Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Talk About Religion the Ronald Reagan Way


It’s been said that religion and politics do not mix. It all depends on how religion and politics mix. One of the best examples of mixing religion and politics is the “Evil Empire” speech that Ronald Reagan gave to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983 in Orlando, Florida.

Reagan warmed up the audience with references to prayer and got a laugh out of the audience. Then he told a joke about a clergyman and a politician who are in heaven. Again, they laughed. It was a great dig about politicians.

At the same time, he did not denigrate everybody serving in government. “So, I tell you there are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included. And, yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and the principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place.” Masterful.

Then he got more serious.

The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight. Its discovery was the great triumph of our Founding Fathers, voiced by William Penn when he said: “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.” Explaining the inalienable rights of men, Jefferson said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” And it was George Washington who said that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

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