Here's a Presidents Day matter to ponder: Twenty-three of our first 44 American presidents were either Episcopalians or Presbyterians. (In another way of counting, the figure is 20, not 23. Close enough, I guess, for government work.)
But given the nation's shifting religious landscape, my guess is that of the next 44, maybe only half a dozen will come from one of those two denominations.
Already we're seeing Muslims, Buddhists and at least one Hindu among members of Congress, to say nothing of some folks who are openly unaffiliated. So it's reasonable to expect that the previous landslide for Christianity will taper off a bit.
Does religious affiliation of presidents matter?
Well, yes and no.
There is, as you know, no religious test for public office. So constitutionally it doesn't matter what religion, if any, presidents are.
Religious affiliation is worth paying attention to only in the way that it may affect public policy and an individual president's public behavior.
Some folks want the president to be our national pastor-in-chief. That's a really dumb idea, though for sure in times of crisis our presidents sometimes move into the role of pastoral counselor to the nation.
But as we become a more relgiously pluralistic society, let's do what we can to make this a religiously welcoming nation whose president can be an adherent of any religion or none. (When I say any religion, I exclude such groups as violent Satan worshipers or other groups a big majority of Americans would consider extremist. But chances of one of them being elected is nil anyway.)
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TAKING TIME TO TAKE TIME
My friend Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has written this lovely column about what the pope's resignation decision might teach us about the call of the Lenten season to take quiet time to listen to God. So I offer it to you as a quiet Lenten gift.