Will this be the first recent American election where religion takes a backseat … make that a “yuge” backseat? Despite the crazy talk from one candidate in particular, there has been surprising little god talk on the campaign trail. That includes all four national nominees (Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green).
Gone from the pack are the most religious of the bunch, including the four Republican candidates who felt compelled to attend the Faith and Family Forum at Bob Green University way back in February 2016. That Forum had Jesus Bush, Ted Cross, Marc of the Devil Rubio and Benji Carson strutting their religious feathers. Throughout the Forum, there were glorious fictions spoken, such as Mark Rubio saying
“What is this country founded on? It is not founded on a political principle . America was founded on a powerful spiritual principle … Your rights don’t even come from the Constitution. Your rights come from God.”
Bush, Cruz, Rubio and Carson all failed to make the cut, so we are down to just four candidates. The one crazy candidate left in the pack, Donald Trump, self-identifies as a
Presbyterian, referring to the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, though church leaders in Manhattan say he is not an active member in any of their churches.
However, Trump has trouble with the standard Republican god talk and instead make odd statements like:
“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”
Hillary Clinton is Methodist, but she rarely talks about her faith on the campaign trail.
The Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, was raised Jewish and is married to an atheist. As such, she has no hesitation to use the A-word in a positive way on the campaign trail:
My husband was brought up Protestant but is a practicing atheist–I bring that perspective of religious neutrality–we need to be a diverse society–that’s just a condition of the modern world.
Lastly, the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, who is endorsed by noted atheist Penn Jillette, makes it clear that government and religion should remain separate.
Johnson, who said he doesn’t go to church, made it clear he doesn’t think “religion should play a role in government.” “I don’t seek the counsel of God,” Johnson said. “God doesn’t speak to me on what I should or shouldn’t do.”
Asked about his religious beliefs, Johnson said,“I haven’t gone to church since I finished my confirmation as a Lutheran.”
Add to that the new Pew poll numbers that now have religiously unaffiliated as a larger block than any other category among registered voters (21% compared with 20% for white evangelical Protestant). Within the Democratic Party, those numbers are about double any other category.
The tide is turning. In the meantime, enjoy the silence from the podium that might be a sign of the future. (Not a sign from above … just a sign.)