Lord, Deliver Us...
My speech on religion and politics.
Good evening. Thank you for giving me the time to make clear my views on my very personal beliefs on religion, video of which is available on our website watchmepray.com.
Let me make something clear. If elected president of the United States, my religion -- which many of you know is a combination of Southern Baptist-Catholic-Greek Orthodox-high-holidays Judaism -- will never, ever sway my views as leader of this great country that Jesus Christ himself once called the greatest nation in his and his father's creation, though France and the French countryside were a very close second.
I have been asked many, many times on the campaign trail if I believe in a so-called separation between church and state. And my answer is always the same: Jesus is a friend. A buddy. He's someone I'd call if I was bored on a Tuesday night and wanted to get a beer and some nachos and maybe watch a game. If a funny thing happened at the office, something that made me laugh out loud, I'd call or text him or shoot him an e-mail. Would I call him if I had to move furniture? Yes. Would I borrow money from him? Probably not, as I have tried and, although one of the nicest people I know, he's very weird about money.
I frankly do not know how I could be clearer.
There are some who say that the founding fathers themselves were adamant about a separation between church and state. Jefferson once wrote of "building a wall of separation between church and state." I know this because I had an aide look it up on Wikipedia because I wanted to make it appear as though I knew something about the founding fathers, which I do not.
But what did Jefferson mean by "wall"? What if there's a door in the wall? Or a window? Some walls are thin. I live in a new development, and I can literally hear the couple next door when they're intimate simply by using the bottom of a drinking glass and holding my breath.
My point is that walls come in many shapes and sizes, and although walls can divide us, walls can also bring us together. And perhaps this is what the founding fathers meant, that church and state must be kept apart but also brought together by a wall with a door in it, be it French doors or a window unit. That is my position exactly.
Critics have said that I have been evasive yet pious, that I refuse to clearly state my views on creationism versus Darwinism. This strikes me as unfair and blasphemous at the same time. God made me as I am, though I wish he had made me taller, not bald and without the seborrheic dermatitis.
Some ask if I believe the literal words of the Bible. No. But yes. All I can say is that I have seen illustrations in some Bibles, and apparently it's all true, though it has always surprised me that none of the writers of the Bible ever went on to write anything else, considering the success of that book.
Let me pose a question to myself, if I may. Will my beliefs affect me in office? Absolutely not. Let's say, for example, it's 18 months from now and I'm in the Oval Office, praying at the base of a 10-foot-high neon cross that I plan to have installed on inauguration day, and I am informed that terrorists have taken hostages or made a video saying that they are going to take hostages or do something bad, or that there was speculation that terrorists somewhere maybe someday do something bad or maybe nothing to do with terrorists at all and it's just a report from, say, Anderson Cooper, who, although I am a red-blooded American male with a wife and four children, I find, as a man, very attractive.
What would I do? What would Jesus do? What would Anderson Cooper do? I can only speak for myself and Mr. Christ when I say that I would bomb someone or something as soon as possible, not because it's violent to bomb something or someone but because my personal Jesus knows that I bomb because I love. And perhaps if I am to be faulted, it is for this very reason.
Know this: I believe in God. But I believe that God is personal and should not be worn shamelessly on one's sleeve unless one is in office. Does that make me anti-Semitic or judgmental toward Muslims or "confused and kind of weirded out" by Mormons? No. Sort of.
Life is hard and complex, and in moments of darkness and personal trial, we turn to our maker, who, in any reasonable person's case, is Jesus Christ, whom I once met, and no, I'm not kidding. I'm pretty sure it was Jesus himself who once said, "Know me and you shall know, and you will recognize me because, like, you know me, so why wouldn't you recognize me? Just maybe keep it to yourself."
John Kenney is a writer in New York.
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times