Posted by & filed under 1st Amendment, Can Different Faiths Get Along, church and state, church attendance, Illegal Immigrants, Immigration, is Jesus God?, Law and Equity, Newt Gingrich, Republican Debate, Spiritual Renewal.


Newt Ginrich

I listened with interest to the Republican Debate the other night, and was especially struck by Newt Gingrich’s comments on immigration. Despite being of a very different political persuasion, I often find Gingrich’s comments to be thoughtful and intelligent, and far prefer to listen to him than to the others.

immigration debate

When he first began to speak, I appreciated the fairness and decency that he was advocating. He said he wouldn’t favor kicking out an immigrant “If you’ve been here 25 years and you’ve got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law…” So some illegal immigrants ought to be sent home, but others – who have lived here peacefully for many years, who have taken care of themselves and their families, who contribute to the country and their community and are good friends and neighbors – have earned a little humane consideration, and “I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.”

Law and Equity

So far so good. As a loving father myself, and without obsessing about all the smarmy moralism of the ultra-right-wing, I certainly appreciate giving value to the family and keeping children safely with their parents. As a citizen, I appreciated the underlying acknowledgement that the American legal system has always included a tradition of fairness and Equity as a balance to the concept of strict adherence to the letter of the Law.
Also, as we have always recognized, America needs new influxes of immigrants
to stimulate the economy, to stimulate culture, to bring new ideas, new innovations, and new life.

But there was one other thing he said, more than once, that really turned me off. During the debate, and in several interviews that followed it, Gingrich kept repeating that one of his criteria for deciding if an immigrant was a good enough person to remain in this land of the free was if they’d been attending church.

I really hate this kind of off-hand “Christian nation” stuff. I suppose I’ll be accused of nit-picking, but I don’t think that’s it. What if an immigrant has been attending a Synagogue? What if (God forbid!) an immigrant has been attending a Mosque? What if (horror of horror to good Republicans) an immigrant has been a peaceful, loving, contributing member of American society for many years, but happens to be an Atheist? Would Gingrich recommend any special consideration for them, would he allow them to stay in America?

Actually, if pressed (which no news commentator did so far as I am aware), I’m fairly certain he would. I don’t think this was an example of overt bigotry so much as yet another example of the nonchalant presumption many people have that America, despite the Constitution and the statements and efforts of the founders of the country, is somehow nonetheless a “Christian Nation”. It’s just this laziness of thought, this rude, dangerous, unquestioned (and inaccurate) assumption, that I object to.

Separation of Church and State

In the new ‘Forum’ I’m hoping to get going on this site, I’ve introduced a ‘Church and State’ thread by saying: “Religion is playing such an important role in the current election cycle. What do you think of this? For my part, I believe that to maintain freedom and equality the spirit must reject dogmatism, and religions must remain within their proper bounds! On the other hand, I’m a fervent supporter of a spiritual renewal in contemporary life, and I find that traditional religions as well as all spiritual traditions, eastern and western, have much to offer. But as a long-time high school teacher, I can think of nothing worse for religion than to leave it up to the schools to teach our children about spiritual matters, and as an attorney and a Jew I have the greatest respect for the American Founders’ decision to separate church and state. In fact, I am convinced that the increasing vibrancy of religion, faith, and spirituality in America can be traced precisely to the fact that religion is not imposed on our citizens and the government is not allowed to put its foot in religious matters. It sickens me to hear people claim ‘this is a Christian nation’, and so forth.”

I invite you to share your views.


OBaker says:

Didn’t see the debate (no real interest). Agree with notion that this reflects “laziness of thought” and casual presumption about what religion characterizes this nation.
I recall a time when it was seriously discussed that JFK might have issues as our first Catholic president. Small wonder that the latest “elephant in the room that everyone ignores” is the ongoing discussion about one candidate being a Mormon–which definitely is not Christian. Or is it?
You may be right in acknowledging/assuming it does not reflect overt bigotry, but whether it’s overt or not it still just isn’t right. and reflects poorly on us as a nation.

smitty1e says:

I agree with your “Christian Nation” point, from the ultra-fundamentalist Christian vantage that the unit of analysis in Christianity is the individual, not the nation.
If you’re going to say “Christian Nation” you had better not mean anything more than a country where a plurality of the people are, seriously, Christian.
Not that I would accuse the United States of that, either.