Faith and Politics

The topic of how our faith should influence our politics has been in the news and commentaries over the past week. Here's a sampling of what two sides of the issue are saying:

Sojourners has a new blog! It's called God's Politics and is contributed to by Jim Wallis, as well as other prominent Christian voices like Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo. There were lots of posts this week, but my favorite post was from Diana Butler
The topic of her post was the launching of a group called Red Letter Christians, whose goal is to be "Christians who take the whole of Jesus’ teachings seriously in our spiritual and public lives—even the difficult bits of the Beatitudes like "blessed are the poor" and "blessed are the peacemakers.""
When asked if there were any Republicans in the group, she said,
I shared that I am currently a registered Democrat and that I was born to a Democratic family. However (and in correct chronological order), I have been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a Republican, a Democrat, a Republican very briefly, and once again a Democrat (maybe the journalist should ask me the same question five years from now!). But then, the ultimate confession: One of my proudest possessions is a personal letter from Senator Barry Goldwater (yes, “Mr. Conservative”) congratulating me on being Arizona Teen-Age Republican of the Year in 1976!

After reflecting on the answer however, she thought,
I now realize that my confession should have extended just one more sentence: “Yes, I’ve worn all these political labels—depending on issues at stake and candidates in races—but throughout my checkered political history, one label has never changed: Christian; I am a Christian, and all those other labels are secondary to my baptismal journey to live the teachings of Jesus.”

The point of Sojourners and Red Letter Christians is that our faith MUST influence our politics. CNN commentator Lou Dobbs sees where this influence can go too far and laments the mixing of religion and politics:
As in election years past, [political parties] are going to have a lot of help [getting people out to vote], and not just from PACs, labor unions and 527 groups like MoveOn and Progress for America. Oh no, we're going to be treated to something akin to, and as close as we should expect to get to, divine intervention. Evangelical Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims and Mormons are already getting rowdy, not only on their respective pulpits, but in the mail, on the air and certainly on the campaign trails.

Dobbs goes on to talk about how dozens of churches are being investigated by the IRS for making political statements (which isn't allowed under their tax-exempt, church status). I think he has a point. When religion and politicking mix, and churches are supporting one candidate or another and becoming political within their supposedly-faith-based walls, there's a problem. Faith informing social action (that may include being involved in government) seems like a subtle change from what Dobbs describes, but means a world of difference.

BONUS: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on faith


Matt said...

I agree that our faith must influence our political choices. I also agree that politics and religion can be mixed in bad ways.

However, I think it's somewhere between ironic and sad that American churches aren't allowed to be both tax-exempt and political. It's ironic because, when the US was founded, political sermons were something that people thought were important to have. It's sad because of the way it can be twisted into convincing people that "to be a good Christian, you must vote for so-and-so", and because many of the "good Christian" candidates aren't particularly Christian when you look at all of their apparent motivations.

Joanna said...

Funny you should mention that... some Indianapolis Christians are feeling the same way, and I came across the article about 501(c)3 status this weekend.


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