Every holiday season, I like to spend some time reflecting on the role of religion in our lives, and the role of religion in the United States.
During the presidential election – particularly the republican primary but also the general, there was a lot of talk about how and why evangelicals could support Donald Trump. On the surface, he appears to behave antithetically to Christian values, and by all accounts is not religious himself. Yet evangelicals supported him overwhelmingly, with 81% reporting a vote for the president elect.
I recently dug up an editorial published in The Seattle Times published in late September, which gave a fantastic overview of why evangelicals may support Trump. Preview – it has to do with biblical “end times”. What’s clear is that evangelicals have very different priorities than non-evangelicals – as voters and otherwise.
Most non-believers don’t realize how important religion is to many people of faith – particularly evangelicals, but not exclusively. Most evangelicals believe that the constitution doesn’t proclaim a separation between church and state, which is something non-believers take for granted as a fact. But in fact, that phrase isn’t in the First Amendment. The first amendment uses language that isn’t nearly as clear. Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, explained in 1802 that the first amendment intended to build “a wall of separation between Church and State.” Since then, the supreme court has used Jefferson’s explanation in that letter to the Danbury Baptists Association to interpret the first amendment. The relationship between religion (specifically Christianity) and government is one of the most divisive issues that is rarely discussed at a high level.
During the holidays in particular, it’s important that all Americans reflect on the role of religion in our own lives and in the lives of our fellow Americans. It may or may not be important to you, but it’s the most important issue for more than a third of registered voters. So be empathetic, to pursue understanding and to reflect.
“To be a person of faith is to have the world challenge that faith… The framers of our Constitution believed that if the people were to be sovereign and belong to different religions at the same time then our official religion would have to be no religion at all. It was a bold experiment then as it is now.. It wasn’t meant to make us comfortable, it was meant to make us free.” – Matthew Santos, Fictional Democratic Nominee For President, The West Wing