Mike Huckabee, the conservative former Arkansas governor, this weekend said that he is concerned about Islam’s role in Egypt’s future. As On Faith panelist Reza Aslan this week noted, Huckabee has also called for Americans to “take this nation back for Christ” and, while running for president in 2008, declared that “what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”
In America and in Egypt, should a majority religion inspire political life? How will Islam play a role in the struggles for democracy happening now in Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world?
All Middle East countries have constitutions, as do we, but I’m more worried that their leaders will establish Sharia law than that our leaders will “take this nation back for Christ.” Why? Because our religious radicals have not yet found a way to get around the Bill of Rights, despite their attempts to chip away at an increasingly brittle wall that separates church from state.
Former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is ignorant and wrong in so many ways. He can’t take back this nation to a place it has never been. Perhaps Huckabee meant back to the first Pilgrims and Puritans who settled here and established Christian colonies. Those of the “wrong” religion were excluded from government participation and persecuted. Such church-state unions led to the Salem witch trials.
The framers of our U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights wanted no part of the religious intolerance and bloodshed they saw in Europe, and in our own early theocratic colonies. They wisely established the first government in history to separate church and state. There have been numerous amendments proposed to turn our secular country into a bible-based Christian nation. Thankfully, all such attempts at official establishment have failed.
It’s interesting that some politicians can see dangers in a theocracy or in a government that favors one religion over others only when it’s their religion that isn’t favored. I mostly support democratic rule, but I’m not an absolutist. I worry when the majority of voters in any country want to establish a government religion. Whatever the outcome in Egypt or anywhere else, I hope for a government that respects women and minorities, and allows freedom of conscience for all its citizens.
There are many reasons strife continues in the Middle East. One is that fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims all want to take back the so-called “holy land” for Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah. Pandering American politicians who try to be holier than thou should recognize they have a long way to go to be holier than Middle East theocrats. Holiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.