I saw the saddest sight this morning on West 53rd Street.

A mother was walking her son to elementary school. Instead of helping him get ready for a challenging day, she was talking on her cell phone.

Instead of helping her son feel confident and capable, she was talking on her cell phone. Instead of asking him the questions that show a parent’s interest and affirmation, she was talking on her cell phone.

He walked beside her and looked up at her, yearning for attention. She didn’t notice. When they got to the school door, she didn’t bother to say goodbye and wish him well. She was talking on her cell phone.

That is child abuse.

FAITH Q & A

Q: If we are a country founded on the separation of church and state, why is it that the religious beliefs of our Presidential candidates seems to take such precedence? We have other, serious problems that need attention and solutions. Is it that they have no answers, so they’re diverting attention?

A: Religious affiliation, in broad strokes, has mattered from time to time, mainly when a Roman Catholic was running for president. Specific beliefs didn’t matter much.

That began to change a while ago, maybe in the Reagan era, when the evangelical movement and Republican Party made common cause. Each found it could build a strong franchise by supporting the other and by demonizing everyone else. Evangelicals became the conservative moment’s “base,” and fundamentalism’s cultural issues (abortion, homosexuality) became hot-button political issues.

So potent was this alliance that all candidates began to burnish their religious street creds.

Politicians seem willing to go along, because it’s an easy deal: just mouth the right words, and campaign signs blossom. Whether faith blossoms is another matter.

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