Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  


In the News



More stories

In the News

Living Spiritually in an Arguing World

Marcus Borg on
Faith and Politics

Book Review:
The Gospel According to America

by David Dark
Reviewed by John Tintera

Film Review:
Cinderalla Man

Questions of faith and doubt


Signpost: Daily Devotions

Oasis: Take a Moment to Meditate

Reflections for Your Journey
Register for a
weekly reflection

Send a card from explorefaith.org



June 28, 2005:

How Does Faith Infuse Your Politics?
by Jon M. Sweeney

On this 4th of July weekend, while you are sitting parade-side, or listening to the Boston Pops perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" on television, or sitting in your church, synagogue, mosque, or zendo, consider: Are you more committed to faith, or to country? How does faith infuse your politics?

For many people, religion is the most influential factor in deciding matters of politics, social justice, and all manners of public policy. In an interview with explorefaith.org, Rabbi Niles Goldstein, founding rabbi of The New Shul in Manhattan, explained: “While I am not a fundamentalist, my Judaism is part of who I am, an inextricable piece of my identity. I simply can’t imagine not having my religious tradition influence my voting on issues.”

Similarly, Rev. Michael Battle, associate dean of Virginia Theological Seminary in Richmond, says: “Tutored by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I have learned that there’s not much difference between faith and politics. They both are about worldviews toward certain ends. Jesus’ politics are always expanding our worldviews to include the outcasts and dispensable.”

British historian Paul Johnson explained in his book, Modern Times, “The outstanding event of modern times was the failure of religious belief to disappear. For many millions, especially in the advanced nations, religion ceased to play much or any part in their lives, and the ways in which the vacuum thus lost was filled, by fascism, Nazism, Communism, by attempts at humanist utopianism, by eugenics or health politics, by the ideologies of sexual liberation, race politics and environmental politics, forms much of the substance of the history of the century. But for many more millions – for the overwhelming majority of the human race, in fact – religion continued to be a huge dimension in their lives.”

Americans are Paul Johnson’s case in point. Americans of every persuasion, it seems, are bringing their faith to bear on the political issues of the day.

Conservative Christians are perhaps most active currently in using their faith to influence public policy. There will likely be a vacant seat on the Supreme Court this summer. Reversing Roe v. Wade is seen to be tops on the agenda. Christian conservative groups such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council are active behind the scenes. Other issues are introduced on the local and state levels. For instance, in the state of Texas, conservative Christians are backing amendments to ban human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research. In Kansas, Christians on the State Board of Education have introduced changes to high school science curricula that challenges the theory of evolution.

Reflecting his own faith perspective, President George W. Bush—the nation’s most prominent Christian conservative—said last year: “The job of a president is to help cultures change. The culture needs to be changed. I call it, so people can understand what I'm talking about, changing the culture from one that says, ‘If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else,’ to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. I call it the responsibility era.”

For moderates and progressives, answers to how personal faith influences politics come more hesitantly. John Danforth, former Republican senator from Missouri and an Episcopal priest, recently said: “Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings.”

Danforth turned a lot of heads recently in the New York Times. His June 17 op-ed, “Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers,” attempts to explain the differences between conservative and moderate Christians in politics. He offers three premises that undergird the moderate Christian political perspective: (1) The only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. (2) The Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. (3) Our responsibility to live as Christians cannot be codified by legislators.

Then, Danforth provides examples, such as, “When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors’ lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research.” And, “Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.”

Different religious traditions, of course, have differing faith principles to guide their actions. In an interview with explorefaith.org, Ji Hyang Sunim, Buddhist advisor at Wellesley College, said: “Faith gives me a foundation of conscience; seeing our interconnectedness, I realize that we are all in this together. Suffering in Rwanda or Indonesia is my suffering; the homeless people on the street are my brothers and sisters. We all want to be happy. What policies will bring happiness and well being to the greatest number of people?”

“Religious faith isn’t Democratic or Republican. It is a path to the tanscendent, and it’s ultimately about fostering love, compassion, and community,” says Rabbi Niles Goldstein.

How does faith infuse your politics?

Jon Sweeney is an author and editor living in Vermont. His most recent book is THE LURE OF SAINTS: A PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE OF CATHOLIC TRADITION. More by Jon Sweeney.

(Return to Top)



Send this article to a friend.

Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org