Showing posts with label George McGovern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George McGovern. Show all posts

Oct 22, 2012

The religion in the politics of George McGovern

September 1, 1970 saw a moment critical to the history of religion in American politics. A moment that doesn't fit the standard narrative of what religion-in-politics in American means, yet was, nevertheless, an example of one of the important ways faith has spoken in the public square, but is dismissed as being somehow not real, not counting as really religious.

On that day in the US Senate an amendment came up for a vote that would have ended the Vietnam war. It was drafted by two Christian men, two men whose liberal politics were informed by their Christianity: Mark Hatfield and George McGovern.

The Hatifled-McGovern amendment was known as the "amendment to end the war." It linked military funding to a deadline for troop withdraw from Vietnam. It was the strongest opposition to the Nixon administration and the never-ending military conflict at the time, and McGovern made it stronger by giving a speech that could rightly seen as in the tradition of Old Testament prophets. Right before voting started, McGovern said:
"Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land -- young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes ... if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us. So before we vote, let us ponder the admonition of Edmund Burke, the great parliamentarian of an earlier day: 'A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.'"
Hatfield's religious commitments have been noted. The late Oregon Senator was called "Saint Mark," and is something of a symbol of the possibility of a religious left. A committed evangelical, Hatfield believed that the pressing moral issues of his day were war, racism, and the unjust distribution of wealth. He believed that evangelicals should rise up to oppose the "Biblical Nationalism" that was being propagated in their name.

McGovern's religious commitments are not particularly a part of the public character, "McGovern."

He, after all, was famously tarred as the candidate for draft-dodger's amnesty, abortions, and acid.

His name, after all, has become a synonym for loony liberalism, and everyone knows that that's the Godless wing of American politics.

A closer look, though, shows that the life and politics of George McGovern, who died yesterday at the age of 90, was deeply informed and rooted in his Christianity.