Magazine | September 19, 2011, Issue

From the Archives of the New York Times . . .

Readinge through the progreffion and litanye of religious and Godly language that suffuses the text, we are discomfited by the copious references to the Deity — should he even exist — that dappyle the so-called Constitution of the United States. Why all of the God talk? What do these “Founders” mean with all of these statements? For our parte, we should be happier and more easeful with a greater reliance upon Science and Rational Thought, and not so much with the Jesus.

 – The New-Yorke Times, “Critics of the Proposed Constitution Say Religiosity Dooms Passage,” 1789

 

“I just don’t know where his head is at,” a close friend of Paul’s told a reporter recently. “He’s gone from being a reliable and thoughtful bureaucrat to being . . . well, he’s deep into that new religion, the one about the carpenter and the forgiveness business.”

It’s clear that the official posture of the Empire is one of tolerance and a general non-sectarian attitude toward some of the more “unique” religions. To be sure, Paul’s newfound faith has a refreshingly positive attitude on the subject of taxation, specifically the need to “render unto Caesar” that which is necessary and proper for the smooth-running operations of the Emperor’s government.

There is growing concern, though, in some quarters, that Paul has been caught in the thrall of a distinctly anti-Roman philosophy, and that his insistence on an unusual set of beliefs — monotheism, forgiveness of sins, the uselessness of animal sacrifice — have led him far out of the mainstream. At a recent stoning, for instance . . .

 – The New York Times (Damascus Edition), “Growing Concern About Paul’s Allegiance to Obscure Sect”

 

 . . . and the injustice of the so-called “Jim Crow” laws in specific. And yet, some critics of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wonder if perhaps his constant and repetitive calls for “God” and “Redemption” and “the mountaintop” don’t undermine his basically sound and secular message. There is growing concern among supporters of his movement that the religiosity of his language creates an unnecessary image of an irrational and anti-science leader, and there is a growing fear among some that he is starting to lose his otherwise impeccable reputation as a thinking person.

“Look, I love him,” a longtime supporter said recently. “But when he says ‘Jesus’ or ‘thank God Almighty free at last,’ I think it diminishes him. I know he’s a Reverend and all, but he should cool it with the religious stuff. I mean, this is America. We don’t go in for that.”

 – The New York Times, “Friends of Dr. King Raise Concerns Over Faith,” 1961

 

Is America ready for a president who prays? Some say no, and they’re part of a growing collection of critics and power brokers who are increasingly uncomfortable — and increasingly vocal — about the offputting increase of religious language and the copious references to the need for prayer — by current president Abraham Lincoln.

#page# “I think it’s weird. I mean, we’re in the middle of a war,” one person close to the administration said recently. “And here’s this guy talking about praying and God and what His will might be. It’s just . . . it’s hard to take a man seriously who’s busy praying all the time.”

President Lincoln, for his part, has made no secret of his predilection for kneeling alone to talk to the Deity. By a recent count, he has made mention of God or prayer in almost all of his recent public speeches, and a search of his public correspondence reveals a similar obsession with religious and Jesus-centered themes.

“It makes some of us uncomfortable,” a staff member close to the president said recently. “Here we are trying to figure out how to get supplies to our troops, and the president wastes valuable moments with his eyes closed, asking for guidance. It’s just unbecoming to a president of the United States to be so interested in what the Lord may or may not wish.”

The concerns are bubbling up into the public conversation. As the fall campaigns heat up, the subject of the president’s curious attachment to a once-controversial faith are making officials nervous . . .

 – The New York Times, “The Prayer-in-Chief? Some See a Political Liability,” 1863

 

 . . . that perhaps, when events are taken together, it’s possible that our Glorious Sovereign, Louis the Pious, is perhaps too pious. There is growing concern in the court, and elsewhere, that the incessant Lamentations and exhortations to God and His Mercy are queer and monstrous, and that while all of France admires and adores the idea of piety in a sovereign, the practice of it — especially the ostentatious way Louis the Pious displays his faith in his particular style of Christian philosophy — is a little much.

“It’s creepy, even for me,” a high-ranking Cardinal recently told a group of journalists. “I’m not sure this kind of faith is really necessary, or appropriate, in a king.”

And he isn’t alone. In recent focus-group results obtained by this newspaper, fully 30 percent of all serfs and others in servitude expressed disquiet with the piety of their king.

 – The New York Times (Aachen Edition)

 

“I’m not sure why he thinks God is so ‘angry,’” a local man said recently to a reporter. “And I sure as hell want to know who he’s calling a sinner.”

Amid calls for increased supervision of young people, married couples, the keeping of the sabbath, and the allowable fashions, there is a rising chorus of voices — in Salem and without its gates — expressing concern and doubt about the recent exhortations of its religious leaders.

Is it possible, some are asking, to be too Puritan? And for some critics of local leaders, the answer is “Yes.”

 – The New York Times (Salem Edition)

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