"A Man of God"
This may bother some folks. If you choose to read it I only ask that you read to the end.
Last week during the process of selecting a Speaker of the House, Republican Representative Mike Garcia said Kevin McCarthy is “a man of God” as a qualification. I often have friends say something like “I’m glad my daughter found a Godly man” or “a good Christian man”. What does that mean?
In the United States “Godly” obviously refers to “Christian”, at least for most people, since that is the majority religion.
Regarding public officials, Article VI section 3 of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” That is pretty straightforward. Of course, there is really no “test” per se; officials need not swear allegiance to a particular religion, but about 90% of the members of Congress claim Christianity, so religion has largely become a de facto test for American voters.
Further, some politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) and possibly even Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, support Christian nationalism, or making the U.S. a Christian nation in violation of the Constitution’s 1st Amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”.
Being contrarian by nature, all of this makes me wonder what people mean by “Christian man” or “man of God” (by the way, I rarely hear them say “Godly Woman” or “Woman of God”, but maybe I’m not paying close attention). Do they really want a “religious test” requiring officials to be “Christian”? Do they really believe claiming Christianity makes one a better person, above reproach, more moral, more ethical? No…claiming Christianity or any religious affiliation is no guarantee at all.
Consider the following:
I think we can all agree that the Catholic church is led by people (mostly men) claiming to be “men of God”, but as of 2019 a grand total of 6,433 priests and other Catholic officials had been accused of sexual assault, and the church has paid out up to $1,000,000 per victim. One study determined that about 4% of American Catholic priests had been accused of sexual assault. Are these really “men of God”?
Also, as of 2019, about 220 Baptist ministers and other Baptist leaders had been found guilty of sexual abuse during the previous twenty year period. Last year the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant Christian denomination, released a 300-page document cataloging all known incidents of sexual abuse within that church, most of which were swept under the proverbial rug and not reported. The details of some of these incidents, such as the Missouri minister soliciting sex with what he thought was a 13-year-old (but was actually a cop), are sickening. Were these real “men of God”?
Of course, an estimated 1-9 million died in the Crusades. I’m not sure these violent confrontations were what Jesus had in mind. Were the instigators and perpetrators of the Crusades truly “men of God”?
During the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 at least 24 accused witches were killed by religious extremists. Nineteen were hanged, one was crushed to death after refusing to plead guilty, and four died in prison. Were these trials conducted and punishments executed by “men of God”?
During the period of slavery in the United States Christian slave owners used passages from the Bible to justify owning slaves. In fact, some churches actually OWNED slaves! Were these truly “men of God”? Had they not read Matthew 25:40?
According to the Christian Bible, Jesus taught compassion and kindness on numerous occasions. In Ephesians 4:32 Jesus reportedly said “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…”. Are all the campaign photos with politicians holding/firing assault weapons really representative of “Godly” compassion? Is the uncivil tone of contemporary politics?
Reverend Fred Phelps founded Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and spent his time preaching that all ills were a result of God’s punishment for homosexuality. The members of his church protested at military funerals holding signs saying “thank God for dead soldiers”, “thank God for 9/11”, “planes crash/God laughs, “fags doom nations”, and more. He said all those soldiers and others died because of human homosexuality. Was he a “man of God”? Were his followers?
I’ll end with Donald Trump. Those of you who have bravely followed Fiercely Independent from the beginning know that I have supported a number of Republican presidential candidates over the years, but I have zero respect for former President Trump and I’ve provided justification for my conclusions in this blog on several occasions. In my opinion he is the most immoral, unethical, unqualified, corrupt, and narcissistic individual to ever hold that office (my previous least favorites were Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat and Richard Nixon, Republican). But even after evangelical Christians learned that Trump paid off porn stars to hide affairs, had numerous extra-marital affairs while still married, cheated contractors out of pay, bragged on tape about molesting women, made fun of a disabled reporter, and more, they still supported him. Is this truly representative of “Godly”? By the way, some important evangelical leaders are now rejecting Trump.
Is it any surprise that for the first time in eighty years fewer than half of Americans belong to a church or other religious organization? And younger people are abandoning organized religion at a rate higher than any other age group. Is it because of the obvious disconnect between the Biblical teachings of Jesus and the weaponized version of religion we now see on display by some political and religious leaders?
Before you tar and feather me, I KNOW there are countless millions of Christians who are loving, kind, forgiving, and generous. Unfortunately, these folks are often now guilty by association because the stuff I mentioned above (and much more) gets more attention than do the good folks feeding the poor, housing the homeless, showing compassion to all, and providing so many other comforts to those in need. These are, in my humble opinion, much more worthy of the “Godly” moniker.
Back to my original questions. What are “men and women of God”, and should that be a qualification for holding office? I have no clear answer to the first question, but many of the folks in the examples above obviously do not fit my personal understanding of the term “Godly”. Also, any definition of “Godly” is personal and can’t be generalized.
However, the answer to the second question is clearly NO! Claims of “Godly” or “Christian” should have no sway over our opinions because they offer no guarantees of moral or ethical behavior. Of course, I have not even raised the question whether members of some of the world’s estimated 41,000 Christian denominations are more “Godly” than the others and whether, therefore, followers of some denominations are more ”Godly” and worthy of our votes.
I prefer having an ethical, moral, loving, and compassionate atheist or agnostic in office than unethical and immoral Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, etc., who use their religion as just another political prop to garner votes.