On the surface, President Obama and King Henry VIII of England have little in common. Even the most ardent conspiracy theorist doesn’t suggest that the president has beheaded one, let alone two, wives. Even those who recognize that there are gaps in what we know of the president’s history do not suspect multiple marriages as part of what has not been disclosed. While history shows that Henry VIII cut a dashing figure as a youth, by the time he was President Obama’s current age he was corpulent and physically loathsome.
Yet, as I read a well-researched account of the king’s last few years, albeit historical fiction, I found myself thinking that there were comparisons to be made. I knew that Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church, establishing himself as the religious authority. What I hadn’t realized was how much of the turmoil in his life reflected the tussle playing out between following closely in Rome’s path (albeit with himself as the head of the church) versus promoting the Protestant Reformation.
The king, whether due to a mercurial nature or as a carefully plotted pattern, alternately approved of one side or the other. When he changed, his people needed to change with him. Translations of the Bible in English were promoted by the king and then forbidden, making those who had followed his actions and words traitors to the Crown. Safety was non-existent. Speaking your mind and following your conscience, even when it was consistent with Henry VIII’s past views, branded you a criminal when his proclamations shifted. Being burned to death and tortured on the rack might follow.
Thankfully, our government doesn’t have hidden torture chambers underneath the Capitol. Yet it does have the power to destroy people’s lives, taking away their livelihoods and savings. While (we hope) it doesn’t have spies circulating with the purpose of finding ways to incriminate honest citizens, it has access to our personal records and the ability to manipulate agencies such as the IRS and the Justice Department to punish enemies and reward friends.
For years, Barack Obama alternated between supporting civil unions while declaring marriage to be “the union between a man and a woman,” to leaning more towards homosexual rights. Once he decisively chose a side, those who are not willing to betray their religious or moral beliefs are heretics. The government is unleashed to bankrupt their businesses and harass them. Granted, that is better than having one’s eyes put out or one’s back broken, but no one should sanctimoniously pat themselves on the back thinking this is a great advance. To the best of my knowledge, Henry VIII is not accused of personally killing any of his subjects. Yet, no one doubts that his courtiers and lackeys knew who he wanted maltreated. That corrupt political reality hasn’t changed.
I’ve seen a great deal written about “angry white men” during this election cycle. I’ve also seen Wall Street Journal editorials, and the utterances of John Kasich and Paul Ryan among others studiously ignore the fact that upright, religious Americans are being criminalized. Mitt Romney avoided moral issues and only wanted to discuss the economy. Yet lots of Americans of faith feel victims of a witch hunt. The Governor of N. Carolina, and the owner of TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois, who is facing an $80,000 fine can tell you about that. When every day converts normal words into “trigger words” and everyday actions into “attacks” that can cause Americans to lose jobs and reputations, it won’t be long before anyone without a protector at court will be fair game.