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What's Good (& Bad) About the Mixture of Faith & Politics in America? Conservative & Liberal Faith Leaders Face-Off

What's Good (& Bad) About the Mixture of Faith & Politics in America? Conservative & Liberal Faith Leaders Face-Off

"...the United States has never had nor wanted an established church."

If you're unfamiliar with Patheos.com, it's a diverse faith portal that seeks to foster conversations about religion and its practice in contemporary society. With a pool of diverse bloggers and columnists contributing to the site, a plethora of religious traditions are represented. Over the next few weeks, TheBlaze will be bringing you diverse political opinion, through a faith lens, from Patheos' writers.

Each week, a question about faith and politics will be thrown out and the bloggers will attempt to answer the call, delving into the issue and providing their personal perspective. The first question -- "What's wrong -- and what's right -- with the role of faith in American politics today?" -- yielded some fascinating responses, especially when considering the differences between more right-leaning and progressive writers.

Below, find some of their views on the intermingling of faith and politics:


To commence this week's faith perspective, Patheos' Timothy Dalrymple penned a piece entitled, "Why We Need More Religion in Politics, Not Less." From the title, alone, you can tell the ideals presented within are focused upon increasing the presence of faith in the political schema -- but his arguments may be a bit more profound than you might imagine based on the headline. Dalrymple writes:

We require a religion in politics that is not reflexively partisan (and now that problem is just as acute amongst progressive Christians on the Left as it ever was amongst conservative Christians on the Right).  We require more thoughtful ways of bringing the fullness of who we are, religious vision included, into the political arena.  We require the kind of faith in politics that will hold us accountable to be humble and honest and searching and serving, that will hold the state accountable to use the power of the sword and the power of the public purse wisely and justly, and that will hold the church accountable to speak with a greater regard for the truth than for political power.

So, while Dalrymple is supportive of more faith -- and not less -- in the American political system, his contention is that the values that religion espouses would help to benefit both the system and those within it.

Then there's blogger and pastor Christian Piatt, who takes a different direction when faced with the same question. The faith leader decries any religion that allies itself with a specific political ideology. In a post titled, "Where Does Faith Fit in Today’s Politics?," he highlights his disdain for faith being used as a tool for consolidating political power He writes:

When such alliances are formed, compromises inevitably follow that forsake values for the lure of victory. If we can take anything away from Jesus’ ministry, the fact that he stood in the face of such allegiances is clear, challenging their oppressive breadth at the expense of the Gospel call to align with the powerless and marginalized.

President Barack Obama (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

As for Jeremy Lott, founder of Real Clear Religion, the main concern on the table is the intricate role that faith plays in the support for and against candidates. Lott argues in his post, "Divided We Stand! Wait, What?," that America's political parties have re-sorted themselves to represent one political arm that pushes hard for faith and religion to have a presence in public life and another that opposes such a notion (i.e. Republicans versus Democrats).

"The big difference is that the United States has never had nor wanted an established church," Lott writes. "And so our political parties are slowly re-sorting themselves along broader lines of the party that’s for a serious and robust role for religion in American life and one that is coming to oppose such a role."

Lott continues, highlighting a "dark reality" that purportedly exists in American politics:

You can applaud Barack Obama for insisting his party’s platform take some notice of the historically God-fearing character of America. You can applaud Mitt Romney for betting that anti-Mormon prejudice would not be so virulent as to deny him his party’s nomination, and his party’s primary voters for proving him right. But if you are a sober-headed observer of American politics, you dare not lose sight of the darker reality these things signal as well.

Then, in her post, "The Generic God of the Stump Speech," Leah Libresco (you may remember TheBlaze's interview with the blogger about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism) tackled the insertion of "God" back into the Democratic Party platform. On a grander scale, she challenged people on both sides of the aisle to focus more on people -- and politicians -- showing their devotion to God rather than merely proclaiming it. She wrote:

When politicians tell us they love God, we should take it about as seriously as we do when they tell us they love America, or freedom.  Remind them that love is something you do, not something you feel, and ask them to be specific about what service they offer their beloved.

You'll have to read the entire post to find out her feelings about the inevitable decision to include "God" again in the platform (i.e. she wasn't pleased).

Mitt Romney Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for feminist blogger and professor Caryn Riswold, she wrote about her disdain for a small group of religious leaders fighting fervently, in her view, to protect only their own interests. Her main target in the post? The Catholic Church.

Riswold, who writes for Patheos on her "Feminismxianity" blog, heralded more left-leaning forms of the Christian tradition, writing, "Progressive people of faith are dispelling the idea that religion is monolithic, and working to protect the right of people of all faiths and no faith to exercise their conscience."

Riswold also offers insight about her views in the Catholic Church's fight against the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate:

Consider the scores of Christians, including Catholics, whose religious traditions preserve the freedom of women and men to exercise moral discernment and conscience as they form and protect their families.   This is actually what is under siege from attacks by the bishops working to undermine contraceptive coverage and women’s health.

In contrast to Riswold, Oklahoma House of Representatives member Rebecca Hamilton's post entitled, "Politics, Religion and Lilies That Fester" tackled the Catholic Church from a different angle. In fact, Hamilton praised the church as the only remaining respected religious institution (at least among political leaders). The politician also called it "the only effective moral and prophetic voice left in this country," writing:

The only church that the politicians I know still respect at all is the Catholic Church. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church is big. It represents millions of votes. Second, neither party has succeeded in getting the Church to edit the Gospels to suit their politics. The Catholic Church still calls both parties to task when they violate the teachings of Christ. [...]

The two political parties want slightly different things from the Church. The Republicans want control of the Church’s moral voice so that they can use that voice to win elections. The Democrats, who have given up on using the Church’s moral voice, want to silence the Church, and, as much as possible, strip it of all its ministries.

And defense of the Catholic Church's involvement in the political schema didn't end there. John Mark Reynolds, provost of Houston Baptist University, in his article, "Caesar is Not Lord," also made a case against the government's contraceptive mandate.

The "small-government conservative" indicated that he believes that Romney is preserving religious liberty, while the Obama camp has remained unbending on the issue. Reynolds writes:

This mandate goes too far and the Obama administration has refused real compromise. All Christians favor universal health-care, but most American Christians fear government providing too much of this health-care because of the numerous moral decisions that will be involved.

Mr. Romney wants to increase coverage, but not at the cost of religious liberty. For this reason, this election has gained great importance for those of us who value conscience before Caesar’s mandates and for those who value tolerance.


So, there you have it. While their personal theological views and political ideals differ, the theories presented are intriguing, to say the least. For additional blogs and articles on this subject, visit the Patheos page focusing on the intersection of faith and politics.

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