Faith should inspire us and democracy should guide us

Mike Huckabee, the conservative former Arkansas governor, this weekend said that he is concerned about Islam’s role in Egypt’s future. … Continued

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?

Mike Huckabee has once again managed to turn the facts of a situation on its head. To be sure, Islam will play a role in Egypt’s future; after all, it is the official religion of the state and one that is proudly observed by millions of Egyptian citizens. To conflate those beliefs with a small minority of extremists is as dangerous as it is disingenuous. Those who know the history of Egypt and the path that has led to the current uprising understand that this is not about “radical Islam” taking hold in Egypt but rather a movement fed by a passion for freedom and the end of patience for tolerating a dictatorship that has lasted too long. What will come next in Egypt is still in question, but the rise of an Islamic theocracy is hardly assured.

My hope is that Muslims in Arab nations will be inspired by their faith to pursue freedom in the same way that faith inspired some of the great campaigns and revolutions of our own history. From abolition to the civil rights era, people of faith were at the forefront of our push towards freedom. Scores of people in Egypt are screaming for a commitment to liberty in government and more equity in the economy.

Religion is at its best when it inspires us to do better and to be better. That is a fundamental principle that influences my decision to choose a life of ministry. I am proud to live in a democracy that protects my right to follow the faith I choose and to speak from my pulpit about the very important issues facing this nation. That is dramatically different from the vision of America Mr. Huckabee is putting forward. He believes “we need to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”

Mr. Huckabee has a history of making these kinds of statements. In fact, that line of his about amending the constitution earned him the top spot on Interfaith Alliance’s 2008 “Top Ten Moments in the Race for Pastor-in-Chief.” And believe me when I tell you that this was quite an accomplishment given the comments we saw from other candidates from both parties.

Let me be clear, America is not Egypt. Egypt is a nation with an official state religion. I pray for reforms in Egypt that will lead towards a truer form of democracy. And I sincerely hope that once that democracy is in place, the people of Egypt will be able to choose what role Islam should play in the nation’s government. Let us all hope that, at the very least, the new government does a better job of protecting religious minorities – the Coptic Church has been a target of recent attacks.

The United States of America is the most religiously diverse nation on earth. This is due in large part to the religious freedom granted to us in the Constitution – our first freedom. When Mr. Huckabee claims he wants to “take this nation back for Christ” he is purposely misrepresenting the history and character of this nation. The secular nature of our government is not an accident; it was a well informed decision by the architects of our constitution. One that, in fact, they revisited over concerns that they had not been strong enough. Article IV of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Concerned that this article did not go far enough, the framers drafted an amendment with an unquestionable guarantee of religious freedom.

I cherish the freedoms that were guaranteed to us by our founders and I will not let Mike Huckabee or anyone else diminish them or misrepresent them without expressing public disagreement. I hurt for the pain of the many people in the streets of Egypt though I rejoice that a desire for freedom is finding un-ignorable expression through their words and actions. With both hope and concern, I watch our brothers and sisters half a world away, many inspired by their faith, struggle towards a new beginning. When and what it will be, we do not yet know.

Welton Gaddy
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  • gibsonpolk

    If you believe something “On Faith”, this is not the same as believing something for a reason. If I believe the sun will shine tomorrow (or the tides will flow and ebb), that belief is not based “On Faith,” but on precise reasons of planetary and lunar motion, and overwhelming evidence that supports this scientific understanding. Scientific beliefs are (as always) open to challenge, but only based on extraordinary evidence.Believing something “On Faith”, however, rejects challenges of evidence or reason as unnecessary and even detrimental. I can believe, on faith, that Jesus walked on water, rose from the dead, and lives today in a place called “Heaven” – and no amount of reason or evidence will change this belief while I have my faith. I can also believe, based on faith, that if I fly an airplane into a building, I will also go to “Heaven” and be met by 72 virgins. Both these positions are equally valid beliefs based “On Faith”.So what, exactly, is the purpose of the Washington Post’s “On Faith” web conversation. Where is the room for discussion, if people “Of Faith” cannot have their minds changed by reasoned discussion or evidence? Faith seems to be a learning disorder.

  • amelia45

    GIBSONPOLK: “Believing something “On Faith”, however, rejects challenges of evidence or reason as unnecessary and even detrimental.”Actually, evidence or reason that contradicts what I believe on faith causes me to re-examine what I believe. And what I find is that this thing that I thought was so important to my faith, is actually peripheral to it and may be wrong, and I can change my thinking about it. My faith has evolved, helped by those who point out its inconsistencies. There is a problem for “literalists” who believe every word of the Bible or the Qur’an or whatever sacred text they hold to are from G-d’s mouth to someone’s ear. Unfortunately, the literalists are very powerful right now in Islam and in U.S. Christianity. I believe countries that try to combine the rules of faith and the rules of man will always have problems. Both can exist. But the ideals of liberty, equality, and freedom are ideals to live together on this earth and may often complement but do not coincide with rules designed to get one to whatever version of heaven one may have. Our founders deliberately did not name this a Christian nation. Deliberately did not mention the Bible or Jesus. They were Christians, almost all of them declared so, but they were not Christians of the ilk of Huckabee and She-who-must-not-be-named. And, I trust the founders version of how to respect religion while creating a government far more than I do those other two named above. The people in Egypt will have to find own members of their faith who can help them weave a path between secular and religious spheres, not the Muslim version of Huckabee, She-who-must-not-be-named and other literalists.

  • ThomasBaum

    gibsonpolkYou wrote, “I can believe, on faith, that Jesus walked on water, rose from the dead, and lives today in a place called “Heaven” – and no amount of reason or evidence will change this belief while I have my faith.”Contrary to your “no amount of reason or evidence will change this belief while I have my faith”, “evidence” may indeed come into your life that may change your “belief” based on “faith” into a “knowledge” that is based on a “revelation”.Of course if something like this were to happen to you then you would also come to the conclusion that not everything can be proved “scientifically”.This would not take anything away from “science” but would only point out that “science” is just man’s way of looking at God’s creation.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • MHawke

    It is the spearation of church and state that makes America constitutionally and spiritually strong.

  • Vanka

    Faith is one thing. But oaths and loyalties that take priority above the United States of America and its Constitution are threats to the sovereignty of this nation.When Mitt Romney went through the Mormon temple, he became “endowed”. In order to become endowed, Mormons have to pass an interview (like a catechism for Catholics). The endowment ritual includes many things Mormons are not allowed to talk about outside of the Temples. These secret (“sacred”) things include special promises and covenants Mormons make to the Church and to God. One of these “oaths” promises total and complete loyalty to the LDS Church and its leaders, including being willing to give all your possessions to the Church if needed.The oath is something like this:”Each of you bring your right arm to the square. You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, …that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.”They also promise:”And as Jesus Christ has laid down his life for the redemption of mankind, so we should covenant to sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God (LDS Church).”Mitt Romney has made this oath, and repeats this oath each time he returns to an LDS Temple.For a POTUS to have made such a secret oath violates the oath of office of the POTUS. The POTUS must not have ANY higher loyalty than to the United States of America and Constitution.”Endowed” Mormons should be automatically disqualified because of their secret oaths in their temples that place their loyalty to the LDS Church above their loyalty to the United States of America.Back a few years ago when Mitt Romney became “endowed”, Mormon temple oaths included “penalties” for breaking the oaths:”We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots.””The brethren and sisters will now stand, push back the seats, place the robe on the left shoulder, and receive the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood. We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.”This cultish aspect of Mitt Romney’s “faith” should be a legitimate concern to anyone seriously considering voting for Romney as POTUS.