by Mentarch | 8/24/2008 11:09:00 AM
Last week's Saddleback Civil Forum on Presidency, quite appropriately dubbed "The Faith Forum", heralded a new age for the Presidency of the U.S.A. - that of the President-Pontificate.

For decades now, especially since the late 70's-early 80's, it has become a ritual of sorts for candidates seeking the Office of the Presidency of the U.S.A. (POTUS) to make profuse declarations of faith while seeking the public support of pastors, preachers and priests.

Pious demonstrations of belief in God (the Christian one, of course), humble statements of abundant praying for guidance from the Divine Will, public displays of church attendance, etc. - all such things have become nothing more than par for the course in the (democratic) process of choosing the next POTUS.

Through it all, the political/governing functions of a POTUS have likewise become intimately intertwined with all matters of faith - whether it is the expected utterance of the incantation of "God Bless America", frequent references to God on any and all subject matter (policies, decisions, etc.), the White House prayer breakfasts, the lighting of the White House's Christmas Tree, attending Christmas mass, yet more public displays of piety and praying/church attending, and so on and so forth.

In short - the POTUS has come to acquire an increasingly preeminent function of "Christian faith representative" in the eyes of Americans throughout the years.

Why else would Americans have elected three openly-declared Born Again Christian Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush) out of the last five who have held office since the 1976 elections?

No wonder then that so-called "moral values" and "moral issues" have come to dominate the American political landscape in the last three decades or so - especially with regards to school praying vs. no praying at school, a woman's right to choose vs. criminalizing abortion, same-sex marriage allowance vs. interdiction, teaching safe/protected sex vs. promoting abstinence, teaching evolution vs. also teaching creationism/intelligent design, etc., etc., etc.

And I will spare you the all-too-known details of the (waning) George W. Bush administration's embrace of fundamentalist Christian "values" and consequent attitudes/actions with regards to all things secular and scientific (see also this recent post of yours truly).

(I remember cringing at that little piece of news when I first read about it some three years ago - that one as well)

Then came 9/11 - and since that tragic day a majority of Americans have apparently locked themselves in a mentality of "Christianity vs. Islam" - what some like to call the "Clash of Civilizations" - a mindset which appears to stubbornly persist to this day, overriding all rational considerations (one more recent example here).

Indeed, 9/11 was in good part responsible for the re-election of George W. Bush, the "War President" fighting the evil islamofascists ...

Which brings us to this year's primaries and the current contest between John McCain and Barack Obama for the Presidency of the U.S.A.

Never before have I witnessed such profusion of declarations of faith from candidates left and right, being asked questions on all matters of Christian faith, morals and values, including whether they believe in evolution or not.

Never before have I witnessed a democratic party presumptive nominee speak more like a pastor as Barack Obama has been speaking throughout this election year - even more so than the born again Christian Jimmy Carter (and I remember a good part of Carter's campaign and his Presidency, because I had "come of age" enough as a teenager to start paying attention to such things already then).

Never before have I witnessed such lingering (ill-informed, uninformed, or deliberately mendacious) questions concerning the "purity" of the Christian faith of candidates - especially regarding Barack Obama ("Is he Muslim or Christian?", "Is he Christian enough?").

Then came last week's Saddleback Civil Forum on Presidency, whereby McCain and Obama got to be vetted on matters of Christian faith, morals and values by an "influential" evangelical pastor, Rev. Rick Warren, in a live broadcast to millions of Americans to see, hear and judge.

Since then, many have parsed through the questions posed by Warren in this so-called Faith Forum and the answers given by McCain and Obama - however, it appears that the sheer precedent enormity of such an exercise has been lost entirely.

Think about it - before McCain and Obama got to face each other for a first time to debate their political ideas, ideologies, visions and solutions, they got to be quizzed/tested by a pastor first about their Christian faith, morals, values and visions.

In other words: they had to demonstrate first and foremost their Christian credentials to the American people above all other (political) considerations.

Talk about separation of church and state, no?

Since 9/11, the American people, through their Congress and Senate, have granted monarchical powers to the Office of the President of the U.S.A. - the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Act quickly come to mind as but two examples.

In short, the POTUS can spy indiscriminately, detain indefinitely and torture - the pretense being that all of this is necessary in the name of temporal security of the Homeland.

Not unlike the British Monarchs of old.

And now, thanks to the precedent of last week's Faith Forum, the POTUS has become the de facto Spiritual Leader and Keeper of the American Christian Faith.

Again - not unlike British Monarchs who still retain to this day (since Henry VIII) the title and function of Head of the Church of England.

So after some 230+ years after the Declaration of Independance, the Americans managed to give themselves a bona fides British-like Monarch in all ways, shapes and forms.

Makes me wonder what the hell the American Revolution was for, then.

Yet, the conclusion nevertheless remains: thanks to the fear, ignorance and, yes, hate of Americans regarding things non-christian, all still driven by 9/11, the Age of the President-Pontificate of the U.S.A. has officially arrived.

God Bless America indeed.

(and whenever I hear born again Christian Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, throw "God Bless Canada" whenever and wherever he can, I keep wondering whether my country is slowly but surely going the same way as our neighbors to the south ... but I digress)

In the meantime, all I can do is wish - and hope - that enough people out there will never forget the necessity of keeping church and faith fully and completely separate from state.

But in this new Age of the President-Pontificate, I shan't be holding my breath ...

(Aftermath: go read this and that as well - both are definitely worth the click).

(Cross-posted from APOV)

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