According to a new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 38% of us say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders. This is the highest percentage since the Pew Research Center began asking this question more than a decade ago. By contrast, 30% say there has been too little talk about religion from our candidates and leaders. Two years ago, the numbers were reversed (37% vs. 29%).
These statistics represent a serious shift. In 2001, only 14% of independents thought there was too much talk about religion. Today, that number is 42%. Why is this? Does this survey represent a dangerous trend?
Dwight Eisenhower famously said in 1952, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion [in which] all men are created equal.” He captured succinctly the religious ethos expressed in the Pew survey.
Most of us want our leaders to be committed to “the Judeo-Christian concept.” We have had only one openly atheistic member of Congress, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.); some 40% of Americans say they would be uncomfortable with a Mormon president. We want our candidates to talk about religion enough to convince us that they have “a deeply felt religious faith.”
However, once politicians pass the personal religion test, we want them to leave their religious convictions at their church or synagogue. Since this year’s candidates have been so willing to tell us what they believe, we have heard enough about religion and are ready to move on to other subjects.
Is this state of affairs a dangerous trend? I’m not sure it’s a trend—if the next election’s candidates are less forthcoming about their faith, we are likely to see the survey numbers swing in the other direction.
But it is dangerous. The all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God of the Bible is ready to lead and empower anyone who will follow him as Lord. His word contains wisdom on every issue we face today. Separating religion and the “real world” is like separating my laptop from its adapter—it needs the power it was designed to utilize.
Albert Einstein believed that “when the solution is simple, God is answering.” Why would we not want his solutions to the problems we face today?