Politics and Religion

November 4, 2008

I know several weeks ago I promised not to write about politics again, but I just have to talk about it.  I promise, however, that I will not tell you who to vote for or that your candidate’s going to send this country to hell in a handbasket or even encourage you to go vote.

This is because I have a dilemma of my own in relation to my political beliefs.  It stems from my Christian beliefs.  Religion is also something I don’t talk much about on my blog because it is yet another of those controversial topics.  I may secretly hope you believe the same way I do, but I am not going to condemn you or alienate you if you don’t.

My problem is how to let religion and politics influence each other.  Clearly, my religious beliefs have a lot more influence in my life than just what I do on Sundays.  My faith in God determines many of my actions throughout the day, including decisions I might make on days like today, when the future of our country is in our hands.

It goes without saying that I would like someone in office who has the same religious beliefs I do.  We all want that, someone who is governed by the same moral system we each are.  I would love if the whole country could follow that same moral system and those same religious beliefs.

But it also goes without saying that the entire country will NEVER all believe the same thing, as idealistic as I’d like to be about it.  Having a government that forces this is what led our founders to set up the American government the way they did, with a separation between church and state.

This is where this weird gray area comes into play.  I completely agree that the government should not be based on one particular religion, making the religion’s moral rules into the country’s laws.  Remember Henry the Eighth, who killed numerous wives because he couldn’t divorce them?  The only way this would ever work is if everyone in the country had a deep faith in this religion and willingly abided by the laws because of their strong morals, not just because they were rules.

Since that will never happen, the government by necessity must remain separate from religion.  That leads to tolerance, something America is famous for.  Personally, this word “tolerance” makes me uneasy, from a religious point of view.  But the American founders had the right idea that a country should not turn people away simply because they do not believe the same thing.

This tolerance, however, makes governing the country more difficult.  People from different religious backgrounds have different moral guidelines for their lives.  Instead of just cracking open the Bible and enforcing the rules found there (we’ll just pretend for a minute that they really all are black-and-white and not the gray areas that different Christian groups still argue over), the government has the difficult task of deciding what is truly best for all the people in the country, regardless of their own morals.

That is why topics like abortion and gay rights are so controversial.  Different religious backgrounds and moral backgrounds dictate different beliefs.  I don’t envy our government the task of deciding how these topics based on religious debates (in part) fit into our country.  Just because the most prevalent–and vocal–religion says one thing about it doesn’t mean that corresponds with the tenet of equality that our founders insisted upon.

So where do I stand on issues such as these?  That is a good question.  I know where my heart stands; it follows my religious beliefs.  But my official stand can’t be that black-and-white.  I know that above all, God teaches loving one another, and I’m hoping our lawmakers are hoping to do the same, regardless of their own religious backgrounds.  Sometimes that might mean legislating tolerance about some of these issues.  It’s not really the government’s place to enforce religious rules that go against the basic values of our country.  Maybe this is where the churches step in and work with individual people affected by these laws instead of expecting the lawmakers to fix the problems with global laws.

I’m a little worried that I haven’t really made myself clear in this post.  That’s probably because I’m not entirely clear about my own feelings about it myself.  I struggle often with how I think the areas of politics and religion should intersect in our country, given that my idealistic situation is impossible.  Is it even possible to follow God’s laws in leading a country where you can’t legally enforce those laws?

I know that for me, I am doing my part today by making my choice for government prayerfully.  God can use either candidate to do what He wants with our country, if we have let him lead us into electing his choice and if that candidate will let God lead.  I think perhaps I should focus more on my own part in this and not the greater issue of how religion should and should not interfere in the political arena.

Okay, here comes the possibly fun part.  I really am curious about other opinions.  I will not close comments, as I am tempted to do to protect myself (you guys know how I hate hearing that you don’t agree with me).  Just please, please be kind to me and each other.  I am fully aware that you might not agree with me about the religion thing at all; please don’t criticize me for my beliefs as I have refrained from doing to you.  I really just want to know how your own beliefs–or lack thereof–have influenced your political choices.  How do you think the two should relate to each other?