Tonight, I was viewing a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service, America) program entitled “Religion in America“. Tonight’s program was the last part in a three parts series program. I recommend this program highly to anyone who wants to know about the religiosity of Americans in the last 235 years.
The constitution of America is very clear on the separation of church and the state (government). But that fine line of boundary sometimes is not well defined. In the aftermath of the WWII Christian Fundamentalists tried to inject the venom of religion in American society under the plea of opposing godless communists of the world. They started to influence the schools of America by pressuring them to institute religious prayer before the start of the class in early morning. A lone mother in Champaign, Illinois (which is a very small town of 10,000 people in the 1950s) took the school board to court calling the practice unconstitutional. But the judge sided with the school board. She appealed but the state court of Illinois upheld the county court. However, when the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, the verdict came in the favor of the mother. In the 1960s the American society was able to liberalize itself from the clutch of Christian Churches.
In the 1980s, the Christian Fundamentalists tried to rope Reagan with their views. Reagan thought he could benefit politically by siding with the fundamentalist. Reagan was not a true Christian but he sided with the Church folks knowing that this would give him more votes in the November election. After winning the presidential election he invited the leader of the “Moral Majority” Rev. Jerry Fallwell to the White House for photo opportunity. The Christians thought they finally got their man in the White House. But Reagan only provided the lip Service to these folks. He did not help them legislatively. No laws were enacted to make America a Christian nation. After 4 years of Reagan’s rule Jerry Fallwell realized what was going on. He went back to Lynchburg, Virginia to preach his brand of Christianity. George H.W. Bush followed Reagan to the White House but he did not mingle with Christian Fundamentalists and the same goes for Bill Clinton. However, George W. Bush wined and dined with the Fundamentalists this time the leader was Pat Robertson, another Virginian Church Minister who formed an organization calling it the Christian Coalition.
GW Bush gave the impression to the fundamentalists that he was truly their man but he also gave lip service to them. The fundamentalists supported him even though they know that Bush did not help their cause. During 2008 presidential election the Christians stayed away from the both camps. The Republican candidate, Senator McCain, is not a serious Church-going Bible thumping Christian and nor is Barack Obama. Furthermore, many Christians thought Obama is a closet Muslim. Obama is a smart politician and unlike John Kerry, who lost in the 2004 election to Bush, he invoked religion in the campaign thus garnering votes from Christians.
Christian fundamentalists are confused now. Their activism is now somewhat subdued but they are doing some soul searching (no pun intended) to figure out their next move. Americans go through this phase of off again-on again vis-à-vis their religiosity. In the 1960s during Kennedy and Johnson time the society veered towards secularism but in the 80s, 90s, and 00s had decidedly trodden a religious path. Many scholars think that with the emergence of so many new communication technology and openness in the society, the influence of Churches will wane.
I was reminiscing on Reagan and Bush and laughing at the same time knowing how theses two politicians have fooled the Christian fundamentalists. The Christians thought these two men would legislate new laws to make this nation of 350 million people a Christian paradise. In reality nothing of that sort had happened. They surely got fooled by these two politicians.