I confess I have struggled to resist being a blue funk during this interminable election season. After a certain point, I have chosen to do no more listening, reading, and especially no arguing, about the relative merits and flaws of candidates and positions. We are a country deeply divided, as is the Church, as are many organization and many families. But the question of a candidate’s faith is certainly one I want to consider.
Some starting points: I have been a faithful voter in America elections since I was old enough to vote. I have believed that it is is part of my civic rule of life, as well as my life of the Spirit, to participate in the governance of the systems in which I participate. In my first career as a high school teacher, I taught a required course called “Civics,” designed to inform unwilling students about their responsibilities as citizens to be part of the conversation and determination of the welfare of the country. I can remember the great concern about “faith” when John F. Kennedy was being elected, a concern that his identification as a Roman Catholic might invite undue influence of the Vatican into American policy. But as I have seen presidents come and go, and have made choices to vote myself as a practicing Christian, I have come to care less about how a candidate identifies her or his faith, as I am about the actions and leadership toward mercy and justice which that candidate evidences. I don’t have as much trust in a candidate’s proclamation of religious affiliation or denomination, as I do in looking at the evidence of the ways in which a person governs by doing justice. loving kindness and walking humbly with the Holy One.
Much has been written about Abraham Lincoln, (in recent years three notable works by Dr. Ronald White in his 3 volumes) his life, rhetoric and leadership. Among the memorable things that stand out in Lincoln’s life and presidency are the actions he took on behalf of justice for the poor and enslaved. His words in his Second Inaugural Address are full of “faith” language reinforcing his actions. It is that kind of faith in a political figure that draws me, that commends a candidate to me: one whose actions and speech further the intended rule of God. So my inquiring mind, open ear and discerning heart are looking for those signs in the people for running for office. I am not so concerned about public posturing, as I am in discerning how closely each person is explicitly and implicitly working for the healing of the world.
In our present day America, I am also concerned that someone running for office understands that we live in a country where all faiths are guaranteed religious freedom, that in the 21st Century we live side by side with many faiths; my next door neighbor is a Muslim, the one across the street a Mormon, the block captain, a Jew. I look for the leader who can govern fairly for people of all faiths, to make sure that there is justice for all people.
Does Faith matter in a candidate? I believe it does, but I am not sure that we will know what kind of faithful leader we will have simply by proclamation or by affiliation. We will know much more where we see actions taken that move us toward bringing in the reign of God, that will heal all people.
Elizabeth Nordquist who blogs for Patheos reflects on the importance of a candidate’s faith as we get ready to vote in November.