Faith & Politics

Thomas Jefferson popularized the phrase, “separation between church and state” and the U.S. has a long history of doing so. But religious leaders and ideas have an equally long tradition of influencing politics. Imagine the civil rights movement without African American churches; abolition without the “godly crusade to end slavery;” or prohibition without religious leaders preaching against alcohol consumption.

[share align="right"]What role should religion play in politics?[/share]With today’s debates over abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research and faith-based initiatives, religion and politics are arguably as intertwined as ever. Some people want to get religion out of secular space, while others want to bring it in more.

Check out a sampling of opinions on the topic and join the discussion.

Religious Literacy

Stephen Prothero

“Politicians are referring to the Bible now pretty regularly when it comes to their domestic policy claims if it’s about abortion or if it’s about the environment or if it’s about stem cell research. It’s happening, of course, with Democrats and Republicans. I think we need to know some basic things about the Bible and about Christianity to understand what’s going on in domestic American politics.”

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Stephen Prothero
Chair, Boston University Religion Department
April 6, 2007

Bringing Religion into Left-wing Politics

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

“They have said that we should get religion out of politics. My argument is, no, we should get the religion that asks for justice for all back into politics. They have been afraid of faith, people on the left. And what I hope to do with this book is say, ‘Hey, remember, that’s the great tradition. Reclaim it for our own.’

“I think that’s happening today. I think if you look around, the Democratic politicians are actually talking more about their faith.”

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Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor
March 30, 2007

Christian Right Pull Out?

Ray Suarez

“Some people have been telling me that they think that some of the so-called Christian right may take its bat and ball and go home in 2008, because they feel they gave a lot in 2000 and 2004, and didn’t get what they came for. They helped bring a Republican majority to both Houses on the Hill, to the White House, and to the Supreme Court, and still haven’t gotten what they wanted on right-to-life issues. On choosing the time of death. On sex ed and evolution in schools. On a whole raft of social issues that they wanted action on. And when George Bush leaves the White House in 2009, they may still be the way they were before he got there.”

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Ray Suarez
Journalist and author, The Holy Vote
September 21, 2006

Fasting from Politics

David Kuo

“I believe that Christians need to take a fast from politics for two years. You don’t fast from something because it’s bad. You fast to focus on the spiritual. I think that right now, Jesus is so misidentified with a Republican political agenda, and I really think that the evangelical Christians in particular need to take this step back.

“And for two years, instead of giving $200 million to the RNC, let’s give it to those charities that the Bush administration was supposed to be supporting. Let’s spend more time with our families. Let’s mentor more. Let’s love more. All right? Because what is it that Jesus told us to do? He didn’t tell us to go out and court precinct captains. He didn’t tell us to fight for abortion or against abortion, nor for or against homosexuality.

“He said love your neighbor. He said serve those who are in need. In that most bracing passage in Matthew. What did he say is one of the criteria for entering the kingdom of God? It’s did you visit me in prison? It’s hard stuff; it’s bracing stuff. Politics is easy. Following God is hard. Let’s try that following God thing. ”

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David Kuo
Author, Tempting Faith
October 16, 2006

God’s Side

John Danforth

“Religious people have been involved in politics ever since Moses. But I think that the real issue is how people of faith engage in politics. Do they do it in an ‘I’m on God’s side, you’re not,’ very divisive kind of a way, or do they do it from the standpoint of ‘I’m trying to be a faithful person, but so are you, even though we disagree with each other.’”

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John Danforth
Former senator and author, Faith and Politics
October 4, 2006

Divine Endorsement

Cathleen Falsani

“I don’t like to judge people’s faith, but there are some people who seem to use it as some sort of advertisement, something to validate or give sort of a divine imprimatur to whatever it is that they’re trying to sell us politically. But then there are others who talk about it from a really genuine place. It’s a significant part of their life and they can’t not talk about it. ”

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Cathleen Falsani
Spirituality columnist, Chicago Sun-Times
May 2, 2006

Looking at a Candidate’s Moral Compass

Jim Wallis

“I think it’s a good thing if people of faith say, ‘Here are my values. How do they shape how I vote?’ That’s a good thing. You don’t vote for who’s the most religious. You don’t vote for who goes to church most often. But you should look at a candidate’s moral compass. You know, how their sort of inner lights and their own personal convictions shape their policies.”

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Jim Wallis
Founding editor, Sojourners
September 24, 2004

 

  • ribeekah grant

    religion and politics are inseparable. To separate them is a lack of scientific thinking. We just have to look at events within recent time and the rhetoric being expressed to see that the religious compass of politicians determines the type of society and by extension the quality of world that we live in. That religion can be either under the rubric of formal religion or agnosticism.

  • Mike Smith

    I am a Pastor of a Christian Church, and I believe the church does not need to take on political issues, we should just stand for the truth; we as Christians need to take Biblical Doctrine to people by how we live. The way we live and whom we live for is a testimony of our position on political issues. When asked about abortion, we quote the word, when we are faced with racism, we quote the word. That quoted word must be made manifest in our walk. Politics is fickle, God’s word is truth.

Last modified: April 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm