Last week, in an interview with Tony Perkins, the current President of The Family Research Council, my Congressman, Todd Aiken made the following statement: " …at the heart of liberalism is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God."
Let me put my cards on the table. I teach theology. I am a liberal, which means I practice liberalism. I love God. I love the United States of America. Liberals love God, they really, really do. I can prove it. God must be a liberal because God helped Barack Obama become president. Anyone who does not support the divinely assisted President of the United States must hate God, no? Therefore, Liberals love God.
As a professional theologian, I wish amateurs would stop assuming that they know for a certainty what God likes or hates. Amateurs are convinced they know the mind of God, except when God favors someone else. Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans. Since God is the creator - in charge of the forces of nature - it would be reasonable to conclude that God hates New Orleans. Does that also mean that God hates Scripture loving, church going Joplin as well? Whether you are a true liberal or a true conservative, the consequences of such facile, misguided, shoot-from-the-hip political theology lead us down a path of absurdity.
Despite the recent foolish forays into political theology now clogging the blogosphere, I am getting into a Fourth of July mood. I only hope that bad weather will not dampen the fireworks displays. Each year, for the past decade or so, I have been preparing myself for the celebration of our nation's declaration of independence from Great Britain, by reading the document that made it official on July fourth, two hundred thirty five years ago. Once you read past the famous words that everyone can recite from memory, i.e., "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary…" you arrive at a detailed list of offences perpetrated by the King of England on his colonies in America. Each time I read the list of grievances leveled at the King, I see something new. The words do not change. My understanding and appreciation for those words do.
As a form of government, Monarchy in the Eighteenth Century was very conservative. The British monarchy was even more conservative than most. The King was also the official head of the Church of England. I have never read the Conservative's Handbook, but I don't think it gets any more conservative than that. With the words of Congressman Aiken's recent interview ringing in my head, I was stunned to realize that the founders of our great country were enemies of the conservative King, willing to risk their lives, if necessary to overthrow his conservative government. They were, in short, radical liberals. At the very same time, they also professed a great love for the Creator and Providence-two euphemisms for God. They believed explicitly that our rights came not from the King but directly from the Creator. History's most audacious group of liberals loved God.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.