God in America

For Europeans and especially for the Dutch the behaviour of many Americans as we see them on television is ununderstandable. A bit of understanding may given by the editorial of M. in the "Leeuwarder Courant" of the 11th November 2000, just after the American presidential elections. I have tried to make an English translation for you, so that you may understand something of us.

The next president of the United States is a God-fearing man, no matter how the counting may turn out. The same applies for far the most Americans who are voted into one or another office last Tuesday.

There seem to be no unbelievers in American official life. With great ease candidates strew with God and his commandments. Seldom so much is sinned against the commandment not to take the name of God in vain than during elections in the USA.

The public creeds are strangely striking in the often tough contest, in which reputations are doubted and every trick seems to be allowed. Poor phrases in campains in which money is chucked about, this time more than ever before.

Politicians often like to present themselves as the father that is going to church on Sundays at the head of his family, the Bible under his arm. It is the American version of Kortjakje in the Dutch children's song: On Sundays she went to the church with her book full of silverware. But on weekdays she was invisible.

Going to church on Sundays belongs to the socially desirable pattern [in the USA]. We may call it hypocritical, we can also see it as a useful exercise in humbleness. Even the mighty and the careerists demonstrate one day of the week that they recognize a higher power.

The displayed piety does not need to be profound. In daily practice liberal ideas can be included, on balance making the American society rather well modernizing.

The most striking exception to this pattern are the fanatical believers, the fundamentalists who detest homosexuals and who feel euthanasia is murder and who really set fire to abortion clinics.

They are putting pressure to politicians to reach a society which is shaped after their severe standards. In these elections George Bush was their favorite and you bet that they will make him remember that.

The next president has to appoint four new members of the High Court of Justice. Exactly in ethical questions this court makes pronouncements with severe consequences. By four times appointing a conservative judge, president Bush would fix the color of that powerfull college for years.

The Senate has to approve each appointment. Only because of that it would be good to have a president of the Democrats against the Republican majority in the Senate.

The American flirt with God may surprise us here, but it is not dangerous. Much more harmfull is the fanatism of the intolerant people that leave no room for those who think otherwise. We then rather prefer the Kortjakjes with their show of piety on Sundays.

How many believe in God?

Percentage of people according to nationality who believe "the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally, word by word".
United States
Northern Ireland
Western Germany
New Zealand
Eastern Germany
United Kingdom

Houston Chronicle (LC 24-12-2000)