My God, My Politics: A Discussion on Faith and Politics

Q&A: This Christian activist says believers need more faith, not more politics
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Neither are Christianity and conservatism.

But the temptation, always, is to politicize faith in ways that ultimately are discrediting. What Buttigieg would undoubtedly argue is that progressivism is the political ideology that does the most to care for the poor, the vulnerable, the dispossessed, and the weak. I agree with him when it comes to not separating migrant children from their parents and welcoming refugee families from around the world.

On the other hand, Buttigieg would allow for late-term abortions, which many including myself would argue pose a lethal threat to the weakest members of the human community. If Christians believe that premarital sex and divorcing for unbiblical reasons are morally wrong, should there be civil laws against those things?

Q&A: This Christian activist says believers need more faith, not more politics

Do Christians believe that laws should be passed banning idols? Where exactly do civil laws and religious commands intersect? Most of us can come up with examples for when we think they should and when we think they should not. It simply means people of faith, as they attempt to work out that faith in politics, are going to get a lot of things wrong. God cares about our spiritual lives, but He also cares about food, water, jobs, and housing.

When God commands us to love our neighbors, He means to love them holistically. Author and theologian Richard John Neuhaus pointed out that atheists obey laws; they vote, pay taxes, and lend a hand to needy neighbors.

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I'm all for differences of opinion but please think a bit more about this Saturday than I'm voting a mob out. So it is with all polls commissioned by people whose interest the result is in. Christ taught "call no-one Father but my Father; Abbott is part of a religion that calls parish priests father. In he became ill, and saw the light for the first time. It is only human laws which can be broken. For better or worse, she TOOK it from the leader of the party that won an election with him at the helm.

But good citizenship, Neuhaus says, requires more. Good citizens feel compelled to give a moral account of their country. It determines our freedom to speak, write, and worship. Even the circumstances of family life, says writer J. Philip Wogaman, often depend on government policy, including the quality and content of public education. Such good deeds, says Grudem, include commending and criticizing policies that affect the poor and powerless.

Our good works there, as in other spheres, give glory to our Father. In every culture, Wogaman observes, religion tends to be important to people who care about politics; likewise, politics often matters most to those who care about religion. And often, these are the same people. Romans tells us that government authority exists for our good. But how, Grudem wonders, if no one explains what God expects, can government officials serve Him well? Throughout history, Grudem recounts, God has called His people to counsel secular rulers.

Moses confronted the Egyptian ruler and demanded freedom for the Israelites. Mordecai counseled King Ahasuerus of Persia. Nevertheless, an atheistic philosophy slithered into American politics. From the mids to today, atheism has become more aggressive and more political. It now insists on being believed, says Colson. It insists on imposing its views and seeks to forbid any competing vision.

They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man. Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby - but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem.

There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix. I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers.

They have more lawyers than us anyway. I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy. I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology - that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap -- off rhythm -- to the choir.

We don't need that. In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not.

They don't need to do that.

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None of us need to do that. But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.

Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country.

And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal. Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

When you've got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don't need and weren't even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate. Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will?

It's going to take more work, a lot more work than we've done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration. While I've already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do -- some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice.

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Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

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It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?

So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles. This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.

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I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do.

But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise.

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As a Democracy, our government ought to reflect the core beliefs of its people. As people of faith, our faith ought to inform every aspect of our lives; from children. Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for My God, My Politics: A Discussion on Faith and Politics at Read honest and unbiased product.

It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

And if you doubt that, let me give you an example. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion. But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham.

We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be.

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So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason. Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion. This goes for both sides.