Religion and Politics- My Conundrum

Not to stir the pot but I believe viewing a religion based solely on its extremists is not a view that holds water and is a position I opt not to take.  After all, violence in the name of religion has a long  history, and this is proven in the horrific accounts of the Crusades, the Inquisition, as well as the Holocaust. Religious imagery is rife with weapons, conquests, war and death. It is not specific to any one religion, not at all.  Every religion has had it disciples go out and conquer in an attempt to convert or eradicate.  Why do I mention this? There is a push to have religion in politics, and it is rather unabashedly done. Some feel that politicians should be allowed to advocate for the doctrines of their specific religion in order to push a social agenda that fits their views. Others feel religion has no place in politics and only forces ones moral code on another. We live in a beautiful melting pot where not everyone is a Christian, a Jew, or even a Quaker. We need to remember this in the push to have religion seep in to our politics.

This should concern every voter in America. One of the driving forces in the founding of this country was the goal of freedom from religious persecution, a clear line between religion and politics. We seem to be forfeiting this separation as the scales tip to religion. We now demand to know what religion our president embraces, how often he goes to church, where he goes to church; our senators are going from event to event talking about their faith and how it’s their faith that helped shape their politics. Should we be voting on the basis of someone’s faith? I think it is a bit of a slippery slope.

I sit on the steering committee of an interfaith group. We work toward unity in faith always with the goal of advocacy for social justice. Our issues are poverty, criminal justice reform, hunger, predatory lending. Simple issues that affect everyone in some way. I may not be living in poverty, but I know someone who is; I may not go hungry, but I know people who do. Don’t I have an obligation as a human being to attempt to help my fellow man? I believe it is my imperative as a human to do this type of work.

Here is the complication with faith and politics. I think laws should protect people from harm, harm done by hunger, poverty, exploitation. All of these issues are tied to current laws or lack of laws so there is a political component. Is it fair for me, through my community work with this group, to advocate for these issues on a political level? Am I any different from the person who says their faith says women shouldn’t have choice or that marriage equality is the devil’s work?

I’d like to think I am different in my community work. I am not telling people they can’t do something, I am telling them they can. I don’t feel marriage equality lessens the value of my marriage. I don’t think feeding the hungry takes food out of my mouth, I don’t feel protecting people from predatory lending makes my life any harder. None of this work compromises my faith. I simply don’t think God is going to smite me for believing in a society where there are no hungry children, where people can marry for love no matter their gender, where I have no right to choose for another woman since I am not walking in her shoes.

Some criticize other countries ruled by religion and call them zealot nations, while at home there is an attempt to put religion in our politics. Some can’t see their push to ‘religionize’ our politics is a slippery slope.

All of these questions make me question organized religion.


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