‘Guns, God and Country’: Religion and patriotism in politics

Former President John F. Kennedy once received flak for not being a Protestant Christian. This tradition of criticism continues today. (Wikimedia Commons)
Former President John F. Kennedy once received flak for not being a Protestant Christian. This tradition of criticism continues today. (Wikimedia Commons)

Patriotism, a word that started out simply meaning national loyalty, has transformed into a double entendre during the era of Obama. The first meaning is often used in conjunction with Obama’s lenient actions toward “terrorists,” while the other refers to American’s level of devotion to said president.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently questioned President Obama’s love for his country, stating at a private dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “(I) do not believe that the president loves America … He wasn’t brought up the way you … and I (were) brought up through love of this country.”

“It’s necessary to criticize (Obama) when he fails to measure up to his own principles (as well as) in those places he seems to be deviating from what is appropriate for an elected official, (like) drone attacks and wire taps,” Scott Paeth, DePaul professor of religious studies, said.

In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly of “The Kelly File,” Kelly asked Giuliani if he wanted to apologize for his comments. Giuliani responded, “Not at all, I want to repeat it.” He went on to say, “(Obama) talks about the Crusades and how the Christians were barbarians. Leaves out the second half of the sentence that the Muslims were barbarians also.”

Despite his finger-pointing antics, Giuliani has consummated a number of behaviors that might be considered “unpatriotic” himself. According to a 2007 New York Magazine article, Giuliani managed to bypass being drafted for the Vietnam War by getting students deferments. Later, when he became a law clerk, he tried reapplying for an occupational deferment, but his application was denied. Challenging said denial, Giuliani called upon the federal judge he worked for to petition on his behalf — proving itself effective. In 1970, his deferment expired, making him liable to the draft; however, he was given a high draft number, and was never called upon to serve.

Later, following the 9/11 attacks, Giuliani finessed his way to the unsanctioned title “America’s Mayor” by convincing the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to authorize his forming of a security consulting firm as he was on his way out of office.

“The only way to really get these people to vote for you is to prove you are the most Christian, prove that you are the most American, which as far as they’re concerned is: Guns, God and Country,” Arthur Wawrzyczek, President of DePaul’s Alliance for Free Thought (DAFT), said.

Potential presidential candidate Scott Walker has also received flak for statements he recently made about Obama, his comments referring to both Obama’s patriotism and allegiance to Christianity. Walker, the son of a pastor, was asked by Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Robert Costa if he believed President Obama was Christian, to which his response was, “I’ve never asked him, so I don’t know,” — although it is public knowledge, amidst Obama’s initial campaign, that he had been a member at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ for some 20 years.

Critics said Walker’s crude remarks may hurt his presidential chances come the 2016 election.

According to a Politico article detailing recent polls regarding Obama’s patriotism, of the Americans surveyed, 53 percent think Obama doesn’t love America, while another 39 percent said he was less patriotic than most people in public life.

“(Obama) is probably the most theologically astute president, in my lifetime, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter. He particularly knows the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr,” Paeth said.

Among the statements made by John F. Kennedy in his 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, one must agree: “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”