We are fortunate to live in a country where we are free to adhere to the mantra of separation of church and state whenever we find it convenient. For most of us, our faith and our politics are intertwined at the fringes at best. We view certain issues through the lens of our faith, but others not so much. We’ve already covered that voting can be a deeply spiritual act, but our politics is more than our vote. So, to what degree should our faith inform our politics? And how do we incorporate one into the other?
There is no getting around the fact that when religious institutions start to become intertwined with politics at the ideological level, bad things happen. Denominations and religious organisations have no place endorsing political parties. Championing ideas that align with doctrine is a separate matter, but we need to take great care.
But just because it is a bad idea for the church to get ideologically political, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea for the members of the church to get involved. So how much of a factor should our faith be individually? Spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you that your faith is the most important factor in your politics. If you want to stop reading here, I won’t be offended. I won’t even know. The internet is great.
As we have covered, evangelical Christians have the market covered on social conservatism. Over the last century Christians have been at the forefront in opposing civil rights, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights… you get the idea. But even the most progressively minded person would have to concede that for many people of faith, it was their religious convictions that led to their opposition to these things. The religious right has been a major factor in elections in both Canada and the US for years. The rise of the religious left has been a factor in the last few years as well.
There’s no denying that issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and capital punishment have vocal religious advocates and opponents. The same goes for issues like poverty reduction, environmentalism, and indigenous reconciliation. So, is it simply a matter of picking a side of the aisle in the political or religious sphere and extending it to the other? If only it were that simple.
Let’s look at two examples. In the US, there are only two major parties, so it makes the binary choice more obvious. On one side you have the Republican Party, which has laid claim to the Christian vote for years by being the champions of the pro-life movement and opposing marriage equality. On the other you have the Democratic Party, which is increasingly championing economic equality and tolerance and has struck a chord with many in the Christian Community. South of the 49th a person has zero chance of being elected President without publicly declaring faith in God. That still doesn’t stop people from claiming that other people are secret Muslims…
Things in Canada are roughly the same, with the added fun of a multi party system. In Alberta, you have the UCP on one side, with the other parties trying to lay claim to the other side. As with most things, Canada tends to be less sensationalist than our cousins to the south. That still doesn’t stop people from claiming that other people are secret Muslims…
What is important to us needs to be defined by what we believe God is calling us to. Caring for one another and seeing godly justice done will make our faith political. There is a difference between political and partisan though. Blind allegiance to a person or party is not the answer. I have studied theology for many years, and I can tell you that God has never endorsed a political candidate. But He does endorse some things they have power to control. What those things are and to what extent they should be priorities is exactly where politics and religion mix into a Venn Diagram of epicness. God cares about your vote. He cares about our political leaders and can use them to achieve His goodness. But picking someone merely because they say they go to church is not going to achieve anything. The Bible is full of people using God’s name in vain to attain personal power.
If you work at it, you can justify just about anything using the Bible. Some of the greatest atrocities in human history have come in the name of God. I’m not implying that you, dear reader, are doing anything on this level. But it is important to make sure that our faith informs our politics – not the other way around. Don’t go looking for justification for a political position that appeals to you, because chances are, you’ll find it by interpreting things through that lens (something we all do). Instead go to God in prayer and study scripture to understand the things God cares about.
I’m not going to come right out and tell you what those causes are and which parties support them the best. Sorry… maybe you can find a slightly crazier blogger who has more of a death wish somewhere. The important thing is to do this stuff intentionally. Passivity is our enemy here.
The reality is that there will never be a political party that lines up with someone’s religious beliefs 100%. Political parties are earthly leaders, not eternal ones. They will never live up to God’s standards, even if we could accurately determine what those are. Our faith needs to guide us to the person and party that we think will do the most good. And our definition of good needs to be guided by our faith.
If you are separating your religion and your political leanings, you are making a grave mistake. The two go hand in hand. Vote your faith.