Sunday, August 3, 2008

Politics -- Inevitably

I am going to try and write as little as possible here about politics but today will just have to be one of those days.

I have had an interest in politics since I was a young child. The first presidential election I remember is 1964 when Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater.

My leanings have always been toward the Republicans and conservatives. When I was younger I could and would get pretty worked up over it all. In fact, when Clinton was elected the first time in 1992 and I still lived in Arkansas, I was so upset that I went to bed early on election night and refused to acknowledge the history of the event right in my home state.

I also, unfortunately, equated my Christian beliefs with my conservative political tendencies. Was God not the God of absolute truth, I reasoned. Was there really any room for gray?

A few years ago I began to change. I actually took a look at both sides and realized that, just as I learned in law school, "reasonable minds can differ." A Christian -- or any religious person for that matter -- looks at matters of faith through the lens of his or her life experiences. Although one person of faith might feel passionately pro-life and consider abortion a deal breaker when it comes to his or her vote, another might consider the way Republicans have in recent years supported tax breaks that largely benefit the wealthy to be unconscionable and an affront to what Jesus taught. Both have valid points, borne of their own walk of faith.

I am in the middle of reading an intriguing book by Jim Wallis titled God's Politics: Why the Religious Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. Although I do not agree with all of his views, his underlying message is that neither political party has the corner on being right in God's eyes. I could not agree more.

Wallis points out that, while the so-called Religious Right has tried to paint itself as the representative of Christianity and has in so many ways damaged the cause of Christ, the traditional Left has tried to keep faith and God out of the picture at all. Somewhere in there, Wallis says, both sides lost sight of what they should really be about.

This book was written more than two years ago, well before Barack Obama came into the national limelight, professing a deep faith in Christ, but having political leanings that are more to the left of center. Wallis has a new book that deals with the "Post Religious Right" era which, I feel certain, addresses these newer developments since God's Politics was written.

One's faith is always a work in progress. While I could no more separate my faith from my political views than I could separate it from any other part of my life, I also know that my Christian brother or sister can vote for a different candidate or hold a different view than I, and I have an obligation to respect that. I did not always hold this view and that is not to my credit.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that, while for now we "see in a mirror dimly," one day we will see things much more clearly (my paraphrase). In the meantime, it is my duty as a person of faith to live at peace with all, as far as it is possible. I hope this shows a small bit of growth on my part.


Kelly said...

Well said, Bob!

You know, I never realized how similar we were in our beliefs until recently.

The book you're reading sounds interesting.

Pam said...

Well said, indeed!

Sadly, I know Republican Christians who are voting for a Democrat this time around. They are just plain disillusioned and fed up with the Republican Party.

I also have friends of both parties and various faiths who would, as the saying goes, vote for the Devil if he was on their party ticket.

I could be called a "flip-flopper". I prefer to say that I sometimes find myself being convinced that some of my thinking on issues might be flawed.

Frankly, one of the things that has frightened me about George Bush is is stubborn inability to admit he might be wrong on something and/or switching course.

Pigheadedness is not a virtue in my book! :)

quid said...

I've always thought that religion and politics very definitely do not mix.... and that people of faith have widely differing opinions on a variety of other topics. I think that's in keeping with what you're saying here, Bob.

Bob said...

Well, Quid, not exactly. While I believe that reasoned people (of faith or not of faith) can reach different conclusions, I cannot really separate my faith from how I look at political issues. In the book I cited, Wallis is very critical of the Religious Right but also points out that many on the Left -- and particularly the Democratic party -- just want to take God out of everything and are afraid of approaching anything from a faith point of view. He strongly disagrees with that and so do I.