This week, U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Methodist preacher who last year tried to pass legislation that would have allowed churches to operate as political money laundering machines, gave a speech in which he argued that members of Congress need to be glued together. He said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could glue ourselves to each other across the aisle? I mean, after all, it is only if we are sticking together that we’re going to be able to address the problems that face this country. The truth of the matter is we already have some glue. One Nation under God – patriotic glue.”
From the pulpit where Cleaver preaches, it may seem that the Christian god is a glue that can bring all Americans together, and leave them stuck together, but social survey data consistently reveal another picture. Americans are not all unified around the idea of any god. Many religious Americans don’t believe in the Christian god, and many other Americans aren’t religious in any way, preferring to leave behind the ancient, bloody history of belief in divinities. They recognize that belief in gods leaves society stuck with ugly, repressive, violent ideas and practices.
It’s not the job of any member of Congress to try to cram all Americans into a single religious vision. Representative Cleaver should leave his Silly Putty theology behind at his church office when he goes to work for the American people in Congress.