Monday, November 26, 2007

Happened Upon

I happened upon this article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Wacky. Here is an excerpt and a link. I thought it inspired a thought or two.

People Before Prophets
We're making too much of politicians' religious faith.

Friday, November 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

I was talking with an old friend, a longtime Democrat, and she asked if I knew what religion a certain presidential candidate was. I replied that I didn't know and hoped I'd never find out. We started to laugh, and she nodded.

I didn't mean it and yet I meant it, for we have come to an odd pass regarding candidates and their faith. It's not as if faith is unimportant, it's always important. But we are asking our political figures--mere flawed politicians--to put forward and talk about their faith to a degree that has become odd. We push them against the wall and do a kind of theological frisk on them. We didn't use to.

Forty years ago, a firm-jawed, silver-haired Michigan governor made a serious bid for the presidency. He was well-funded, well-credentialed, and was done in by one of those campaign gaffes in which a throwaway line becomes a death knell. He had changed his position on Vietnam, and in explaining his previous support said he'd been "brainwashed" on the issue. Americans don't like their presidents to be people who'd allow their brains to be sent to the dry cleaners. Republicans in particular were not amused. So he was over.

His name was George Romney. He was Mitt's father. And no one back in those narrow-minded, benighted days seems to have cared that much that he was a Mormon.

Now it's an issue. Now we debate the candidate's faith.

This is change. Is it progress?

It doesn't feel like it.

In 1968 we were, as now, a religious country. But when we walked to the polls, we thought we were about to hire a president, not a Bible study teacher.

No one cared, really, that Richard Nixon was a Quaker. They may have been confused by it, but they weren't upset. His vice president, Spiro Agnew, was not Greek Orthodox but Episcopalian. Nobody much noticed. Nelson Rockefeller of New York was not an Episcopalian but a Baptist. Do you know what Lyndon Johnson's religion was? He was a member of the Disciples of Christ, but in what appeared to be the same way he was a member of the American Legion: You're in politics, you join things. Hubert Humphrey was born Lutheran, attended Methodist churches, and was rumored to be a Congregationalist. This didn't quite reach the level of mystery because nobody quite cared.