Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nixon, Billy Graham, and White House Religion

June, 1969, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of American, concluded his sermon in the Nixon White House with the following prophecy: "I hope it is not too presumptuous of me, in the presence of the President, to say that future historians, looking back at our generation, may say that in a period of great trials and tribulations the finger of God pointed to Richard Milhous Nixon, giving him the vision and the wisdom to save the world and civilization" ("One Nation Under God," #KevinKruse, p.252

Billy Graham played a determining role in selecting clergy of various faith traditions who would echo the party line: that faith and politics were now, finally, wedded together in the White House, all for the wellbeing of the nation, of course.

Nixon and Graham, often standing side-by-side in various religious and political events, represented this happy marriage that would renew America and set us on a course of national revival and international power.

Yup, and we all know how it ended ... iconically, the Rabbi was party right: "the finger of God" did point to Nixon ... much like the prophet's finger pointed at King David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12.7).

The macabre dance of religion and politics in our nation has long endured ... sort of life a really, really, bad marriage, with all kinds of abuse and manipulation, but never, ever, a divorce. In some ways, I suppose, the two can never be separated in America, any more than they can be separated anywhere, because human beings, in the most part, are always political (I know of no other alternative) and incurably religious (especially as we use our religion to justify our politics), what with politicians using religion to enhance their own power and various religious leaders more than eager to bask in the glory of state pomp and power.

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