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That Old-Time Religion

If you’re a liberal who can’t stomach President Bush’s constant references to God; if you clench your fists every time the president refers to America’s religious heritage; if you fear the imminent imposition of a Christian theocracy whenever Mr. Bush speaks of how the country has been divinely blessed – if any or all of this describes you more or less to a tee, then you’re sure to have conniptions reading this passage from a certain wartime commander-in-chief’s Inaugural message:The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.

So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly – to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men – to the achievement of His will, to peace on earth.

“Strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom”? How infuriatingly jingoistic! “A faith which has become the hope of all peoples”? What overbearing arrogance! “So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly…” Help! The wall between church and state has been breached, and those ignorant and intolerant red-state hoards are surely, at this very moment, putting up the Ten Commandments in classrooms all over the country.

Who, a blue-state secularist might ask, is this holy roller in the White House to presume to speak for America in such exclusivist and divisive terms? Well, you who go to sleep with images of New York Times editorials dancing sweetly in your heads, it’s not George W. Bush. No, the speaker guilty of imposing his religion in such a hubristic manner was none other than the greatest liberal icon of them all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The passage, from FDR’s fourth and final Inauguration speech (delivered in January 1945) was noted by National Review Managing Editor Jay Nordlinger in his Jan. 13 “Impromptus” column at NationalReviewOnline.com. “Who can doubt,” Nordlinger writes, “that if FDR talked that way today, he would be branded a ‘theocrat’? A dangerous kook who knows nothing about the ‘separation of church and state.’ Who, indeed, hates the Constitution, and this country, really.”

Of course, the Monitor has no doubt that if FDR were still around, he would (in addition to being one of the medical marvels of all time) have “evolved” in his political thinking to the point where he’d be giving speeches to ACLU dinners on the dangers of religion in the public square.

If the Democratic Party could turn on a dime and go from the muscular military and foreign policies of Truman, Kennedy and Johnson to the milquetoast meowing of McGovern, Carter, Mondale and Dukakis; if Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore and countless other liberals could so easily drop their strong opposition to abortion as soon as it became politically incorrect to maintain that position; and if feminism and gay rights could be elevated from a state of non-existence on the liberal agenda to key doctrines of liberal orthodoxy in the space of two or three years in the early 1970’s, well, then, how difficult is it to conceive of Roosevelt doing a complete about-face on his unabashed referencing of God and faith and America’s divinely ordained destiny?

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Note to Readers: The proliferation of blogs continues at a mind-numbing rate. It’s become impossible for any one individual to keep up with the sheer number, let alone know which ones are worth the time of day and which ones are exercises in foolishness and futility better left unread.

From time to time this column has featured listings of websites and weblogs recommended by both the Monitor and the Monitor’s readers. Invariably, as soon as each such list appears the e-mails begin pouring in with names of worthy sites the Monitor missed or for one reason or another neglected to mention. So there will be yet another list in the very near future, and we’ll try to make that one the most comprehensive yet. Start sending in your choices.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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