Politics and the church

An AP article yesterday, “Religion looms large over 2008 race,” reminds us that in the US, where there is supposed to be separation of church and state, the line of this separation is getting blurred. The issue of religion is increasingly important in the presidential race, and things have changed fast since the 1960s when last the issue was substantially discussed in the Kennedy context, although interestingly and in stark contrast, apparently not much discussion occurred when Mitt Romney’s father ran for office.

Living in the UK, I find that people are really surprised and unaware of the possibility of religious “one issue voters”. I will not comment further than to say that choosing a candidate for any office solely on the basis of a pro-life/pro-choice stance seems extremely short-sighted and makes a mockery of the democratic process. Then again, a good friend of mine confessed once that she votes for any female candidate above any other candidate. Another one issue voting strategy… perhaps one that I support a bit myself, but regardless, perhaps not embracing the true spirit of the democratic process.

I have commented previously that I find there exists a sort of peer pressure when it comes to the expression of religious feeling in the US. I suspect this same sort of peer pressure is influencing the words of the presidential candidates:

All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs. Most seem eager to talk publicly about their faith as they actively court religious voters.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasizes her Methodist upbringing and says her faith helped her repair her marriage.

Chief rival Sen. Barack Obama frequently uses the language of religion and proclaims a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. The Illinois Democrat – whose middle name is “Hussein” – scoffs at suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is a member of the United Church of Christ.

In the most recent Democratic debate, a pastor in a YouTube video asked Democrat John Edwards to defend his use of religion to deny gay marriage. The former North Carolina senator – a Methodist – talked about his faith and his “enormous conflict” over the issue

Republican Sen. John McCain, an Episcopalian, says, “I do believe that we are unique and that God loves us.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, emphasizes his belief that “God created the heavens and the earth. To me, it’s pretty simple.”

The interesting exception to this rule of religious blather is Giuliani, but look at the revealing way in which the AP writer explores this:

Unlike the others, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a divorced Roman Catholic who favors abortion rights, sidesteps such questions, claiming one’s relationship with God is a private matter. But he attended Catholic schools and at one point considered being a priest.

The AP writer actually appears to be trying to infuse religion where Giuliani has tried to keep it out. This is part of what’s wrong with America! As for me, I’m with Giuliani. All of this showboating and showcasing ones supposedly personal faith makes me queasy. If faith is an important part of your life, you won’t feel the need to go around telling that to any reporter who is within hearing distance. Clearly the candidates are doing so because they feel that this is turning into another single issue on which voters will turn, and that is really a damning verdict on the greater American populace.

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2 responses to “Politics and the church

  1. Almost perversely, I think it’s actually a bit more legitimate for these one-issue voters to be going with religion than gender. For one thing, religion is not a single issue – finding out about a candidate’s supposed world view would tick the voter off to a whole list of things that he or she assumes (correctly or incorrectly) they might agree or disagree on; religion is one way to predict opinions on issues.

    On the contrary, Gender is completely useless. Someone could be female and think… well, just about anything. Or nothing at all. (Certainly this is true of men as well.) If one is not going to bother with responsible citizenship and research the candidates, it marginally smarter to vote for someone who says they worship like you than someone who shares your chromosomes.

  2. I’ll agree with Merry, but add to it as well. I do vote and do pay attention to who leans one way or the other on certain issues because it is a good indicator of whether they will vote on issues in a manner I would agree with. I have been in the situation of honestly having to vote for the lesser of two evils (Sharon Sayles Belton vs RT Rybak). We went through a major discussion within the church I was attending during the last presidential election, after which I came to this conclusion. I don’t believe that the church should make a stand one way or the other about who people should vote for. I also don’t believe that politics should be a taboo subject in church. What I do know is that I think churches should take the stance of encouraging people to take advantage of the rights they have as citizens and to go out and vote and make their voice heard. I believe that as a Christian it is your duty to vote and to vote your conscience, which will reflect your beliefs and will likely be swayed by some of the more inflammatory issues. I don’t think that you can honestly set aside your faith when you vote or in any other aspect of your life. Either you believe, or you don’t. Either it informs all that you do and all the decisions that you make, or it doesn’t. Severing your faith for the purposes of politics would be like severing a limb. Not right and incredibly painful!

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