Heaven and Hell Have No Place in Public Policy-Making
Why does the church seem basically so impotent? More than impotent, even—it deliberately makes a decision not to challenge and confront the government and the powers that be. Why does the church seem to pick and choose what it will speak out about? The church is certainly having a lot to say about women's health and reproductive freedoms. The church will raise a moral question about sexual reproduction but it refuses to raise moral questions about the rest of women's lives—including their equality under the law, equality in the workplace, preventative health care, and reproductive freedom.
It is time to fight every high-profile religious leader at every turn where they seek to manipulate the democratic system for what are clearly selfish motives that are not for the common good. Non-violently fight them every step of the way. Refuse to let them shape public policy with their "me at the center of the world" religion.
You who have ears to hear: do the litmus test. Don't be naïve. Don't believe it because the man (most often) in the pulpit tells you to believe it. Ask yourself what motive underlies how your religious leader is seeking to massage your beliefs in order to influence our political systems. Do your religious leader's motives genuinely support the common good? Does what your religious leader is saying require the exclusion of any person or group of people? Does it require hatred or judgment? Does it require assenting to beliefs or doctrines that don't make sense?
If any of these questions give you pause, push harder—push deeper—never hesitate to ask the critical question. Always insist that you know why you believe what you believe.
Possibly the question to really consider is, "Should religious leaders have an active voice in political policy?" Here's a test: Will the whole of society benefit from the policy being considered? If only the wealthy benefit; if mostly men benefit; if only corporate CEOs benefit—then attempts by religious leaders to influence public policy are automatically questionable. The politics of a "heaven and hell" has no place in public policy-making. If a religious leader wants to influence politics, let her or him begin by recognizing the social contract required for a democracy, where we say to each other that we will base our decisions fundamentally on human rights and we will not depart from that policy.
Rev. Deborah W. (Debo) Dykes is Director of Marketing and Curricula Development for The D. L. Dykes, Jr. Foundation and is author of a new, progressive children's book series that includes Stellarella! It's Saturday! and Stellarella! Seashells on the Seashore (release date April 2014). Debo is an activist for women's justice issues.