The Religious Test

Damon Linker argues that devout religious believers are unlikely to govern well without compromising their faith:

It is possible for someone of liberal or moderate belief to be a great presidentbecause his faith will make few potentially uncompromising, illiberal demands on him. But the same cannot be said of the most devout believers, who face a stark choice. Either they can practice the art of drawing distinctions between their piety and the nation’s politicsor they can refrain from seeking high political office. What will be never be possible is a theological-political synthesis. As long as the United States remains a liberal nation with a centerless society, traditionalist religion at its peak will fail to harmonize with politics at its peak. Our saints will not be statesmen and our statesmen will not be saints.

And the attempt to fuse them - to end the conflict, to "give up everything to God", in the chilling, primordial political vision of a Sarah Palin - is actually the end of what we have always understood as politics in America. In our current global religious conflict, where we have the technological power to destroy everything while some want to give up all human judgment to what they see God's will, it is the most dangerous phenomenon we face. It stretches from Wasilla to the West Bank settlements to Tehran's Revolutionary Guards.

To govern as a Christian is to engage in a tragic compromise. It is to do what we are enjoined as Christians not to do: to order killing, to make decisions that do not turn the other cheek, to fight - not love - the enemy. And that is why, as Obama's brilliantly Niebuhrian Nobel Speech revealed, the man we now have in the White House has a far deeper understanding of Christianity in this fallen world than anyone on the Christianist right or Christianist left.

And yet they dare call him an infidel.

(You can buy Damon's new book, The Religious Test, here.)