Sunday, March 19, 2006

Religion and Politics

Nothing polarizes us like discussing politics, especially among people of faith.

Of course, this tension is nothing new in American history. The fierce emotions related to faith and governance have been present from the very beginning.

Recently, Steven Waldman made this statement in Slate, the online magazine:

"As you already know, one of America's two political parties is extremely religious. Sixty-one percent of this party's voters say they pray daily or more often. An astounding 92 percent of them believe in life after death. And there's a hard-core subgroup in this party of super-religious Christian zealots. Very conservative on gay marriage, half of the members of this subgroup believe Bush uses too little religious rhetoric, and 54 percent of them believe God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophecy about the second coming of Jesus."

Surprisingly, to many I am sure, the group Waldman describes is the Democrats. The "hard-core" subgroup is African American Democrats.

When I was a much younger man, I remember reading everything Mark Hatfield said or wrote. Hatfield served as one of Oregon's two Senators for years. He happened to be a Republican. He was also a devout Christian who cared about poverty, justice and human liberation.

Things have narrowed a great deal since 1980.

I long for a new day when we can recognize and acknowledge the faith-inspired values of people whoever they are, no matter what their party affiliation.

No one political party has a monopoly on faith and the connection of faith to public policy formation.

The values of the various faith traditions at work in our country cover a broad spectrum of issues and concerns that, if taken seriously, could transform our culture without shutting anyone out or cutting anyone off.

No one party is "the party of faith."

Beyond values and faith, wouldn't it help us to acknowledge the fact that none of us and neither of our major political parties have the absolute truth on any issue?

Isn't it true that we might actually benefit from listening to each other? Might we not make more progress together if we gave each other a chance through honest, open dialogue?

Something to think about.


Charles Senteio said...

Thanks for illuminating this very important issue, what I call the Black Political Paradox. We vote blue however bleed red. Like most black folk, I would guess most of my family votes blue however some of my relatives are extremely conservative with respect to issues around homosexuality and the role God plays in their life. On the other hand we tend to be very liberal with issues around social service. The Republicans are faced with a serious challenge in trying to tap into these sensibilities while fighting a legacy of the sentiment that this party is not for Black folk. Thanks for the engagement!

Jeremy Gregg said...

Didn't see that one coming - thanks for pointing out this surprising reality, Larry. It really is amazing how people on both sides can become entrenched in false stereotypes, and how those stereotypes can shape so many of our reactions/decisions.

Let's hope such blindness does not cloud the discussions that we'll be facing this week.

Larry James said...

Thanks, Gentlemen!

I know that we need to have more conversations. Our nation is off track, especially when it comes to how we relate to and treat low-income people.

Anonymous said...

I wish the Republicans would get serious about poverty and I wish the Democrats would get over their love affair with killing unborn babies.

If the Republicans got serious about poverty and captured 50% of the black vote, the Democrats would be finished. If the Democrats became staunchly pro-life, the Republicans would be finished.

I know that's a bit simplistic, but I think it's pretty close to reality.

Anonymous said...

"Love affair with killing unborn babies" is hardly the position of the pro-choice movement.

Interesting that you reserve such choice remarks for the Democrats, and go easy on the Republicans. Why not say, "if the Republicans would get over their love affair with plantation days when the poor could be suppressed by keeping them divided on racial lines."

Personally, I think we need a third party so that the debate is not polarized (and so that we can get beyond pointless hot button issues like abortion and gay rights and talk about issues that more directly affect most Americans).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - your statement that Democrats have a love affair with killing unborn babies make me realize that there are people in this world that don't have a clue and have simply bought into the Right Wing Radio Talk Shows talking heads. I am a Democrat and have no love affait with killing unborn babies, and in fact have a daughter with Down Syndrome who I am so happy to have in my life just the way she is. Your Republican rhetoric is a divider and not a uniter, which you must enjoy. Please try yo think a little deeper rather than hitting on the hot buttons of your party, which bear no reality to the actual beliefs of 99.9% of the Democrats.