On Friday, New York Times reporter Ari Goldman gave a lecture at the School about covering religion in Journalism. He talked about the quest to maintain objectivity in when covering religious issues, but the conversation inevitably steered itself into the realm of politics.
The audience debated the dimensions of religious fervor that the U.S primaries have taken on. In America today, politicians infuse their campaigns with religious rhetoric as a strategy to win votes. According to Goldman, 85% of Americans identify with some religion. And inevitably, God and Jesus become campaign mantra.
As the primaries play out- it is impossible to ignore that candidates are attempting to harness the vast resources of the religious right.
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Baptist Preacher, is appealing to the “values voter”. What he means is the religious voter, and I think it’s problematic to equate religious conservatism with ‘values’. What are values? They are subjective, and mean different things to different people. Huckabee is overstepping when he deploys this strategy. Huckabee’s brand of religion is pretty cut and dry. God created the earth in seven days about 10,000 years ago. This postulation is easily refuted by the most basic scientific evidence. Mitt Romney’s brand of faith, Mormonism has been linked with polygamy and child marriages.
I remember four years ago, when Bush’s strategists appealed to the evangelicals and rode this huge demographic wave into a second term by squashing gay rights.
All this religious rhetoric is playing out again in the 2008. Clearly, America is not a secular country, although it may appear to be. Where is the separation of church and state? Should we be calling it the United States of America, or Jesusland?