Religion and Politics – a Miserable Mix

I understand that America’s “religious conservatives” can’t agree to support just one Republican presidential candidate because the Catholics want to back Rick Santorum and the Evangelicals want to back Newt Gingrich. It’s puzzling because Gingrich is no Evangelical; he’s a born-again Roman Catholic.

I would think Evangelicals would favor Rick Perry. The Texas governor was hand picked by an Evangelical group and proclaims himself chosen by God. I suppose his dimwitted performance in the debates has turned them off. But, even so, it’s strange that they would choose a Catholic convert as their alternative.

Back in my maternal great-grandfather’s days, Protestants would never dream of supporting a Catholic for anything. He was a staunch Baptist and to him Catholics were “papists and idolaters.”

The history books tell us there was even greater hostility in earlier times. Bloody Mary burned thousands of Protestants at the stake in England, for example, and Oliver Cromwell made the lives of Catholics hell on earth. In Ireland, the Catholics and Protestants were killing each other just a few years ago.

According to family legend, several of my father’s ancestors were executed by Presbyterians back in Scotland. Apparently, their sin was supporting Stewart monarchs, who were basically Catholic.

Jamaica’s early immigrants included fugitives from the Spanish Inquisition, I am told – Sephardic Jews who sought refuge as far away from the Iberian peninsula as they could get. I believe my paternal great-grandmother may have been descended from one of those refugees.

In America, even after the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic to escape religious oppression, persecution persisted. Suspected witches were burned at the stake, for example.

To me, the history of religious influence in politics is frought with evil.  No good can come of it.

That’s why America’s Founding Fathers banned religious intrusion in government affairs; they had seen for themselves how horrible it could be. 

But the shadow of “the church” still shrouds American political discussion.  

You will hear that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. And the pundits seem to think it will make a difference in the Republican primaries and possibly in the general election.

If that’s true, it is deeply disheartening. From what I know of its history, I find the Mormon religion hard to take seriously, but I have nothing against those who accept its beliefs. Religion is a private matter as far as I am concerned. You pray to your God and I’ll pray to mine.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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