God and American Politics
I just returned from the Pell Center round-table with Professor Dan Cowdin on the role of God in American politics. It was a lively conversation that affirmed just how intimately intertwined are issues of faith, identity, and public values.
As the conversation ensued, we made reference to several texts from American history. I’ve linked to each below.
President John F. Kennedy’s Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association (1960)
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)
Governor Mitt Romney on Faith in America (2007)
President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
The contrast between Kennedy and Romney is provocative. Where both tried to assuage concerns over their respective faiths, Romney also lamented the decline of religion in the public square. They provide snapshots of the relationship between faith and politics at two points in time–the differences marked by decline in the authority of mainline Protestant churches and the rise of evangelical Christians aligned with the politics of the Republican party over issues of life.
In King’s letter we find an eloquent justification, on religious and moral grounds, for civil disobedience–a polite way of saying “law-breaking.”
And in Lincoln’s address, the man who saved the Union sees in the Civil War a great moral cleansing of divine purpose.
Regardless of where you come down on the role that faith and God should play in American politics, these documents provide much for us all to consider as we head into the political season.