Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Got The Saddleback Blues

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

Indulge the Balabusta for second here, folks, while she swoons. God in heaven, that man could write.

This is, of course, the unfortunately not so famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which Th. Jefferson appears to have coined that lovely phrase "separation between church and state". (This is the letter I referenced in this post.)

So, believing that Man "owes account to none other for his faith and his worship," the Balabusta and Mr. Jefferson would like Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain to explain why the hell each of them thought it was a good idea to give a well-known, likeable evangelical pastor an hour to grill each of them on TV?

Am I the only person out there who's, frankly, appalled?

I have nothing special against Rick Warren, who seems like a sincere and well-intentioned man, and really, everything I know about megachurches I learned from the King of the Hill episode where Hank and Peggy get into a snit at their pastor and join the local one--and Peggy, natch, goes a little overboard. ( "Come on, let's get home and get some sleep! Church starts again in six hours!") The one they joined seemed very nice, if a little exhausting. They even had a Starbucks.

But I have two separate and very specific gripes about this particular event.

Gripe Number One (the less important gripe): Who gets to host such a thing? Saddleback Church is an overwhelmingly white church (based on the photographs on their site), in affluent Lake Forest CA, which is also pretty white, in a state that isn't. Lake Forest is well-off, educated, and rather insular. This is the kind of place which, if it was in the Bay Area, would be drawing heavy fire for being 'elitist', and out of touch with the common American experience. Somehow, perhaps because it is also a heavily Republican area, it's avoiding that label.

But it's not just that they're wealthy people in a wealthy area, it's the assumption that fundamentalist Protestant religious concerns are the ones that matter in an election. The archbishop of Chicago is not doing this interview, and neither is the rabbi at Temple Emanu-El. This is a pure display of deference to a particular religious group whose concerns are seen as "American" concerns.

Which leads to Gripe Number Two (the important gripe): I wouldn't care if they did it at Glide Memorial in San Francisco, this is not what we do in the United States. You do not get the candidates for president up on a stage in a church forum so they can tell a famous pastor what their faith means to them.

We do not do it like this. And I am thoroughly hacked at both candidates for agreeing to this appearance.

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