I must be a real boob today as I could not for the life of me figure out how to post a comment on an editorial piece in yesterdays NYTimes. It was a lament on the perennial obeisance politicians must make to being religious. Read it for yourself.
Readers were invited to post a comment, but I cannot figure out exactly how, so I’ll write it here and forgo the honor of being scrutinized by the myriads who read the Times and settle for ‘we hearty few’ who gather ‘round this small campfire.
Mr. Porter’s problem is two fold: the stranglehold organized religion has on politics in America and the misunderstanding of the nature of belief in general. Most of the reader comments focused on the latter, which like the fabled Unitarian preference for discussions about heaven over heaven itself (being one myself, I have seen its truth), were largely abstract. Fine.
What struck me as worth noting was the truth of the first point. “Any atheist with political ambitions would have to drop the atheism first,” he said. He need not have made it speculative. At least one presidential candidate and probably one governor have had to change spiritual stripes to succeed.
Adlai Stevenson had deep Unitarian roots in central Illinois, but as he rose in politics found his heart or mind or ambition better served by Methodism. The same path was reportedly followed by Texas Governor Ann Richards, who was said to worship among the Unitarians in Dallas and Austin before seeking office and refuge among the believers. While not definitive atheists, Unitarians have long welcomed them, and thus they, we, are all guilty of atheism by association.
I wince when I read John Adams priggish words, so often cited by evangelicals because he was a Unitarian himself, of its first explicit generation. But what makes me truly sad is that our current climate would make another Lincoln impossible.
He was unchurched. This bothered not a few people, including southerners, and yet Mark Noll, an eminent evangelical theologian, believes his second inaugural may be the most perfect sermon ever preached in America. The man who would join no church may be the most authentically religious person to occupy the White House.