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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proposed: A Secular Unifier for Our Nation

Pastors in the United Methodist Church which I attend generally are not biased politically in the pulpit.  My dad made a rule of not putting political bumper stickers on his car.  He was politically active in the sense that he followed the news closely and never missed voting in an election.  But he held that he was the pastor of all the congregation which was constituted from a wide spectrum of political opinion.  It was his job to preach the gospel and affirm Christian values and it was up to the parishioners to apply this to their own lives.  In his view, it would be a big mistake to suggest that one could not be a Christian and be at the same time a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or politically disinterested.  Sometimes controversy was unavoidable, but my father was not condemnatory.  For example, rather than condemning racism, he preached on love and brotherhood.  He sought not to condemn, but to lift up.  He sought to be inspirational and unifying rather than divisive and argumentative.  One might counter that this was cowardly and of little use.  I disagree completely.  The seeds of brotherhood were sown so that when the trumpet sounded in the sixties, watershed changes took place in a relatively short time.  It is frightful to imagine what would have occurred to our society had hatred instead of love been the regular Sunday diet at churches throughout all ethnic groups.

Viewing the recent news of the royal wedding, I can’t help but consider the salutary function played by ceremonial heads of state.  Sometimes I wonder if it would benefit America if there were a chosen unifier always affirming and uplifting the principles of democracy.  This position would be ceremonial in the sense that it would not be above politics, but would be apart from it and would have the primary function of affirming our values and offering inspiration.  Some of the values it could affirm are liberty, equality, respect of individuals, entrepreneurship, the soundness of a popularly elected government, balanced government, the benefits of the private sector, the importance of families, the sacredness of the creative effort in all fields.  The individual in this secular position would refrain (much like a pastor) from contentious political debate.  The object of the position would be to remind us of and to lift up the many fundamental values and humanity we share in common.  Auxiliary functions of the position could entail affirming various humanitarian causes, offering the nation’s empathy in times of tragedy at home or abroad, making inspirational addresses at schools, public occasions, or even in joint sessions of Congress.  The method of selection of candidates for this position would involve some system of near unanimous consent of a bipartisan council.  The candidates would not be allowed to campaign for the office, but there would be public service forums where they would be exposed to public comparison and evaluation.  Final selection would be by national ballet.  (This is all in an attempt to create a people’s choice candidate without the expense or contentiousness of typical campaigns.)  The elected candidate would not be able to run henceforth for political office. 
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