Sorry, friends: Say no to Pete

Peter the Hermit preaching First Crusade


Over the past several weeks, a couple of people have asked me about Pete Buttigieg.  They want to know if I support him for President and if I don’t, they want to know why.  Well, at the risk of being accused of being part of the Democrats Who Eat Their Own Young Movement, I am not a fan of Buttigieg (and it’s not just because I have to manually add him to my spell-checker unless I want a bunch of red squiggles all over my page.)

I admire his mastery of social media and the hype he has been able to generate.  I have long ago given up arguing that “form over function” is a bad way to pick leaders.  We live in a time when form is probably 90% of all our decisions.   Function is a distant, if ever, afterthought.   Instagram “influencers”, the Kardashians, “reality” shows that are obviously not real (just how naked and afraid can you be when there’s a team of cameramen following you around through your life threatening reality?), are all indications that what something “looks” like is far more important than what that thing “does.”

Yes, I know that last paragraph reads like Clint Eastwood’s manifesto of why he doesn’t want anyone on his lawn, but it remains a valid criticism of what we care about when it comes to making all sorts of decisions.  Think of the advertisements for various food products that trumpet “New Packaging!” The crap inside the cereal box is still 95% processed sugar, but hey, the new logo is really cool!

I listened to Bill Clinton speak the other night, and he tossed out a claim that people have an attention span of about 9 seconds when they are listening to a news report on television.  Nine seconds.  So making nuanced arguments, like the one I’m trying to make here, are not going to be heard.  But unless we make a commitment to reverse this trend in our own consumption habits, we’re going to end up with products, TV shows, and politicians who are far more “form” than “function.”

So let’s just concede that Buttigieg is winning the “form” battle.  Buttigieg is a young guy.  I like that.  He’s enthusiastic and energetic.  I’m jealous of that.  He’s willing to call out Trump and his angry, frustrated, and scared supporters.  I love that.  He’s gay.  I don’t care about that.   He’s apparently super religious.  I hate that.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

It’s probably the most violated article in our Constitution, if not de jure, then certainly de facto.  Even Donald Trump had to claim to be a Christian in order to run for President.   And a whole bunch of misguided and morally corrupt “Christians” actually believed him!  It isn’t hard to imagine Jesus looking down and saying, “No, man…that’s not it…he’s not one of mine.”  But without making his claim of being Christian, this very embodiment of each of the seven deadly sins was not going to get a whiff of the Oval Office.

For years I have called out fake Christians, like Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who dupe people into believing they are guided by the very principles they violate on a daily basis.  (You can look it up: Jesus actually cared about the poor, the meek, women, the disabled, etc.  Republicans?  Not so much.) Worse, they prey on people’s faith and argue that there is a place in our secular government for their brand of “Christianity.”  There isn’t.  (You can look that up too.)

For years Republicans have co-opted the Christianity brand and claimed to be the stewards of Jesus’ ideas.  Nothing they do, of course, matches what Jesus would teach.  Forcing their false “Christian” ideas into our government has brought untold misery to millions.    It’s killing women and children. It’s destroying public education. It has no place in a government that was created to avoid the agony of theocracies that had dominated Europe for a thousand years.

As a history teacher, each year I have to try to explain to students why “Christian” armies rode through the Rhineland slaughtering thousands of Jews on their way to Jerusalem where they slaughtered thousands more Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox Christians.

I have to explain why Aztec priests slaughtered thousands of people so that the gods would keep the sun coming up in the morning.

I have to explain why Muslim leaders bring death and misery to non-believers over and over again.

At some point it becomes pretty clear that all this misery can only be prevented if leaders don’t have a god to blame for their bad behavior.

That brings us back to Buttigieg.  Unlike so many of his supporters who celebrate his faith, I decry it when he thinks it should guide our government.  To do otherwise would make me as big a hypocrite as Lee Chatfield and his ilk (and those are some ENORMOUS hypocrites indeed.)  Please know that I respect the right of any person to practice whatever religion they feel they need to practice.  I know that religion gives some people comfort and provides some assurances for living a moral life.   Heck, some of my best friends are real Christians.

But the line between church and state is there for a reason.  A very good reason.  Instead of Buttigieg claiming he’s going to redefine how Christianity will play in politics, he ought to be respectful enough of the millions of non-Christians in this country and simply say that a person’s religion is a private matter and that he will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.  All of it.  Otherwise, he’s just another guy who thinks God cares who wins football games on Sunday.

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