecture delivered after the public blowback on the controversial non-verdict on Texas’s restrictive new abortion law, emphasized, according to an article in The Independent, that Supreme Court justices are not “a bunch of partisan hacks.”
“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” she said, pointing out that the news media failed to fairly capture the deliberative process of the court in reaching the judgements it makes. … “[There is a] need to evaluate what the court is doing on its own terms.”
Except that the Roman Catholic Church, I should point out, is vehemently, dogmatically and inflexibly opposed to abortion in all its forms — and Barrett is a member of one of the church’s fringier offshoots, the charismatic, fundamentalist People of Praise network.
Voting “nay,” by default, to allowing unchallenged implementation of the new Texas law were Chief Justice John Roberts, a Catholic, and the court’s three liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayer (also Catholic) and Stephen Bryer and Elena Kagan, both Jewish.
Arguably, any possible religious bias in votes of individual Supreme Court justices is obscured by the understandable reticence of justices to cop to that. But the Christian core of the Texas law — confirmed by Gov. Abbott’s effusive godly allusions referencing it — are not.
And Abbott is hardly alone in his unsubstantiated assumptions about divine providence. In her piece, Times columnist Greenhouse wrote:
“Two years earlier, signing a bill that criminalized nearly all abortions in Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey called the measure a ‘testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.’”
Greenhouse contends that,
“Our silence has turned us into enablers of those who are now foisting their religious beliefs on a country founded on opposition to an established church.”
This is exactly how church-state separation gets un-separated, when secularist, Jeffersonian Americans let these inappropriate and ominous religious insinuations into the body politic proceed without pushback.
Keep in mind, Greenhouse advises, that the five Supreme Court justices who chose to let the cruel Texas anti-abortion law slide were nominated by Republican presidents “who ran on a party platform that called for the appointment of judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Whatever the jurists’ intent in their consideration of Texas’ SB 8, it just looks bad.
In the meantime, U.S. elected officials, like Colorado Christian nationalist Rep. Lauren Boebert keep insisting we need more God in the American political system, not less.
“Are we going to sit back and complain and murmur? Or are we going to speak life into this nation?” Boebert said in an impromptu prayer recently at Charis Bible College, located at 800 Gospel Truth Way, Woodland Park, Colorado. She claimed that U.S. government should be run by “righteous men and women of God.”
“Are we going to speak victory? Are we going to declare that God removes these unrighteous politicians, these corrupt, crooked politicians, and installs righteous men and women of God? … It’s time the church speaks up. The church has relinquished too much authority to government. We should not be taking orders from the government.”
Instead, Boebert contends, government should be taking its orders from God.
This is church-state desegregation in progress. And if we don’t forcefully call it out whenever it arises, we enable it.
Note that tens of millions of Christian nationalist Americans, who support religious charlatans like Boebert and her hero, Donald Trump, envision a Christian theocracy ultimately replacing American democracy.
Say something. Loudly.