At long last, there is at least one national voice that’s as fed up as I am over the way the presidential candidates are bowing and scraping at the altar of American Hyperreligiosity. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker offers this, in the wake of Pastor Rick Warren’s attempt to abscond with the 2008 election in the name of rabid Christian evangelicals:

At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister — no matter how beloved — is supremely wrong.

It is also un-American. …

For the past several days, since mega-pastor Rick Warren interviewed Barack Obama and John McCain at his Saddleback Church, most political debate has focused on who won. …

The winner, of course, was Warren, who has managed to position himself as political arbiter in a nation founded on the separation of church and state.

The loser was America.

Parker includes some kindly comments about Warren and understates his obvious theocratic bent, as if she doesn’t want to be too harsh on him … I’d have preferred she call him what he is: A transparent opportunist trying to leverage this election so as to give evangelicals even more political power than they already have, regardless of who wins. Nevertheless, she wraps up with an excellent point:

For the moment, let’s set aside our curiosity about what Jesus might do in a given circumstance and wonder what our Founding Fathers would have done at Saddleback Church. What would have happened to Thomas Jefferson if he had responded as he wrote in 1781:

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Would the crowd at Saddleback have applauded and nodded through that one? Doubtful.

By today’s new standard of pulpits in the public square, Jefferson — the great advocate for religious freedom in America — would have lost.

It’s ironic, of course, that the Religious Right™ generally claims to be obedient to the Founding Fathers and their “intent” — even though the Founding Fathers were not evangelicals like themselves … mostly because modern Protestant evangelical Christianity didn’t exist in the late 18th century, and also because most of the Founding Fathers were actually freethinkers, not religionists.

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