Thursday, April 9, 2009

Politics & Religion, Do They Mix?

by Chuck Ness
Most people would agree that politics and religion are the two most likely topics that divide even the best of friends. Websters dictionary says that politics is the political opinions or sympathies of a person, while it says that religion is a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. I don’t see the difference between the two.
When I watch elected officials on the floor of the US Senate or House, I am reminded of an old friend of mine who pastors a church in Columbus, Georgia. He will flail his arms all around as he preaches his views on the Holy Scriptures. If your in agreement with their opinion, you could easily get engrossed as you listen to them share their deep-seated and fervent beliefs in such an animated way.

During the election season, we watch with anticipation as our chosen candidates addresses the issues. Like a congregation sitting in the pews of a church, the crowds long to hear something that will touch the part of their soul that yearned for truth. These yearnings differ from crowd to crowd depending upon the candidate on the stage. In a similar way, every church crowd is a bit different in the things they want to hear.
An interesting dichotomy about the makeup of these crowds are the way their loyalties can change once the discussion goes from religion to politics or from politics to religion. Nothing will put a damper on a good conversation quicker than mentioning either topic in the wrong venue. If you enjoy civil wars, try bringing one of these subjects up at a family reunion.
I remember the day I attended a rally supporting the troops shortly after the Americans entered Baghdad back in 2002. I was standing next to a rather large fellow who held up his sign and waved his flag with pride. We had a grand old time talking about our common political views. I asked him what church he went to, and soon we found ourselves disagreeing on some pretty essential points of Christianity. Well, it wasn’t long before we were standing on opposite ends of the rally line. Oh, we were cordial to each other, but our comradery was never the same.
A gentleman at my church agreed with me on almost every topic raised on the Scriptures, but the moment our conversation moved to politics, all similarity between our thinking changed. It was as if the guy I was speaking to a moment earlier had morphed into a Marxist, while I am sure he was thinking similar thoughts about my right wing “extremist” views. To this day, we don’t have long conversations. The guy will nod my way when he sees me.
Experiences like these and others have led many to form three rules of etiquette for gatherings:
  1. There shall be no discussion of politics or religion at parties or family functions.
  2. There shall not be religious talk at political gatherings.
  3. There will be no talk of politics at religious functions.
For most people that seems to work just fine, so everyone in their groups are happy and content. At least, that’s what they think until I join the party.
Inevitably, there are always going to be the few, like me, who refuse to conform to the rules. Those with my mindset find it literally impossible to separate one’s faith in God from our political beliefs. We are no different than our Founding Fathers. America was founded by those looking for either religious or political freedom. These two topics are the main reasons we joined together in our fight against King George.
To tell a person to leave their religious beliefs at the door with the hat rack is not only an insult to their intelligence but also an affront to their freedom of expression. I for one always have, and always will, base my political opinion on what I believe religiously. Like the Founding Fathers, I cannot separate the two. Even if I never mention religion in an article I write, my religious belief will always factor into my opinion pieces.
People are deceiving themselves if they think they can remove their religious beliefs from their opinions on politics. For those of who say they have no religious beliefs, I would advise them to step back and look at the things which are important to them. Where their heart is so is their faith, and it is that faith that ultimately guides their worldview.
If anyone should take umbrage with my using the name of God or Christ to drive home a point in political discussions, I say take it up with the Founding Fathers. They used God’s name in the preamble of the Constitution and throughout the Federalist Papers. You will find no greater man-made political document that states a faith in God, than the Constitution of the United States of America. If the Constitution can be both a political document and a document of faith in God, how pray tell, could I do any less than to take God into consideration when I make a political point?

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