In the confident hope of a miracle

The defeat of the Spanish Armada, in 1588, marked the end of Spain as a global power. Before sailing, one Spanish commander “reasoned” as follows: “It is well known that we fight in God’s cause. So when we meet the English, God will surely arrange matters so that we can grapple and board them, either by sending some strange freak of weather, or more likely, just be depriving the English of their wits. … But unless God helps us by making a miracle, the English, who have faster guns and handier ships than ours, and many more long-range guns, and who know their advantage as well as we do, will … blow us to pieces with culverins, without our being able to do them any serious hurt. … So, we are sailing against England in the confident hope of a miracle.”

Professor Baresh argues that America should beware of going the way of the Spanish Armada…

Is America ready to elect a devout Mormon? I certainly hope the answer is No. Indeed, here is a controversial suggestion: it is high time for the electorate to reject a devout Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Wicken, or committed practitioner of any other faith or creed. Our problem isn’t too much prejudice against devoutly religious presidential candidates (e.g., Mr. Romney) but not enough.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

14 thoughts on “In the confident hope of a miracle”

  1. Devout religious president != will necc make obvious, consequential blunders based on those beliefs. In particular, I think it’s fair to say most US presidents have been religious. In the last 100 years, how often have we seen examples of US policy explicitly following blind faith in the face of such an overwhelmingly obvious chance of doom, when there was a simple, rational alternative?

    I disagree with the administration about stem cell research, but the arguments against it aren’t wholly religious. Did W say “despite the obvious quagmire potential, of Iraq, G will surely prevent it, so let’s dive right in”? Though, I recognize that W is not the role model for this notion, based on things he did say.

    Representative Democracy + Religious Population often elects Religious leaders, as a Representative Democracy in a pygmie nation has smaller chairs in their (as their?) seats of power. Not a bug. Not saying it’s a feature per se.

    I’m all for ignoring religion, race etc as much as possible, Colbert doesn’t even see it :), but I’d feel better hearing a pres candidate talk about how much they value the separation. What does Baresh say about Carter? He is about as devout as they come, yet he wrote a book about the dangers of mixing church and state.

  2. The cut off point for me is if they say

    ‘God is telling me what to do’

    I am fine w/ ‘devout’ per se. It’s when God starts whispering in their ear that I get a little troubled.

  3. Regarding yer man GW…

    “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”

    Mr Bush went on: “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”

    Mr Bush, who became a born-again Christian at 40, is one of the most overtly religious leaders to occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in middle America.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1586978,00.html

    That’s the kind of thing that troubles me more than devoutness.

  4. Another threshold just occurred to me. If your religion says

    ‘Your religion is more important than secular laws’

    you should be automatically disqualified.

    The standard disclaimer, ‘I promise to uphold the law even even if it conflicts with my deeply held religious beliefs’ would satisfy me. I’d be extra happy if they would formalize the ‘stick a needle in my eye’ sub-clause.

  5. I promise to uphold the law when it’s not in direct conflict with core beliefs, and to recuse myself (or step down) when it is, sounds more practical.

    In your previous post, what’s list if you replace “religion” with something like worldview/ideas, isn’t that a better standard?

    Seems like you’d weed out more Real Problems this way, if people do what they promise.

    It seems reasonable that in areas like abortion/capital punishment/gun control/the environment/power of the president to xyz/the reasonable expression for american military might/is it ok to lie to congress about sex with an intern/cheating in elections/what constitutes a bribe/etc there’s plenty of opportunity for deeply held secular beliefs to be contrary to law.

    Of the problems this country has had due it’s leaders holding ideas contrary to the law, it’s the rare exception that it was due to religion. I’d go as far as to say that in most instances, it was holding ideas that are contrary to the law AS WELL AS guidance found in the scriptures of the most popular religions in this country that have yielded grief. Who the hell knows where that goes I were to extend that argument, though.

    Finally, I think most americans want a christian leader, because it’s code for “has strong moral fiber” that, while has shown to be inconclusive on many occasions, it’s far simpler than any other metric used by the masses that can be communicated effectively in an election, so … good luck tilting at them windmills…

    The same argument we’ve had before, if I were broken down by the side of a road in a dangerous area, and a nun stops to offer me a ride, and a random other person stops to offer me a ride, I’d get in the car with the nun. As would most americans. That’s not to say folks wouldn’t also prefer someone from Drs W/o Borders, the peace corps, etc to a stranger, but I don’t think the association is as strong.

  6. Here’s the difference:

    If elected official says “My deeply held secular beliefs trump the law on the issue of abortion/stem cell research/invading iraq/1000s of other topics/flying planes into buildings”, We The People would laugh out loud or call for impeachment.

    If same elected official says “I did it because God told me too” or “because It Was Written in some bronze age scroll”, We The People would say … “ah, that’s alright then. Gotta respect his deeply held superstitions, after all he is very devout”.

    I have no particular prejudice against Gods Whispering or the Bible, you understand. I think the same rule should apply to any bronze age mythologies or voices that people claim to hear in their heads.

    The point is – when leaders claim to value unaccountable authorities more than the law we should be suspicious. I can’t think of any other comparable, non-supernatural authority that might carry the same weight.

    Dialectical Materialism maybe? I’d be against that too.

  7. Last point,

    > Of the problems this country has had due it’s leaders holding ideas contrary to the law, it’s the rare exception that it was due to religion.

    I expect that is largely due to the genius of our Founding Fathers in creating a secular nation with “a wall of separate between church and state”…but that notion is becoming increasingly unfashionable.

  8. One more last point

    >a random other person stops to offer me a ride, I’d get in the car with the nun

    If there were political advantage to dressing as a nun, you can be sure that all kinds of charlatans would dress like nuns in the hope of fooling the electorate.

    We should judge people by the contents of their hearts, not by the colour of their uniforms.

  9. You make lots of good points but I’m not sure how to knit them together. In response to the nun bit, you say it can be faked, but I thought your concern was about true believers.

    I completely agree about judging based on content of hearts, but there are few ways to demonstrate a resonable floor on morality in ways the electorate can find more conclusive than devotion to the same good book.

    You seem to argue against devout candidates, yet say the (typically more devout than the last 100 year average) founding fathers have largely fixed the problem 200 years ago.

    I understand what you mean about W, but has he really been using what god allegedly told him as his fundamental (heh) argument for doing anything obviously illegal?

    More importantly, do you think he’s an anomaly, or if you look at the past 5 or 10, he’s indicative of a trend? Most importantly, if you look ahead, do you think the average zealotry of the likely final candidates is as high or higher?

    If not, then your remedies implied in your original approach seem extreme. A radical solution (excluding most of the population from potential office and creating a new exclusive ruling class of a minority) seems extreme. Naturally if your intentions are more modest – a heuristic for your own choice of candidate then who am I to argue. I have my own odd criteria.

  10. Sorry – in “original approach” I meant by juxtaposing crazy antique spanish craziness with the professor call to exclude folks – there some logical device at use there – but I can never keep them straight – that seems to imply we’re in imminent danger of something similarly extreme if we don’t enact some new policy, but you don’t actually say that. Is that one a them devices? Beggars wainscotting? Tin-man?

  11. The literary device you are grasping for is Quoting Someone Else’s Extreme Position And Not Making It Obvious That You Don’t Agree.

    I apologize for that.

    My position – outlined in comment #2 is: I am fine w/ devout but draw the line at People Who Claim God Told Them To Invade A Country (which I do believe to be illegal).

    My Politicians Dressed As Nuns observation was in response to your (characterization of the people’s) reasoning that went something like

    – The American People want leaders with Strong Moral Fibre
    – ‘Christian’ is code for Strong Moral Fibre
    – Nuns are Christian

    Therefore a man dressed as a nun would make a good president.

    That’s slightly better than watery tarts lobbing scimitars but it’s not really a strong foundation for democracy.

    The intersection of ‘devout’ and ‘politician’ contains men such as Pat Robertson, Al Sharpton, James Dobson, Ted Haggart and I doubt you’d find a less suitable bunch of presidential candidates at the Ba Da Bing. For several years, I thought GWB was part of a trend (the Bush supporters certainly seemed to hope that he was) but I have relaxed a little since November – especially when I see the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

    I suspect you are largely wrong about the devout nature of the founding fathers. Perhaps we could organize a group reading of Moral Minority ?

    If the title alone weren’t intriguing enough, the first line of the editorial review says:

    “…ably demonstrates the uncontroversial thesis that many of the founding fathers were not very devout”.

    I just ordered my copy.

  12. I read “1776” and “John Adams” recently (and recommend both) and I think these guys at least went through the motions the electorate would see about being devout. Though they were less zealous in their hearts, the public only had data saying they dressed as nuns. It would have been heresy 🙂 to elect someone who wasn’t a Good Christian at that time, I’d expect.

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