By John MacDonald, August 14, 2014
Now un-enrolled, independent minded and as a former registered Republican for over 20 years I have watched Ronald Reagan’s influence on the Republican Party and his legacy, fade off into the sunset. Dutch was an uncompromising conservative with roots from an older version of the Democratic Party and the days of FDR. Reagan was the perfect combination of what the majority of Americans felt we represented at that time in our history. He best represented American values and had a palatable description of where politics ought to lead us as a country. He compromised with Democrats, who at the time seemed to like him and together they accomplished great things. Reagan tapped into something that gave the majority of Americans pride in what we represented as a country and confidence that somehow our nation was headed in the right direction. He gave American’s not only hope, but faith that things were going to get better.
I was fortunate to have grown up in Reagan’s America. I was nine years old when he took office and seventeen when he left office. I grew up listening to his speeches, following policies, seeing him in action and watching his press conferences. I grew up with the benefit of a President that stood up for the United States. He stood against what we at the time believed was the greatest threat to the world, the Soviet Union. I watched Reagan handle any crisis with a great sense of confidence, which he always clearly demonstrated and communicated to the country. I watched Reagan own up to his mistakes. He took responsibility when something in his administration failed. As real leaders do, he didn’t blame others. President Reagan made us feel like we were part of every decision he made. Somehow we the people were part of his decisions and the reason he made his decisions. It was for us, the American people, not him. No it wasn’t about Ronald Reagan. It was all about the American people.
Admiring Reagan, I always felt that somehow God was part of the President’s life. He brought back the phrase “God bless the United States of America” into his own Presidential addresses after years of it fading away. I never felt as though Reagan was pushing religion or his brand of religious belief. I did have a sense though that he believed in a higher power. A higher power that looked over our great nation and protected our people. I think Reagan believed as a whole that we were a moral people. He wanted us to be a decent people and it was partly due to our freedom of religion. Not because religion or religious beliefs were mandated into the laws of this country, but because religious beliefs were personal and guided us into the decisions we made in our everyday lives. Morals and a faith that seemed to guide Ronald Reagan as it also guided the nation.
Today I see the religious extremism that has taken over the Middle East. It frightens any American who appreciates how our own country was founded. A clear separation of church and state has given us and the rest of the world a place to point to. A place to melt together in our own personal freedom that allows us to worship or not, in our own individual way.
Although not as much as the extremists in the Middle East, another group that frightens me somewhat is the extreme religious right here in America, which has planted itself in the Republican Party. I believe the religious right of the Republican Party has good intentions, but as we know, sometimes the best of intentions can lead us on a path to disaster.
Unlike Progressives with their atheistic views that wish to abolish God completely from any public or private place. The same Progressives that have hijacked the Democratic Party with their extreme brand of politics… I see the Religious Right is doing the same, by pushing their strong beliefs in religion with an all or nothing approach within the Republican Party to influence the country.
The foundation of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state was fundamental to our past and is to the future progress of this country. You see the lack of God in our government isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of faith and God in our own communities that is the problem. As we see attendance in churches dwindle nationwide, we can understand why we see its fading influence in everything from the media, violence in our inner city neighborhoods, to social issues, to the ultimate disgrace of many political figures. It’s the lack of diminishing influence that religions and religious organizations have in our communities that’s the problem, not the lack of religious influence in our government’s institutions and laws.
When we lack faith in our own community and religion, some on the religious right seem to have a tendency to push their influence into government to try and save it from itself. Some I say, have lost faith in faith.
Spreading one’s message of faith and religious preferences belongs at home and in the community in my opinion. Religion at home and at church should be the goal. Not in the halls of Government, where it can be dictated or mandated. If you believe in your brand of religion, have faith that it’s permeating the consciousness of the people in your own home first, your church and then perhaps your community. Not dictated through law in the halls of Congress.
Have faith in your faith, where the moral decisions of your life are made in the sanctity of your own home, not in a government agency. Practice teachings of your own church to the membership of your own place of worship. Have faith that your faith will guide the moral decisions we face. Rather than the false faith that religious beliefs should be mandated in social issues through government. Or that your religious practices should formulate laws, which takes everyone’s true freedoms away. In essence taking away the founding father’s intent… separation of church and state.
You see Ronald Regan didn’t want religion to rule our Government, but rather for religion and our beliefs to be part of our lives on an individual level and then as part of the overall consciousness of the nation. As a guide, not a mandate. Collectively we as Americans choose our own religion to practice or not.
President Reagan gave us a belief that America was capable of great things, because he believed that God was on our side. Who’s God I’m sure he didn’t know, but a God that looked over our nation and its people, because of our collective moral compass to do good. He encouraged the word God as part of who we are, not what “We the people” had to be.
Push your faith at home and your community and keep it at home and community. Here’s a message for the religious right to consider…. Have faith in your faith.