Monday, February 11, 2008

A gentle reminder as the "faith" rhetoric in the Presidential campaign heats up

COURTING THE "FAITH VOTE." While John McCain and Mike Huckabee court the so-called "Evangelical vote," each trying to sound more like defenders of the Bible than the seasoned Republican partisans that they are, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton speak eloquently of injustices against the poor--a matter that is no less important in the Bible than life rights. For better or worse, the "faith vote" will apparently figure prominently both in the remaining primaries and the general election in November. And, once again, the Christian faithful are allowing themselves to be taken in and used by partisan politicians.

DISCERN BETWEEN CIVIL RELIGION AND BIBLICAL FAITH. This campaign season, the rhetoric used to court faith-sensitive voters is more sophisticated than ever. Huckabee is a former Baptist minister and Obama has placed his Christian faith front an center in his campaign (despite this, I still hear people murmuring that they are afraid he is a Muslim...thanks to the Fox News rumor-mongers!). More than ever, discernment between civil religion and authentic Biblical faith is required. Confusing and/or mixing the two can be lethal. Authentic Biblical faith ALWAYS loses in this shotgun marriage. I wonder if most voters in America who say they take Christianity seriously will dare to discern between Biblical faith and civil religion and, beyond that, cast their vote based more on the former than the latter.

WALLIS OFFERS INSIGHTS. A few years ago, Jim Wallis, a respected evangelical not of right-wing ideology, called people to make the effort to distinguish between civil religion, partisan politics, and Biblical faith. In a book titled God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, Wallis described a political perspective that transcends both right- and left-wing pandering. His following insights may be helpful for faith-sensitive citizens to consider as they listen to Presidential candidates and engage in the national decision for who will lead America for the next four years.

  • "God's politics is never partisan or ideological. But it challenges everything about our politics."

  • "God's politics reminds us of the people our politics always neglects — the poor, the vulnerable, the left behind."

  • "God's politics challenges narrow national, ethnic, economic, or cultural self-interest, reminding us of a much wider world and the creative human diversity of all those made in the image of the creator."

  • "God's politics reminds us of the creation itself, a rich environment in which we are to be good stewards, not mere users, consumers, and exploiters."

  • "God's politics pleads with us to resolve the inevitable conflicts among us, as much as is possible, without the terrible cost and consequences of war."

  • "God's politics always reminds us of the ancient prophetic prescription to 'choose life, so that you and your children may live,' and challenges all the selective moralities that would choose one set of lives and issues over another."

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