Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Not a soap box – I need some schooling


I’ve made no secrets of the fact that I am a bleeding heart liberal.  I am pro-choice.  I am pro gay marriage.  I am anti death penalty.  Having worked in non-profits my most of my career, I love a  good social program.  (Good being the operative word – yes, they can be hard to come by when the government gets involved.)  I have mellowed a tiny bit as I age.  I am more moderate when it comes to fiscal issues than I used to be.  And I accept it is the right of law abiding citizens to possess guns…I just wish there was an IQ requirement.

Despite my passion for those causes, I am able to see the other side of things (except the opposition to gay marriage but that is another post).  I can put myself on the other side and understand why the person believes what she does.  I don’t agree but I get it.

churchstateEnter today’s post.  On Twitter and around the blogosphere, I heard some of my conservative friends (yes there are a few willing to overlook my liberal leanings and still speak to me) mourning a statement made by President Obama yesterday in Turkey.  He said: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.  We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” Conservatives around the internet seemed greatly bothered by this statement and kept saying we are no longer a Christian nation.

We were never a Christian nation, regardless of some of W’s actions.  We are a Repulic made up of Christians, Jews, Buddists, Muslims, Atheists, Wiccans, etc.  One of the tenets our nation was founded upon is freedom of religion.  The founding fathers were very clear on the separation of church and state.  This is not a grey area in our constitution.  And this is not me trying to rile up the conservatives – these are facts.

My question is this:  Why is this a bad thing?  Why do so many Christian conservatives want to blur the line/role between government and religion? Because I really don’t understand.

This is a sincere question – I really want to hear from those who believe it is a bad thing that President Obama made this statement.  (My liberal friends are always welcome to chime in too.)  Please help me see your side of it.  You aren’t going to change my beliefs but I do like to feel I can see both sides of an issue.

As always, play nice in the comments.  Respectful debate is encouraged – especially today.  But if anyone starts kicking sand, you’ll have to take your ball and go home.  Feel free to comment anonymously if you don’t want your blog linked with your religious or political beliefs.

posted under political
31 Comments to

“Not a soap box – I need some schooling”

  1. On April 7th, 2009 at 4:54 am carla Says:

    (waving to you from the farfar left. wanna see what others who dont agree with me have to say as well.)

  2. On April 7th, 2009 at 5:30 am Heather Says:

    I’m there with you. I don’t get it. I also believe in freedom of religion in this country and resent when anyone says we’re a Christian country. I am Catholic, but I’m the liberal kind of Catholic that is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage too, but that’s for a whole nother conversation. But I’ve always liked that we’re a country filled of lots of different kind of people, that also have their own religions. I can sit at my desk at work and hear about three or four different languages by noon and I don’t work at the UN. Chinese, Hindi, English and Spanish. It’s all around where I work and I love it!

  3. On April 7th, 2009 at 6:02 am Brigid Says:

    Hi. Just makes me love Obama even more (assuming that is even possible…)

  4. On April 7th, 2009 at 6:03 am Holly G Says:

    I’m with you, as you know. I’m as far left as you can possibly be…except that I’m for the death penalty but that may just be because I want my ex-husband to get it:) I really don’t understand it either. When the whole debate about taking the “In God We Trust” off of our paper money I saw some truly ugly reactions by Christians…not Christian-like at all. I’m looking forward to seeing the other side of it.

  5. On April 7th, 2009 at 6:18 am Kim Says:

    And, I’m probably as far on the right as you are on the left, so here we go. 🙂

    Since I’m just getting back from Guatemala – I’m still out of it as far as current events. I have to say that just reading this on your blog – I’m not upset.

    The people that came to the New World from Europe did so (at least one reason) for religious freedom – and most of them were Christians. (now, we can get into the whole talk about how Christian it was or wasn’t to run the Native Americans from their home) Because of this, I think that most people think of the US as a Christian nation.

    I actually don’t want Government involved in my religion (heck – I don’t want Government involved in many things because I think they just get in the way, are inefficient, and screw things up). But, that said, I am concerned about how many people are looking to Obama as a god – as someone who can do no wrong, say no wrong and is perfect. He isn’t – and not all of his ideas are good for this country (in my opinion). I’m worried about the pedestal that many people have put him on. He’s not perfect – and I’m not sure that people are willing to admit that.

    I like the diversity of our country – I like that we can worship (or not worship) as we like.

    Kim (who will hide back under her rock before people throw things at me!)

  6. On April 7th, 2009 at 6:43 am Stephanie Says:

    I am right there with ya, Michelle! I LOVE what Obama had to say. It’s about time we have a leader that is trying to include everyone in defining “America.”

    Thanks for your thoughts, Kim! I think the reason Obama is on a “pedestal” is because people are sooooo desparate for change after the last 8 years. People see that change is possible with Obama and that creates great hope and optimism. Needless to say, we really need that energy in our country right now. It is not a bad thing. With that said, of course Obama isn’t perfect and he has already upset both conservatives and liberals on various decisions. I do agree, however, that there probably are some people holding up very unrealistic expectations for his presidency, especially as the first African American president.

  7. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:13 am Tracey Says:

    I do think originally the country was founded on Christian principals…pilgrams…quakers…etc…but with this being a MELTING POT and so many cultures living here now….I think this statement was a little off but was not offended by it.

  8. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:37 am Ansley Says:

    I’m afraid I won’t be able to help with this, because I’m pretty left myself. If anything, I think his statement was just the beginning of what needs to be said.

    Kim, thanks for sharing your thoughts and I do understand what you’re saying about Obama. I worry about the pedestal he’s on too, but maybe for different reasons. For many of us on the left, the past eight years weren’t just a time where we disagreed with our leader. We’ve had those before and survived them pretty much intact, as much as we were relieved when they were over. The past eight years have felt very different. They were actually painful to a lot of us, in that we felt that the country we love dearly and call home was becoming anything but a home we could love and live in comfortably and companionably with people on the “other side.” It felt that we were becoming an exclusionary, reactionary place where our core values were being tossed aside in a swaggering, macho carelessness that was actually dangerous to who we’ve always wanted to be as a people. It felt as if we were in danger of becoming the people we always used to battle against, like governments used fear as a control tactic, spied on their own people and claimed that anyone who disagreed couldn’t be trusted.

    For us, having President Obama come into office was like getting water in the desert. I agree that he’s too high on a pedestal, even if I agree with most everything he’s trying to do. My fear is that all people, eventually, make missteps, disappoint, or can’t possibly live up to all expectations. The adulation of him right now reminds me of people who fall in love with their doctors or their therapists because they’re helping to ease the pain. That’s kind of silly or melodramatic, I know, but that’s how it feels to us right now. I’m just afraid that when he can’t possibly meet all our needs, people are going to hold it against him more than they should.

    Sorry to be on a soapbox, but I did want to explain. Thanks everyone for sharing.


  9. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:37 am Krystal Says:

    I like the opening line intros 🙂 Politically, I am very much in the middle, picking and chosing between the right and left on different issues.

    I am not bothered by the statement at all, but here is why I think others are (maybe) –

    I do think that it is historically clear that our nation was founded by Christians and that our Constitution is based on Christian principles. While there is (a very wise) separation of church and state, there is also a heavy influence of Christian values in the foundation of this country. Reading almost any of the speeches, quotes, or major documents from our founding fathers and subsequent national leaders, I can see why many people may view the US as a “Christian nation”. Even as late as 1954, we amended the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “Under God”. It’s not hard to imagine that people would consider this a Christian nation. And I think that is it — Obama’s statement that we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation hits a nerve for those whose *do* consider this a Christian nation. I can see why those people might interpret this statement as a message that we are withdrawing ourselves from (or disregarding) the Christian-influenced beginnings of this country.

    Or maybe the conservatives are just feeding the fears in any way that they can to try and dismantle the other party. . . because after all, that’s what politics are all about 🙂

  10. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:40 am Krystal Says:

    Just to be clear – my last sentence was all in jest!!!

  11. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:44 am Emily Says:

    I’ll tell you a little bit of truth – not theory, or any of that constitution mumbo jumbo. We ARE a Christian nation, whether or not people want to believe it!! “in god we trust” on our money? “god” mentioned in our pledge of allegiance? “god” mentioned in the Declarative of indepenence.

    I’m about as average a conservative as you find, and I think most conservate ppl think like me, too. Doesn’t matter that some amendment says church and state don’t get mixed, everything is Christian!

  12. On April 7th, 2009 at 7:53 am amy Says:

    Hi. Conservative here. Roman Catholic as well. This will be lengthy. (Sorry.)

    It is not difficult to see that our Founding Fathers had a distinctly Judeo-Christian mindset and that this provided the framework upon which they built our form of government, unique to the world. Also clearly, they, having escaped religious persecution, fully intended to protect religious freedom in America. There was deep concern around religion woven into our founding, as BOTH the basis for our freedoms and in protection of them. This is why is is so difficult to tease apart the church / state issue. It isn’t conveniently clear cut; certainly not amenable to sound bites and talking heads. Obviously as the country has become wildly diverse issues have arisen in terms of interpretation, and there was simply no way for the Founding Fathers to anticipate those circumstances and no reliable way for us now to know what they would do had they been able to see this future.

    I think the fact that we have a Judeo-Christian founding and have traditionally been a Christian nation is being defended against what BO said, which is also true, that we are not ONLY a Christian nation now. We protect that freedom of course, but many conservatives feel that America makes a mistake in forgetting that Judeo-Christian principles were also the foundation upon which those freedoms were built. If you begin to be disdainful of or begin to dismantle the very foundation of our system, you also threaten the freedoms it has protected all these years.

    Again, it’s very difficult to tease apart the rights we wave around from the worldview that afforded them to us in the first place. I believe we sanction that divorce to our peril. Every individual freedom and “it’s my right” divorced from some basic moral code (and ours is, like it or not, Judeo-Christian in origin) will eventually result in collapse and chaos.

    Anyway, I have quotes!

    “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; .. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” (Declaration of Independence)

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

    “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” George Washington

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion … Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle.” George Washington’s Farewell Address

    “.that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Declaration of Independence)

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. (First Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

    Again, sorry for the length. But shelves of books have been written about this and the one I recommend most strenously is Russell Kirk’s Roots of American Order. One of the best and most enlightening books I have ever read or ever expect to.

  13. On April 7th, 2009 at 8:06 am melany Says:

    Well, in response to some of the posts here… remember, believing in God does not make someone a Christian. Jews believe in God. So do many other people/religions that wouldn’t cosider themselves Christian. People can be full of faith and believe in a higher power, and even read and enjoy the bible but not be a Christian. Just sayin’. 😉

    Michelle – I think the reason statements like Obama’s upset some Christians is that they truly and undeniably believe that the Christian belief is the TRUTH and that it is part of their Christian duty to spread the word and help lead other people to the Lord. I read a blog that recently explained some of this saying that (I’m paraphrasing) people have become too tolerant of other religions and beliefs – and that if you TRULY believe in the bible and Christianity that you also know that all the other religions are wrong. Period. You don’t have to accept other beliefs – you should instead try to educate and teach people the truth. I would suspect these Christians would be bothered by Obama’s remarks.

    Interesting, no? I am like you and try to “see” both sides of issues and understand different beliefs. That paragraph I just typed above? I have to work very hard to understand. But I do realize some people have much stronger faith/convictions/personal knowledge of Christ? than I do and for them this may be a very natural reaction and way to feel?

    Me? I am very comfortable over on the left side of most all isues. It’s how I’m built.

  14. On April 7th, 2009 at 8:15 am Ale Says:

    I’m with Heather. Liberal Catholic, don’t get it. I dare say we’re a bit more liberal over here!

  15. On April 7th, 2009 at 9:04 am Leigh Says:


    I just came across this article yesterday (from Newsweek) that may shed some further light on this topic: religion’s place in the politics of our nation…

  16. On April 7th, 2009 at 9:45 am Holly G Says:

    God was not originally mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe it was added in the 50’s. So when people get offensive about having God removed from the Pledge of Allegiance(which I think SHOULD happen) because it will ruin the Pledge…it would actually be taking it BACK to it’s original, intended form in which God was kept out.

  17. On April 7th, 2009 at 9:49 am elle Says:

    I think the definition of Christian needs to be clarified here. As melany stated there are many people who believe in God who are not Christian. Jews, Jehovah Witness, Mormons all believe in God, but not the divinity of Christ. In its rawest form Christianity is the belief in the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

    When I read your statement “Conservatives around the internet seemed greatly bothered by this statement and kept saying we are no longer a Christian nation,” my immediate response was, “we were never a Christian nation to begin with.” I read on and laughed (great minds I suppose).

    Yes, our founding fathers were Christian. However, they fled Europe to escape from religious persecution. This is why our Constitution includes freedom of religion. That is basic US history.

    I have nothing useful to add to the argument as to why Christians are all in a snit about Obama’s statement. My only thought would be because this country has been run by someone who was overly conservative Christian for 8 years. The conservative Christian contingent feels a sense of entitlement because, well… often they don’t like change. It was as they liked it, and why change something you like. Of course that is me speculating rather than providing a truly fact based argument.

  18. On April 7th, 2009 at 9:58 am Jennifer Says:

    My husband is as conservative as you can get and he ALWAYS says we are NOT a Christain nation.

  19. On April 7th, 2009 at 11:19 am Kelly Says:

    Just as a counter-point to some of the quotes from amy from similar long-dead people.

    “The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” – Thomas Paine

    “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” – Napolean Bonaparte

    “A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes.” – James Feibleman

    This last quote I always find to be the most on mark, because it makes me realize that 3000 years from now, people will laugh and laugh that people of this time believed in something so ludicrous as an omnipotent, omniscient deity.

    Much the same way we find the ancient Greek and Egyptian religious systems ludicrous.

  20. On April 7th, 2009 at 11:31 am Holly G Says:

    Right on, Kelly!

  21. On April 7th, 2009 at 3:24 pm Burgh Baby Says:

    I am very glad to live in a non-Christian nation, considering a lot of my favorite people are not Christian.

  22. On April 7th, 2009 at 4:08 pm Dawn from old AB Says:

    This debate actually goes back to the founding fathers.

  23. On April 7th, 2009 at 8:07 pm kara Says:

    I think melany hit the nail on the head. I’m a Christian. To have this conversation we need to agree at the most basic level what a Christian is. To me, Christians believe that the only way to eternal life is to believe that Jesus is the son of God and died on the cross to absorb the sins of the world. I can’t ignore others who are not Christian but I think no less of them. I have many non-Christian friends and family but I don’t preach to them. I live my life how I think Christians should and hope they will be led to Christianty.

    With that in mind, Obama let out our dirty little secret. Christanity is on the decline in the US which truly makes me sad. The souls of thousands, maybe millions, will burn in hell…who wouldn’t be sad? It’s tough to admit that church attendance is on a huge decline, not that simply going to church makes one a Christian. Maybe the people who are upset about the comment are frustrated with the state of Christianity and are unfortunately showing their frustrations in their comments. Not to go all religious on you but self control is the fruit of the spirit I have the most trouble with too.

    I hope this helps.

  24. On April 7th, 2009 at 8:44 pm Hadyn Says:

    Christian here. I agree that history shows this nation was built – not solely, but primarily – on the chutzpah of Christians seeking a place to worship freely. That said, that was almost 500 years ago, right? So my problem is not with Obama’s accurate-in-essence statement, but with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters who continue to insist any nation COULD POSSIBLY BE a Christian one. Unfortunately, these believers (called dispensationalists) seem to me more interested in their 15 minutes of mic time, while reformed folks (“reformed” as in Luther and Calvin) are more compelled to elucidate God’s redemptive plan across all history, all nations and all times. God’s only “chosen people” were the Hebrews, but even they, He makes clear in Scripture, were literally at His mercy and could not be saved from destruction by any good works (but only by the covenant He made with them). Israel’s role was to be a light to the Gentiles (i.e. the rest of the world) so that ALL NATIONS might be reconciled to the one, true God. So God’s chosen people are not Americans or Europeans, but all those to whom He has revealed Himself across the ages, across the sphere. These Christians who are all suspect about Obama should talk to missionaries and non-American Christians who know exactly who their King is and couldn’t care less about the current administration – they care about feeding the poor, caring for widows and orphans and making Christ’s salvation known to the world.

  25. On April 8th, 2009 at 7:06 am Ruthie Says:

    Also a Christian…As Christians we are also seeing a spread of our rights being taken away…we all have the right to worship whomever we want, where ever we want, whenever we want, but there are laws coming before our legislatures that would ban Christian radio broadcasts and censor our pastor’s sermons. There are threats to our rights as parents (that would affect all, not just Christian), home schooling, etc. These are rights our country is lauded for…and we’re talking about tweaking those rights (freedom of speech) just because then others may hear Christian views?? I think the Christian panick comes in here…we have to ALL be very careful about ammending our constitution, passing laws, and (what has recently been happening) using ruling from foreign courts as a basis for rulings here in America. As for Obama’s comments…two thoughts…It is heartbreaking to hear; it is what our forefathers meant for us. If it is not a Christian country…that is we are not looking to God for guidance…then what kind of country is it? Who/what are we looking to to guide us? And judging from the mess our economy, schools, healthcare, etc are in, I think it is safe to say that we aren’t the ones who need to be calling the shots…at least not on our own.

  26. On April 8th, 2009 at 7:09 am Steph Says:

    Our country was founded by Christians who had suffered persecution in their home countries. They founded the United States with the fundamental, express purpose of keeping the state out of the their religion. And the tool they used to acheive this purpose is the Constitution.

    The Constitution they created (and is held up by countries around the world as the finest example of a model of self-governance ever created) is a living, breathing document. Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, whatever – there is room for you, there is protection for your beliefs from government intervention, and there is flexibility in how we define ourselves as a nation.

    Christian Scripture is clear – God thinks of nations as a “drops in the bucket” (I will search for the scripture that basically says that) – if you are a Christian, then you know that God’s kingdom is not represented by a flag, or a pledge, or an anthem. It is borderless. So if Obama says we are not a Christian nation, I’m okay with that. This is not the kingdom I am concerned about. 🙂

  27. On April 8th, 2009 at 7:43 am Hadyn Says:

    I understand what Ruthie is saying, and it IS scary to think the religious freedoms we enjoy would be taken away. I certainly don’t welcome being censored or being forced into hiding as the Chinese church is – I am a total wimp. We certainly have to pray against that, that the Lord would be our Advocate in those areas. However, I have to realize that suffering and persecution are consistent with the life of a Christian and the majority of Christians around the world suffer unspeakably for their faith. Historically, the Lord has grown His kingdom/His church through such suffering. The Chinese church exploded with conversions AFTER the missionaries were kicked out by Mao. Our God is a God of the downcast and oppressed. On anotehr note, in Isaiah and Jeremiah, the Lord USED pagan nations to overtake Israel IN ORDER to bring about Israel’s repentance of their OWN sin. So we spoiled, luxury-fed American believers may have to re-think our “rights” in light of the whole of Scripture. I am preaching to myself here, believe me! But I sure am enjoying this debate because I obviously feel strongly about getting it right biblically 😀

  28. On April 8th, 2009 at 7:59 am Cynthia Says:

    I am making stops at all blogs I find with people with adopted children from Guatemala to extend an invitation to visit my blog. I was born and raised in Guatemala, later moved to the US and became a naturalized US citizen. We have one son adopted from Guatemala and two biological born in Guatemala. Having met various people with adopted children from Guatemala I felt I had a gift to give and that was share my heritage. In the blog I am posting all things Guatemalan: recipes, nursery rhymes, places to visit, etc…. If you do stop by and like it, please share, comment and ask for topics.

    PS. Pro Life, Pro Gay, Anti Death Penalty, Anti Guns, pro freedom of religion, very much against stereotypes (and that is a battle with myself!) but above all PRO KNOWING AND EMBRACING ALL PEOPLE WITH THEIR OWN BELIEFS! I loved your post.

  29. On April 9th, 2009 at 2:44 pm carla Says:

    (back. reading. such interesting comments. loved this post.)

  30. On April 9th, 2009 at 8:18 pm muriel elrod Says:

    I am not bothered by this at all. You KNOW I am super “to the right to the right….everything I own in a box to the right”-that is Beyonce in case you are wondering. 🙂

  31. On April 9th, 2009 at 8:42 pm wanda Says:

    Wow! I’m speechless. But….I’m trying to read with an open heart. Guess where I stand? Yea, way on the right and married to a preacher to boot! I hear the giggles. I am a souled out believer in Christ. It hurts to see so many mean-spirited criticisms regarding Christianity. (We’re not all freaks/weirdo’s/wacko’s/looneys/screaming meanies!) Not to mention I see half-truths and misconceptions of what it means to be “Christian”.
    God is real, He is omnipotent, He is all-knowing, He is the Great I AM, He is my King and I choose to follow Him in obedience not out of ignorance in some fairy tale belief system. In this country, I have that freedom and so do you. At this time in my life….this freedom seems very much in danger. Many people call themselves christian never knowing exactly what that name means other than that’s what they associate “good” people with. Everybody wants to be considered good, right? So they latch onto that label. Very sad. A true follower of Christ is a person that has accepted Jesus Christ as their PERSONAL savior (meaning….they choose to acknowledge Him as their Lord and He has first priority in their lives). They recognize their sinfulness and want to be more like Christ……holy, set apart, pure. Hard to shoot for….but with the help of the Holy Spirit (once a person has asked Jesus into their heart….they have the Holy Spirit living inside of them from that moment on) they can turn from their old way of life to a new one. Which is where that whole moral thing comes in…..having boundaries on yourself and treating people with love and forgiveness.

    I certainly don’t mean to insult anyone reading here. I promise. My belief in God is mine….everyone has their own choice……someday everyone will face Christ and there really is an eternity. Who would purposely choose hell?

    My family and I want nothing more than to see our President soar with success. We may not have voted for him but that doesn’t mean we are “haters” because of that. His beliefs are not what we choose for our family. Again, we respect him and the office he holds. We see him as a human….not a super-hero or god, nor is he worthy of the pedestal that many of our fellow American’s have placed him on. He deserves honor and respect because of the position he holds…..but when he goofs up (just like EVERY President before him has in some way or another) we feel he is accountable for his actions. Sorta like you and I are. There are consequences for our mistakes.
    I will pray for him and the leadership that falls under him. I think these are extreme times for our country. We have so much to be thankful for because of the country we live in. America is like no other place in our world. We do not suffer and fear like many in this world do. God bless America and may God bless our President as he leads us.

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