In preparation for a speech on religion and public policy, I was recently reviewing sections of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty (2006).
Secretary Albright makes some truly important points in her volume. The whole effort is tremendously enhanced, however, by her startling transparency in acknowledging that she and most of the people in the diplomatic classes had completely underestimated the importance of religion as a potent force in societies around the world.
In the course of reviewing sections of The Mighty and the Almighty, I noticed something that I had forgotten: the author of the book’s introduction. The introduction contains this passage:
“Does this mean that policy-makers should try to keep religion walled off from public life? As Madeleine Albright argues, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Not only shouldn’t we do that, we couldn’t succeed if we tried. Religious convictions, if they are convictions, can’t be pulled on and off like a pair of boots. We walk with them wherever we go. The skeptics and atheists side by side with the devout. A president or secretary of state must make decisions with regard both to his or her own religious convictions and to the impact of those decisions on people of different faiths.”
Guess who penned those words–William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. This passage reminded me of how enthusiastic then President Clinton was about Stephen Carter’s The Culture of Disbelief, which was published in 1994. President Clinton came back from vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and declared that everyone should read Carter’s book and said, “What we have in this country is freedom for religion, not freedom from religion.” Amen.