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“KEEP THE FAITH, BABY!”

GOD IN WARS, WEDDINGS, POLITICS, PULPITS, AND …

 

“Before I was a Democrat, I was a Negro, and before I was a Negro, I was a child of God.”

-Congressman Adam Clayton Powell-

 

There was considerable consternation after POTUS 45 signed his executive order enabling organized churches to be more politically active.  However, as noted by the editors of Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America, “The mingling of religion and politics has formed a defining feature of American public life ever since the founding of the United States as a nation.”  When America faced its most serious domestic crisis, for example, Abraham Lincoln stated, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

The Union Army and sympathizers sanctimoniously sang, “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!  While God is marching on!”  Southern supporters selectively quoted the Bible verse, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” 

Instead of a separation of church and state, American life has always been a matter of who at a given historical moment professed to have God on their side and had the power to enforce their views, e.g., Americans declared God to be on their side when they devastated Native Americans; killed more than a half million of each other during the Civil War; fought two World Wars, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War; and now are engaged in wars throughout the Middle East. 

When he advocated for adding “one nation, under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, then Michigan U. S. Representative Charles Oakman explained, “Mr. Speaker …One of the most fundamental differences between us and the Communists is our belief in God.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower strongly endorsed the change and later approved In God We Trust as our official motto to be printed on American paper currency.

If “true believers” reflect for a moment, then they will acknowledge that their religious beliefs demand that they live in accordance with “sound doctrine.”  Holy leaders tell parishioners how their religion should influence, for example, marriage, divorce, abortion and sexual conduct.  Preachers and parishioners use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to advocate for the presence of God in daily life.  Some “true believers” declared the recent national election outcomes to be the work of God.

Works such as Hammurabi’s Codes, Bible, Quran, Talmud, Tao Te Ching, and Shruti are religious guides for everyday living!   Orthodoxy is strict adherence to early religious creeds in all aspects of life, politics included.  Sharia Law is a testament to the extent some hold that Islam should govern daily life.  Evangelicals engage in social reform using the Bible as the highest authority.  Christian terrorists bomb abortion clinics in the name of God.  

Many U.S. Presidents used the Bible when taking their oath of office and ended their oaths with “So help me God.”  When Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, was sworn in, he took his oath of office using a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. 

A sublime moment occurred when President Obama sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for State Senator and Pastor Clementa Pinckney who was murdered in a Charleston church.  Like other Presidents, President Obama routinely ended speeches with “God Bless America.” 

In sum, it is the “politics of religion,” not the separation of religion from politics, that is at stake and always has been the case.   European Christians’ persecution of Christians contributed to America becoming a religious refuge, not a place where religion was not prominent in politics and daily life.  

Lest one tries to “run with the devil and sleep with God,” it should be acknowledged that “…Catholic charities and schools have collected more than $1.6 billion since 2012 in U.S. contracts and grants in a far-reaching relationship that spans from school lunches for grammar school students to contracts across the globe to care for the poor and needy at the expense of Uncle Sam…” (Washington Times, September 24, 2015).   

In 2015, it was observed, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $127.4 billion… in bilateral assistance…” https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/RL33222.html   

The private, conservative Liberty University thrives in part because of the millions its students receive in federal financial aid!   Whereas some such as the Baptist funded Hillsdale College refuse all forms of federal aid, the Department of Education has guidelines for exempting some religious schools from enforcing Title IX (https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/t9-rel-exempt/index.html).

Before they rush to judgment regarding the separation of church and state, Blacks should consider the extent to which they deemed God to be critical to their quest for freedom.  Slave minister Nat Turner believed God ordained him to lead insurrections.  Adam Clayton Powell, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Jeremiah Wright, and Andrew Young preached politics from the pulpit.  There is now a phalanx of Black women “liberation theology ministers” who focus on God’s work with the poor and the weak.

It is a historical fact that, “without the Black Church, Black America would not have had a prayer.”  As C. Eric Lincoln stated, “The black man’s pilgrimage in America was made less onerous because of his religion.  His religion was his organizing principle around which his life was structured.  His church was his school, his forum, his political arena, his social club, his art gallery, his conservatory of music.  ….It was the peculiar sustaining force which game him …the courage to be creative in the face of his own dehumanization…” (See Soul-Force by Leonard E. Barrett).  Hence, as Reverend and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell advised, “Keep the faith, baby!”

 

“…God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land
.”

-James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”-

 

Jack L. Daniel

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Pittsburgh Urban Media Contributor

 

May 17, 2017

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