The Fulcrum team was uplifted by the many responses to our question this week: “During our turbulent and challenging times, how does your faith, religion or spirituality inform your politics?
The many responses clearly indicate the importance faith plays in their lives. For many, faith is a source of understanding, compassion and desire to work with those whose opinions differ from their own. We received a few responses favoring the separation of religion and politics, most citing concerns about theocratic rule or privacy.
Given the overwhelming response indicating that faith, religion or spirituality is a source of healing and acceptance we can’t help but ask, how can our nation be so divided and how can the level of hate crimes be at such high levels?
Research shows that over 30 percent of Americans believe “it is very important to be Christian in order to be truly American”. With the rising lack of civility we display toward each other as Americans, not to mention the increasing number of hate crimes across our nation, one can’t help but think about the obvious contradiction. How can so many Americans profess to be people of God yet not practice the principles they espouse in their everyday lives?
This applies not only to the citizens of our nation but to Congress itself. An overwhelmingly high percentage of members of Congress profess to be people of faith yet the lack of respect and common decency for those on the opposite side of the aisle is worse than ever.
As you read the answers, you will see that readers of The Fulcrum are deeply committed to healing the divides that separate us and deeply committed to the diversity that is America.
We thank you for your engagement and your words of acceptance, healing, faith and respect for all. We are inspired to work harder to keep our readers informed, to meet and talk, and to act together to repair our democracy and make it live and work in our everyday lives.
Thank you for your reflections. We’ve included a sample of responses below. Some were edited for length and style.
My take is that separation of church/faith/religion and state is an impossibility. Although, I understand it in theory — we are trying to avoid or minimize the chances of living under a tyrannical theocracy where ministers of the one correct religion lord power over the masses and have the ear of the leader of the nation as it was in days of old. But, the fact is that the state is composed of people. And most people are not going to be able to separate one aspect of themselves from another. China has separation of church and state. And what that means there is that only atheists can work as government officials. Does America want to do that? Probably not. And let’s face it, we’ve never been able to separate them anyway. If we were able to, people wouldn’t be concerned about the religion of our president. I think Mitt Romney would’ve won if some people didn’t think he was not the right kind of Christian. My take is to embrace what is and realize that the state is composed of people with and without religious affiliation and they all make up the fabric of the nation. Pedro Silva
Any discussion of religion and spirituality in the U.S. must honestly examine how fraught it is with many foibles, primarily because in the United States we have blurred the lines of personal convictions and legislative priorities. … Inasmuch as the founding of this nation was besmirched by the alleged goodwill of well-meaning Christian missionaries who established colonies through the slaughter of native and indigenous people and further built an economy on the backs of enslaved Africans stolen from distant countries, religion and spirituality persist as tools to build a less perfect union, while ensuring a more broken nation. I still have faith in God; it’s the people who seem comfortable with venturing so far from God that dishearten me. Rev. Shonda Nicole Gladden
My faith informs and impacts my politics primarily in how I engage with those who have a different political position or ideology rather than in my positions themselves. My faith tells me that everyone is acceptable in God's eyes and deserves to be treated with respect. Based on that, I try to listen to those with whom I disagree and honor their opinion even if I disagree with it. Of course my political philosophy is influenced by my faith, but I think its biggest influence is and should be on how I treat others. Thom Little
My belief that each human soul is precious informs both the “what” and the “how” of my politics. I seek to support policies that encourage conditions under which human rights flourish and I try to advocate in a way that compassionately and peacefully negotiates the tension that comes when the rights (and wants) of different people bump right up against each other. The motivation to see each individual as fully human and to treat them with dignity, regardless of how they might treat me, is firmly rooted in my love of my Heavenly Parents and a desire to become a better disciple of Christ. Emma Petty Addams
Thinking about faith, religion and spirituality is in my life like a blended smoothie. My religion is branded Jewish, my faith and spirituality come more from nature, little kids and animals. My faith has really only one demand. Don't do to others as you would not want done to you. Cure the world (tikun olam). All in all, looking at a newborn or even someone who is older brings my spirit to the front of my mind. I'm closer to dying (age wise) than to growing wise at this point. If I have any wisdom it's a fluke. Terry Gibson
At The Village Square we've had 13 years of having conversations between people of faith and secular citizens, diving right into some of the most divisive topics in our public debate with our series “The God Squad.” Our opinion: speaking from our hearts and about souls is humanizing, not divisive. Some of the most profound moments of bridge building we've seen are when we talk about faith (and we've got a regular group of atheists who are God Squad regulars). Liz Joyner
In a nutshell, people often vote and act in terms of utilitarian ethics. The old critiques of utilitarian ethics still ring true: 1) You cannot anticipate the consequences of your actions, and 2) if the objective is important to you, one may act in very harmful ways to achieve that objective, believing the “good” of the objective far outweighs any “evil” caused in the process of meeting its goal. I just read this article that ironically touches on the same subject, the role of one’s perceived morality in political affinity. Many evangelicals have framed the state of politics and the country as in serious moral decline, especially in regards to abortion, inclusion and secularism. This makes religious people highly susceptible to manipulation from authoritarian leaders. Gary Michelberger
I definitely believe in the separation of church and state. I am not a faithful person and don't participate in organized religion. Statements of a spiritual nature of a candidate would turn me off. Mary Marshall
Democracy and theocracy are mutually exclusive. That's to say that there is no such thing as a democratic theocracy. The framers of our Constitution knew this. They had a choice, either select a religion to govern us, or create a system by which we could govern ourselves. They chose a government of, for and by the people. In doing so, they afforded the citizens of this nation more religious freedom than any nation has experienced in history. There are, and always have been, many who believe that anything which does not adhere to their religious beliefs constitutes a threat to their religious freedom. The fact is that it is the greatest guarantor of that freedom. There are many theologies in the world, and if this nation decides to give up our democracy in exchange for a theocracy, only one of those theologies will have religious freedom, the rest will lose theirs. While the most devout will assume that theirs would be the winning religion, it being the only true religion, the fact is that all religions hold the same belief, but only one would prevail. Mike Plantz
Hola. I don't usually partake in things having to do with politics or religion, and why not? Because both are subjective, with little to no meaning other than an emotion or feelings about something that can not be proven nor explained. Take religion out of politics, take politics out of religion, both mean control of the masses. Pedro Pieteri, Puertrican poet said it best: "las Masas son crasas' "! Paz Ismael Carlo
My belief that humanity is capable of creating and ever improving a society that serves the needs of all at the expense of none comes to me through the faith of my mothers. Our faith honors clear eyed and thoughtful humility, ever nudging the arc of the moral universe toward justice. I believe our precious individual and collective dignity lies in the balance. My politics are a public expression of my personal commitment to our walking together toward a humane world. Jeanene LoudenI take my instruction for all things, including faith and politics, from the life of Jesus and the message of the Gospel. Jesus teaches me by his words and example to love my neighbor as myself, to set aside my foolish pride and ego, to take care of the less fortunate, and to look for His image in all people. To me the message of Jesus goes hand in hand with the Rotary Club motto, “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Larry Visser
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