Thursday Sep 18 2008
Faith, politics intertwine in election year
By: Bryon Hansen, Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Religion and politics. Many people would suggest that you avoid these topics as points of conversation, fearing that such conversation might become contentious. Furthermore, there is widespread belief that religion and politics are private matters not conducive to public discourse. These assumptions are now being challenged. We are in the midst of another presidential campaign season and the candidates are being asked to share their faith as well as articulate their policy positions. In a recently televised national “Faith Forum,” the presidential candidates were asked to discuss their belief in God and indicate how their faith might influence the way they govern. Religious faith is more than a private deal. Faith shapes the ways believers live in the world, treat their neighbor and function in the public sphere. Christians, for example, see God’s Kingdom revealed in Jesus of Nazareth who came to heal the suffering, release the oppressed, preach good news to the poor, and include all in God’s loving embrace. Clearly, following Jesus has political ramifications. How do people of faith participate in the political process? Religious people do participate in many ways and do not all agree with each other. When it comes to the political spectrum, people of faith are all over the map. Christians, for example, do not all agree on how best to approach the issues. Such diversity of opinion is one of the church’s great strengths. Danger arises when a person of faith insists that his or her way is the only way. God’s truth can never be tied to a particular political party, ideology or agenda. God’s truth is not confined to the “right” or the “left” but is large enough to include the opinions of all kinds of people, even those with whom we disagree. I wonder if that isn’t the unique gift that people of faith bring to the political process. Recognizing that politics, at its best, is the art of compromise and that God calls us to take the high ground of love, perhaps people in the religious traditions might help in raising the level of political discourse beyond slander and toward mutual dialogue and conversation. Contention leads to divisiveness but listening, honoring and respecting others leads to reconciliation and taking steps toward the common good. Perhaps we can move beyond the presumption of saying “God is on our side,” and pray, instead (to paraphrase President Lincoln) that we should be found on God’s side. Bryon Hansen is pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Auburn.