Thanks to “Religion of One” (dwiwyd) for this fascinating piece.
It’s a very clever and poignant way to emphasize the opinion that politician’s first loyalty should be to the State, and not their personal religion. This concept is what I (and Robert Bellah) would call civil religion. Using ritualistic symbols and gestures to codify allegiance to the state above all else.
I guess to be an “American Hero” like Raskin, it’s only natural that he be a proponent of the American religion.
But this quote simultaneously signifies the importance and authority of “the Bible” in American politics. The gesture of swearing an oath by the Bible goes back centuries. But what significance does it have if the politician does not consider the Bible to be authoritative in their own lives? I would say it’s an empty gesture of civil religion.
Perhaps it also makes some fundamentalist voters happy too — but that seems fairly empty as well. Especially considering that there’s plenty of New Testament scripture that would oppose swearing by the Bible or giving oaths at all (Matt. 5:34, James 5:2). So Christians should probably also reject the gesture — bringing us back to civil religion again.
This also alludes to my very first post, do people of faith consider themselves (for example) “Christian Americans” or “American Christians”? Where you put the noun is your primary identity.
I can hear all my readers (all 15 of them!) saying already: “Well Mr. Church State Guy, what would you swear by if you were a Senator.”
To that I would say: “Hey, I’m the one asking questions here!” No. Really. OK.
Ideally, I would respectfully ask to be sworn in the way Congresspersons are sworn in: without a Jewish, or Catholic, or Christian Bible, or even the Quran. I would ask that they take my word for it, raise my right hand and take the oath. Then, as Senator, my beliefs and values would definitely have an impact on my decisions, but I would not attempt to make “Christian” laws, or laws that enforce one set of religious beliefs over and against others (to the best of my ability).
Would love to hear some reactions from people of faith on this.