Political Faith

Let’s talk about candidates I don’t like for a moment.

I noticed that Huckabee is catching a lot of flak these days for using Christian values as an overt aspect of his campaign. Yet, at the same time, Republicans (and Democrats) are feeding a smear campaign which claims that Barack Obama is a Muslim, so apparently you just can’t win when it comes to religion. Apparently the Obama campaign is running scared, because their campaign literature for South Carolina includes numerous references to Obama’s Christianity, suitability as a “Christian leader,” and so forth, complete with photographs of him praying in church.

So, here’s the thing.

I don’t like either Obama or Huckabee, let alone the rest of the crew. I also don’t give a flying fig about their religious inclinations, and I don’t think that anyone else should either, because religion is a personal choice. An intimate, private personal choice which I don’t think is my business. If someone wants to talk to me personally about their faith, I welcome that, and I like to have discussions about faith, religions, and personal beliefs. But the faiths of my civic leaders are not, in my opinion, up for grabs. Or even discussion, really.

Now, if we lived in a theocracy, like, oh, Iran, then the faith of elected officials would be relevant to the election. However, we do not, and although the United States is obviously very much rooted in white Christian values, we are in theory a secular state. I support that. I think that religion does not have a place in my government, because it is such a personal issue, and there are some many ways to interpret it. This country is so huge and so mixed that obviously not everyone has the same religious faith, and forcing citizens to comply with the values of a particular religion is a pretty foul thing to do, I think.

I am disgusted and rather shocked by the fact that religion plays such a huge role in American politics.

As far as I know, Obama actually is a Christian, a pretty devout one, at that. But that’s still his business. I don’t care if the man is a Satanist, for Pete’s sake, I just care about his qualifications for the job, which are woefully lacking in my opinion. It’s also horrifying to me that his campaign feels the need to go out of their way to put his Christianity forward to the voters, shoving it in their faces to make sure that they know that he believes in Christian values. Christian values, as Bronwyn over at Being Light Skinded points out, are rather varied. You really ought to read her post, because it’s an excellent argument for keeping Jesus the hell out of politics, and it comes from a devout Christian, rather than a crusty agnostic like me.

All the other candidates are pretty hasty to assure voters that they’re Christian too, complete with staging photo ops at local churches. Make no mistake, “Christian values” are taking center stage in this election, and I put that in quotes not because I think that Christians don’t have values (they obviously do), but because the “values” being promoted by the political candidates are only vaguely related to Christianity, since a lot of them focus on things like hate and discrimination.

I think that the faith issue is clouding some other important issues, like the actual values of the candidates. And I do realize that for some people, the faith of the candidates is an important issue, because of their own personal beliefs. But I would hope that those people could also see that a secular democracy can really only run if faith is taken out of things. If what’s important to you is values, and I think that is true of most people regardless of faith, than look for a candidate with values which align with your own, like a candidate who votes for or against particular causes. I think that the actions of a candidate should speak for him or her, rather than professed faith. If your Christian values include love and tolerance for all, then don’t vote for a candidate who repeatedly votes against these values. If your Muslim values state that homosexuality is a sin, than vote for candidates who vote down anti-discrimination legislation such as equal marriage laws. If your Buddhist values lead you to believe that eating animals is wrong, than vote for a vegetarian candidate who supports animal rights legislation. Don’t vote for someone on the basis of who they claim to be: vote for who they actually are.

There is a moment in The Last Battle when Lewis talks about the idea that actions speak louder than words:

“‘I take to me the service which has been done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it know, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.'”

I believe that this fundamental belief is at the core of all religions, although it may not be explicitly spelled out. And if you believe this as part of your religious faith, then the faith of a candidate should be irrelevant, as his or her deeds are what is important. If you believe that the Church of England is a heresy and you know Anglicans with morals which are like your own, than you can always just pretend that they are really serving your God, not theirs, if it will really make you happy. (Although I wouldn’t mention that to them, as people tend to get pretty starchy about things like that.)
Of course, most of the people who believe this already vote for candidates on the basis of demonstrated values, rather than faith. And this is one of those situations where as much as it frustrates me, I know that I will never convince people who care about “Christian values” as in “right-wing values promoted by Republican candidates” that voting for someone on the basis of their voting record and acts is really the way to go if you genuinely care about your faith. So, really, this post has been totally pointless. Alas.

One Reply to “Political Faith”

  1. I think at this point a secular state really is just a theory, and I think the Bush Administration worked hard to make us understand that it is ‘just’ a theory. Plus the Judeo-Christian vernacular has always had a strong hold in the vocabulary of American politicians, which, if you follow semiotics, could only lead to bad things. Running campaigns based on religious beliefs has occurred in the past (think of the abortion and stem-cell research issues that previous candidates put so much emphasis on, not because of science, or actual compassion for life, but for religious purposes). It’s only bound to increase, especially with this war on terror where religion is the ultimate decider of which side you are on. By the way, I absolutely love the new layout.

Comments are closed.