Barack Obama is set to deliver some sort of mea culpa on race today. For my part, I think it's a shame that he has to apologize for someone else. But I suppose all candidates end up doing it for one reason or another. It is a tired song and dance routine, so devoid of substance and meaning that it scarcely seems worth mentioning. Do members of the media think that they are doing their jobs by airing someone else's angry sound bite? To me this kind of "news" is akin to push polling.
When you ignore Jeremiah Wright's admittedly fiery rhetoric for a moment, what you are left with is a preacher. A man of god. A leader of a group of people who share some beliefs. He collects money from his community, pays no taxes on that money, and directs it where he sees fit. So why are these people so crucial to a presidential hopeful's chances? If Obama didn't feel the need to have a spiritual adviser in the first place, this would not be happening to him.
Wright's position of privilege in Obama's campaign is not unique. Many, many "religious" leaders use their resources and their pulpit to speak on temporal matters, on matters of the state, on civic matters, on matters of public policy, and align themselves with candidates who represent their interests. They do not confine themselves to spiritual matters, nor limit themselves to matters of private morality among their own constituents. When they do so, they cease to be merely spiritual figures and become agents in the political sphere. But because they are cloaked in the mantle of religion, they enjoy special financial status in the United States, and yet receive every deference with regard to questions of morality.
Now, religion has played a central role in political struggles throughout history. It would be foolish to argue otherwise. But does it really have to be so anymore? Knowledge and understanding of the natural world have advanced far beyond the capabilities of the Christian Bible to answer modern moral questions. What can the Bible tell us about stem cell research? About genetic engineering? About space exploration? About global warming? I say our political sensibilities need to evolve to a point where we do not lean on such an antiquated crutch as the Judeo-Christian scriptures.
If religious figures want to continue to advise, lobby, and persuade their candidates and their congregations on political matters, and we all know they do, then it is time to abolish the tax exempt status of religious organizations. Then their political designs and ambitions will seem less like the height of hypocrisy. Let them join the fold of other lobbyists and special interests, where they belong.
I am so tired of hearing about the religious views of the candidates and the ugly rantings of their spiritual advisers. When I do see them loudly proclaiming their faith, I am reminded of nothing so much as the Pharisees, whom Jesus himself so frequently and sharply criticized for their false displays of holiness. Please keep your god to yourself! And if they start talking about religion, reporters, turn your microphones elsewhere! Someone somewhere must have something well-reasoned and intelligent to say.
The private religious views of a candidate should remain private. Let us forever put an end to reporting on the religiosity of political figures. It's time to take god off the political table. If a candidate needs to resort to god to explain a position on some issue, he should be ignored, criticized, and lampooned.