I am not a Christian. Never have been. Never will be. I am an American. Always have been. Aways will be. As an American Jew, I have always felt at least a little bit outside the mainstream. When the vast majority of your neighbors, school mates, and friends celebrate Christmas (as do your wife and children), it’s hard not to feel different. For the most part, though, being different has been fine. Unlike my father and his generation of American Jews, I don’t think I have been discriminated against. I certainly know people who don’t take kindly to my Jewishness, but they are few and far between and they haven’t impacted my life in any serious way. But I have to say that based on what I am hearing at the start of the 2012 presidential race, I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
Today I read something to the effect that Americans ought to elect the kind of man that our forefathers would have elected — a Christian man who holds the same religious beliefs that his forefathers held. Honestly, where does this desire to return to the days of 1776 come from? I am a reasonable student of history and I have great admiration for many of our forefathers. I also have great admiration for many men and women who have graced the political stage since our forefathers exited it. I don’t carry a blind allegiance to any generation of political leaders, though, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would. After all, most of those men in 1776 didn’t believe women had the right to vote and thought enslaving a large portion of Americans based on the color of their skin was just fine and dandy. Do we really want to look back 250 years and hope that our political leaders of today hold the same beliefs as our forefathers did? I know I am not hoping for that.
What I do hope for is that our leaders are men and women of faith. That faith can come from their religious affiliation. That faith can come from a belief that all men are created equal or that all of us ought to be judged by the golden rule. That faith can come from the belief that all Americans are deserving of an equal opportunity to lead a good and healthy life. To be an American is to have faith, but not your faith or my faith. We are America because in our country one is allowed to have his or her own faith. What I hear these days scares me. America does not belong to you; it belongs to each of us.