Skip to comments.JFK's privatized religion (Is it possible for a President's religion to have no influence at all?)
Posted on 03/07/2012 6:49:19 AM PST by SeekAndFind
John F. Kennedy's famous Houston speech on church and state during the 1960 presidential campaign elicited Rick Santorum's after-the-fact disgust. Though Santorum misrepresents the speech in some ways--Kennedy didn't say anything about limiting religious institutions and leaders from speaking on public issues--he is right to find the speech theologically lame.
In trying to assure Protestant voters that they had nothing to fear in voting for a Catholic as president, JFK stressed that his religious views were "his own private affair." He laid out his vision of a chief executive whose public acts would not be "limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation."
Not limited or conditioned by any religious obligation? In essence, Kennedy was saying that his Catholic faith did not and would not shape anything he might do or think as president.
One imagines that JFK's parish priests and catechism teachers might have heard that claim with some dismay: You mean attending mass all these years hasn't meant anything? Nothing the church says can have any influence on you? JFK's extreme privatization of religion was noted at the time by some Catholic and Protestant observers (including the Century, whose Protestant editors were wrestling with their own deep reservations about electing a Catholic).
Nevertheless, JFK probably correctly assessed the political challenges that faced a Catholic running for president. In the words of historian Mark Massa, Kennedy "had to 'secularize' the American presidency in order to win it."
The religious outsider in this year's race, Mitt Romney, has drawn heavily on JFK's example, trying to keep his faith off limits and suggesting that it's un-American to even raise the issue. In his 2007 speech that tackled the issue head on, Romney replicated JFK's theme of privatization while still celebrating the public benefits of religion in general--something Kennedy didn't feel the need to dwell on.
Massa's account of JFK's Houston speech in a 1997 issue of the Journal of Church and State remains one of the best commentaries on that historical moment and a brilliant account of JFK's role in the privatization of religion.
SOME SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JFK AND ROMNEY:
In JFK’s case, the Catholic church is based in Rome, Italy. In Romney’s case, his church, which professes to be only true church on the face of the earth, is based in Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
In JFK’s case, Catholics don’t, as Mormons do, make sacred covenants to consecrate all that they have (time, talents, resources) to their church... and do so in the most sacred places, their temples.
JFK was trying to defuse anti Catholic prejudice - within his own party. Plus the Kennedys were a totally immoral family. Still are.
Given recent events, it should be obvious that the Catholic Church has something to fear when a protestant is in charge.
Yet protestants are not quizzed about the extent to which they practice their religion.
I have no interest in a "Christian" leader whose faith in God is so weak that he does not allow it to influence his decisions in life or in his work. One of the most disgusting and destructive comments in American politics was Kennedy's case that his faith would have no effect on how he governed. Having seen far too much of Kennedy's personal life, I'm not surprised, since it didn't affect anything else in his life either, but I'm still disappointed in the sentiment he expressed and the support it received.
The question still remains — is it at all possible for a religious (EMPHASIS) President to NOT AT ALL be influenced by the moral teachings of his religion?
Considering that he had sex with 1,000 women or more, as president, I can say that a president’s religion may have no effect upon him at all.
The question is such wide scope, it’s b.s.. Be more specific.
Is it possible for a president that loves their family to not at all be influenced by their family?
So we should scrutinize the family of all candidates, yes?
As you know - you have to go back some 4 years ago when the last protestant was in charge.
So, what exactly is/was there to fear from a protestant?
The recent event of note is the administration’s attempt to force catholic hospitals and schools to use insurance that provides abortion and birth control coverage.
OK, but that has NOTHING to do with a Protestant being in charge.
Obama is a Muslim. He was born and brought up in Islam. And IF you believe that he is now a Christian, then he is now following a doctine about as dangerous as Islam - Black Liberation Theology.
RE: quite different from saying you have no personal religious morality or conviction that would influence your stance on public policy.
I get what you mean.
All I am saying is I don’t think we can separate a president’s personal moral convictions from his decision making.
Let’s take a specific example — ABORTION.
President X is now president. He is also a devout Catholic who believes that abortion ( as the church teaches it ), is the killing of an innocent human being.
A law is eventually presented before him to OUTLAW the practice because it is the duty of governments to protect innocent human lives.
How Should his morality inform his decision?
Same question applies to a President Y who is atheist or agnostic. In which case, I believe, his morality is self-derived ( i.e., he gets to decide what is right or wrong for himself ).
In the 1960s, one of the hysterical issues surrounding JFK was his Catholicism. Opponents claimed that if JFK were elected, America would by ruled by the Vatican and the Pope.
IOW, JFK would become a mere figurehead. Fortunately, that argument didn’t fly and JFK was elected. I say fortunately because I liked him personally, although I wasn’t old enough and didn’t understand the politics of the time.
Religion became a major issue in the 60’s because our choice was between JFK, the catholic, or R.M. Nixon, the Quaker. It is ironic that, in America, the country that was founded on religious freedom, religion seems to be an ongoing issue. I can understand the issue about Islam; it doesn’t support or endorse any of the Judeo-Christian values that America has traditionally followed. But, the Mormons, while an offshoot of Christianity, do follow the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian teachings.
This DOESN’T meant that I support or endorse Mitt Romney. I don’t. I’m just making a point that, morte than 400 years after America was founded on religious freedom, we are still fighting over religious freedom
But as you know, Obama CLAIMED to be a member of a Protestant church (the United Church of Christ) for years, and was never questioned questioned about the extent of his religious involvement. That's why the Jemimah Wright controversy was a shocker when it was uncovered in the middle of the RAT Presidential primaries.
Religion became a major issue in the 60s because our choice was between JFK, the catholic, or R.M. Nixon, the Quaker.
Aren’t Quakers pacifists? Yet Nixon DID wage war (for a time) against the Vietcongs.
“And no religious test shall be given.” Unless you’re a Catholic.
Yes. A closer scrutiny of Hillary's Alinskyite tendencies and dirty dealings (Whitewater, for instance) and Michelle's corrupt Chicago connections might have shed more light on the type of "First Couples" the country would be getting.
And I've wondered whether George Bush's indifferent attitude toward the pro-lifers who helped him gain office might have been influenced by his wife, mother, and daughters, who seem to be pro-abortion.
He would be obligated, as a Catholic, to obey the Pope on matters of his own personal faith and morality. He would not be obligated, as a matter of public policy, in enforcing that personal faith and morality upon other citizens - all of whom have freedom of conscience.
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