The latest emails from the American Family Association are hyping the "Rediscovering God in America Conference," which will take place in Orlando, Florida this week with hundreds of Florida pastors and special guests Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Phrases like "Rediscovering God in America" or "putting religion back in the public square" always puzzle me because I feel like God is very much present in Americans' lives and that lived faith is very much present in the public square. Take for example this lengthy article from the Associated Press, focusing on a congregation's effort to enact their own version of the parable of the talents. It is an explicitly Christian story -- about a Christian church and a New Testament tale -- yet it makes the events accessible to non-Christians by explaining what the parable was and its meaning as understood by the pastor.
Or from the Washington Post magazine, a different kind of religious challenge: an Army Reservist (and Republican Party activist) who wants to become a Muslim chaplain in the U.S. military, despite the government's insistence that because Islam does not permit women to lead men in prayer, a woman cannot be a Muslim chaplain.
Or an even bigger leap of faith described in the sports section of yesterday's Dallas Morning News: a high school football coach who remains a friend and mentor to one of his former players while the latter serves a prison term for killing his own mother. Both coach and convict describe religion as part of what keeps the bond strong: the coach believing that God put the player in his family's path, and the killer believing that this link to the outside is a sign God has not abandoned him.
There are thousands of similar examples from the media, and undoubtedly millions more stories that never make it into the news, of Americans' quiet certainty that God is part of their lives and that they can share that faith with others to make their lives better as well. It seems to me that we have a nation beautifully and extraordinarily rich in sincere faith, to a degree that is actually incompatible with demands for more religion in government. Hopefully the U.S. can avoid a spectacle like that of the last Kenyan election:
Although religion should be a private matter between individuals and whatever deity they adore, the countdown to the December 27 elections threw all that out of the window when Christianity became a major campaign tool and the main contenders for the presidency had to lay bare their religious credentials.
While Mr Kibaki and Mr Musyoka scored highly on the Christian platform, under the backing of the Catholic and Baptist churches, ODM leader Raila Odinga was largely perceived to be a heathen.
Mr Odinga found himself virtually under siege and had to go to great lengths to prove to voters that he was not just a Christian, but a baptised Anglican.
As if Kenya had suddenly revised Chapter V of the Constitution, which protects fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, including freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association, the Lang’ata MP —probably because of his memorandum of understanding with Muslims — became the target of vilification.
"Can this man be trusted?" became his opponents’ mantra in the hunt for votes as the propaganda war escalated to unprecedented heights.