Photo credit: Library of Congress
When it comes to faith and politics I like to carry my cynicism in one hand and my redemptive worldview in the other, sort of a six in one bucket, half dozen in the other kind of thing.
The half dozen bucket is full of faith. Faith in a power that is bigger than principalities run by limited humans. Faith that our system is flawed but pretty amazing, too. Faith whose basic tenet is that everything on this earth, every corrupted thing, can be reformed into what God intended. This requires that faithful people engage in the system. Yes, the distasteful, us v. them, grimy political world.
I really want to believe that when politicians who believe in God secure government positions, they will manage to integrate the two parts into a lovely whole. I want to believe that there is a way to stand firm in a faith and make decisions that will help the greater whole. I even want to think that the Founding Fathers intended some kind of awareness of a force greater than themselves when they acknowledged God, but refused to nationalize religion.
And then I check twitter, or read the news or see a bumper sticker, and suddenly the other bucket seems suddenly heavier.
The other bucket carries my mistrust. I find it hard to believe any politician who professes faith as part of the rhetoric of stump speeches; it’s like the urgent “I’ll respect you in the morning” whispered in the back of the parents’ Chevy. (Or so I imagine.) Even if I manage to be convinced that a candidate has some kind of moral compass directed by God, it’s no guarantee.
They don’t get more done, they don’t pass all good policies, they aren’t above all that, and when they fall, boy do they fall hard.
When politicians use faith as one arrow in a quiver full of political arrows, they don’t hit the target. Instead, they look like what they are: props, blunt-tipped, misfired, props designed to fool the eye, and the voter. Not unlike the tither who shouts the amount of her donation from the rooftops.
I do think there is an appropriate intersection of faith and politics, but it isn’t on the national stage. It is the one that guides my participation in the discourse and the process. Faith meets politics when we vote, when we write checks to agencies, when we vote with the combined effort of our hearts and our heads. And it’s never going to be the same for all Christians. The two blend when we talk to our children, when we listen to other’s opinions, when we seek to keep peace even amid disagreements.
It is possible. Obviously it isn’t easy. But it seems like the true meeting of the two happens in small lives lived in regular ways, not filled with campaign promises.