The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 8, 2013

Anson Burlingame, guest columnist: Political rally draws wrong line in the sand

By Anson Burlingame
Special to The Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — A rally of the religious/political sort was held on July 4, 2013, in Delaware. Joplin was represented at that rally by a local leader of the GOP, and our tornado destruction was referenced. Support of that rally implied that God had something to do directly with our recovery.

Frankly, in my belief, God had nothing to do with it. Instead it was the “Spirit of Joplin” that helped us all, a lot. But how you believe about such matters is of course entirely up to you.

Thus permit me, if you will, to disagree with that rally.

The rally was another tea party, or religious right, or some such form of current right-wing politics calling for far more religion in the governance of America today.

I could not disagree more, period. In fact we need far less religion in our American politics today. I also believe that by calling for more Christianity in governance in America today that we could move further down the path being seen in Egypt right now with far too much religion — Islam, in that case — embedded in the government just overthrown by secular protesters and the military last week.

I have now written this phrase at least three times lately in my blog: “Live and let live and do no harm to others.”

And I still mean it — strongly — as far as forcing any religion, much less interpretation of any religion, down anyone’s throat by the force of government, anytime, in America. And for a local leader of the GOP in Joplin to publicly endorse such efforts is exactly why I do not consider myself a Republican.

As long as the Republican Party tries to force the Christian religion, as some of those people interpret it, down my throat or the throats of others using the power of government, I will reject that political party. That does not mean that I will become a Democrat. Politically, I will remain Independent with no total allegiance to either political party.

I am constitutionally protected to worship as I believe, or not worship anything, for that matter. How I may choose to worship or believe in spiritual matters is my business and only my business, as long as I do no harm to others, period.

No way do I reject attempts to create harmony amongst all men and women. But religion itself has been far too destructive, in my view, throughout the course of history to rely on religion to do so.

Religion only promotes harmony between people with the same religious beliefs.

So all you religious-right, tea-party members, zealous evangelicals and, yes, Mr. Local Leader of the GOP, please just let me live and worship and follow God’s will as I see fit, and I will let you do the same, with no government dictates. I will also do my best to do no harm to others.

Oh, yes, let me add that “bringing God (meaning only the Christian God) back into our schools” as a primary remedy to the failures in our current system of public education is exactly the wrong way to improve those schools. I certainly have no objection to improving harmony in all our schools. But bringing religion into schools — public schools — will only create more disharmonies, in my view, unless we all believe alike, which will never happen in a free country.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.