Politics and religion normally don't mix very well, it seems.
For as long as I can remember, I've seen political figures shy away from discussing their religious views. It's anyone's guess whether that's because they don't strongly adhere to any particular set of doctrines, or they don't want their views to alienate people who might otherwise vote for them.
The fact remains, however, that invoking religion has become a big no-no for people who hold office or wish to do so.
That's why I found it a bit curious to see presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, when visiting a church in South Carolina, talking about creating "a kingdom right here on earth."
Let's forget for a moment what some have argued, that President Bush would be roundly criticized for making a statement that appears to espouse a particular religious dogma. That's nothing new.
Let's not even talk about the fact that politicians seem to put on their church clothes when they step in front of certain audiences, particularly when they're on the campaign trail. Everybody knows that.
I'm more interested in examining Obama's statement for what I think it was. What was it, exactly? To me, it was a glimpse into a mindset that downgrades eternal significance in favor of the here-and-now, and places human importance above all else.
For those who don't believe me, just take a look at Obama's words: a kingdom on earth. Those words, intentionally or not, convey the idea that we don't need to worry about what happens to us when we die, as long as we get everything we can while we're alive. It's an idea that has permeated society, as well as many churches, over the years.
Some religious leaders have even gotten in on the act, writing books that tell us how we can live our best life now, along with other gems that sound good, but, in the end, contribute to a dangerous view of ourselves.
Who would rule this supposed kingdom, anyway?
If we, as Obama asserts, can create this kingdom, it stands to reason that we, and not God, would be the ones to rule it. Aside from being an unbiblical concept that Obama uttered within those church walls, it seems to me that such a kingdom already exists, at least in the minds of many in this country. It's called 21st-century America, where humanism took hold long ago.
It's not surprising that a politician like Obama would use his platform in a church to issue religious sound bites in hopes of increasing his support base. What's sad, to me, is that some of the people in Obama's audience, either don't realize what they're being fed, or they actually think it tastes good.
Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.