In Lancaster, South Carolina, where thousands of jobs were lost when the main source of employment, the cotton mill, closed after years of operation. The county now has an unemployment rate of 13%–the political mantra is about the economy, certainly, but what role faith has in that is not quite so clear. CNN hosted an "Open Mic" to get a feel for what the people of this hard-hit former cotton mill town believe (or don't), and to get a look at how faith does (or doesn't) influence politics and President Obama. The people who stepped up to the mic is a cross section of how people across the nation might feel–opinions fell across the spectrum–some believed we can't fix the economy without God, others preferred to elect a more moderate candidate. Some felt that Obama is not a Christian, and also felt that he has not helped the impoverished Lancaster County.
Voter frustration is evident in the video–one lady says that she won't pray for Obama "because he isn't a Christian," while another just point blank is asking for Obama to step down. The hue and cry from the right is that a "Christian" president will fix everything.
Yet all of the candidates that claimed to be called by God to run have dropped out–which may or may not mean that God wasn't on their side to begin with, or that God changed His mind. Yet the link between the economy and God-working-through-a-human-President to save America from its rampant overspending and reckless printing of money to cover debt remains.
America has responded well to the promises of the "prosperity gospel" even if it has assumed that belief and God and getting rich work hand in hand. Perhaps this explains the confusion of hard working people want to know why the Protestant work ethic isn't working for them, and they want to know why God isn't always blessing them for working hard and believing in Him, tithing to Him, etc. And those who are believers believe we have a bad economy because of some sin America has committed (the worst of which seems to be, to some, having elected Barack Obama).
Defendchristians.org wants a Christian president in 2012. However, the consensus over what a true Christian is seems to be a stumper as they provide a survey to ascertain exactly what a true Christian president would look like:
As the 2012 presidential elections approach new contenders for the Presidency are making themselves known. As Christians we must be thoughtful and discerning and prayerfully consider who deserves our support. We can’t afford to get caught up in the hype of the campaign season.
America’s God-given liberties were built on our Christian heritage, but secularists have been attempting to eradicate these essential foundations. We want to hear from you? Tell us what qualities you think our next President must have.
They ask whether a true Christian is born again, affirmed through history, has a proven record of support for Christian morality, or church membership. And interestingly, they tie the concept of "preserving liberty" to whether or not our next President is a Christian. Which begs the question of exactly what "liberty" is to individuals.
One could argue that we have had many avowed Christian presidents–so deep is the admiration for the best aspects of Christianity that some even try to make the Founding Fathers all Christian even though they weren't. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty describes themselves as "Primarily an education and advocacy organization, the Baptist Joint Committee is a leading voice in Washington, D.C., fighting to uphold the historic Baptist principle of religious freedom. It stands guard at the intersection of church and state, defending the first freedom of the First Amendment. The BJC is the only religious agency devoted solely to religious liberty and the institutional separation of church and state. While primarily supported by Baptists, the BJC fights for religious liberty for all, including Jewish, Muslim and a host of Christian groups, who count on the BJC for leadership."
Further, the group states that secularism isn't the enemy:
“[L]egal secularism,” is a friendly form of secularism embraced by many people of faith who simply believe, as I do, that government and our legal institutions should be secular in the sense of being non-religious or religiously neutral. Secularism of this ilk is not a threat to religion but an essential mechanism to ensuring its liberty.
This version of secularism has informed not only the Reformation (Luther) and the Enlightenment (Locke), but Baptist thought, at its best, as well. Indeed, this is what Roger Williams was getting at when he argued that the magistrate had no authority over the souls of his subjects. More recently, J.M. Dawson, the BJC’s first executive director, defended the use of the word in articles, speeches and even his 1964 autobiography. Although acknowledging “secular” sometimes connotes atheistic humanism and materialism, Dawson argued that “when one says ours is a secular state or that our public schools form a secular system, he means they are outside church control, simply that.”
This is the sense in which we at the BJC continue to employ the word. Using “secular” to mean “religiously neutral” is very much a part of the fabric of our constitutional and political system. The First Amendment’s No Establishment and Free Exercise clauses require the government to be neutral toward religion, not taking sides in matters of faith, but leaving it to voluntary, individual decisions and private religious associations.
God helps those who help themselves. That is the mantra that Americans have accepted and lived by for generations. Perhaps we should adopt this mantra to digging ourselves out of the economic hole we've gotten ourselves into, instead of depending upon a fallible human being Jesus type figure to bail us out of it.