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Get Religion - Any Religion

A recent poll indicates that Americans want their presidents to be religious.

And they aren't particular about which religion they hold, as long as they're religious.

According to Robert Jones, Director of the Public Religion Research Institute, "56% of the public says it is very important or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs regardless of whether those beliefs are their own" (Cathy Lynn Grossman, writing in USAToday, July 26, 2011).

This poll reveals more about American attitudes toward religion than toward politics. What does this statistic suggest?

It seems to me this poll indicates that Americans have a naive understanding of religion, believing that all religions are pretty much alike and all are equally beneficial to human life in society. Just as long as the president is religious, any religion will do.

But is this true? Are all religions basically alike, and essentially good and useful? If you put that question to a group of friends, I doubt you'll get unanimity of agreement, or even 56% agreement. People understand that some religions are frivolous, some are potentially dangerous, some have a history of positive contributions to society and culture, others tend to promote indifference to such matters, and still others are largely mysterious and unknown, if only to them.

Yet apparently, if you ask them whether the president should be religious, 56% will say, "Yes."

Perhaps those answering the poll have a general sense that politics is necessary but evil and religion is unnecessary but potentially good, so that, at the very least, a little religion could help a president to do a better job? Who knows?

And what about those 44% who don't think it matters whether a president is religious? Are they persuaded that religion is irrelevant, or perhaps even dangerous?

All of which is simply to observe that the state of "religion" in America today is not a healthy one. Those of us who are persuaded of the truth of our religious convictions have not, it seems, done a very good job of communicating those convictions to our neighbors.

It matters what people believe, and if Christians want people to believe the truth, and not to be deceived or misled about religion, then we must renew the work of making known our faith with greater clarity and conviction than is currently in evidence.

Additional related texts: Matthew 28.18-20; Acts 1.8; 1 Peter 3.15

A conversation starter: "What do you think? Does it matter what a president believes, as long as he's religious?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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