Patheos Election Month Coverage: Faith Matters, Yours and Mine

The cogent question about any candidate for elective office is always What will he or she do with the power if they get it?

We’ve come a long way since the days that candidates shook hands, kissed babies and stood on the backs of flat-bed trucks to make their pitch for office at the State Fair. Nowadays, it’s not only possible but highly likely that you will go through an entire campaign season and never meet any of the people who are asking for your vote.

You will see their faces and hear their voices on television and in radio ads, see them perform in debate circuses and hear their friends asking you to vote for them on robo calls. But the candidate his or herself will be as hermetically sealed away from you as the ebola virus at the cdc.

Sifting through the slick advertising and carefully-coached debate responses to get to an answer to the all-important What will he or she do with the power if I give to them question is daunting. Unless you’re a little bit psychic or a whole lot familiar with politics, it’s downright impossible. How does anyone judge which lies are total lies and which are partial truths when they’re trying to discern the facts about someone they’ve never met and who is being branded, packaged and sold to them like a can of corn?

That makes the question of faith even more important than it would normally be. Faith, for all its tricky points, is still a tough one to completely fake. Oh it can be done, but the doing of it almost requires a willing compliance on the part of those who are getting faked out.

For instance, (I’m painting a bulls-eye on my back by saying this and I know it) does anyone really think that Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich are nice people? Is there anyone out there who thinks that when Vice President Biden says he (1) knows abortion murders a child, (2) is opposed to abortion personally, (3) wouldn’t have one himself (whatever that means), but won’t tamper with the law, that he’s making any kind of sense?

We pretend we do. We pretend that the vicious things some pundits say don’t count against their Christian witness, that the logical hash politicians make of their Christianity in order to say they are Christian and total party loyalists both at once makes as much sense to us as they hope it will.

But do we really? Do we really believe this? There’s a kind of complicity in these political lies that lives in the no-thought land of those who lie and those who chose to believe them. It seems to fall along the lines of I’ll pretend to believe your lies if you tell me what I want to hear.

So if a Rush Limbaugh or a Newt Gingrich is saying ugly things about someone we don’t like for reasons we agree with, we pretend that they are not behaving like callous demagogues, but are demonstrating stalwart Christian fealty. If the Vice President wants to save medicare, we will let him get by with his claims to be going in two directions at once on a core moral issue. We pretend that he’s stumbled on some heretofore lost jewel of logic that protects religious freedom rather than privatizing and limiting the applications of faith in public life.

For politicians and their acolytes to successfully lie to us about faith, we’ve got to be their willing accomplices. We must, in short, chose to believe them in the face of every objective criteria to the contrary.

And that, my friends, is where faith comes in. Not their faith. Ours.

The question isn’t should politicians be allowed to reference their faith in public discussion and debate. Of course they should. It is also not a question of whether we are free to consider our religiously-based values in picking who we will vote for. Of course we can.

The question is, will we put our faith ahead of our party loyalties and our feel-good, my-guy-against-your-guy tribal togetherness and hold these people accountable? It isn’t our job to make them tell us the truth. Our job is to stop being so eager to believe them when they lie.

Our job, as Christians, is to put Jesus ahead of our political parties. We need to follow Him, not them. And we need to stop letting them get by with facile lies that we know very well are facile lies about their faith commitments.

Let’s take the issue of abortion for a moment. I don’t think for one minute that we have a choice between a pro abortion candidate and a pro life candidate in this election. We don’t have the option of voting pro life. Our choice is between one candidate who promises us abortions. And another candidate who promises us lots of abortions. That’s it. Pro Life doesn’t get in there.

Take the issue of waging war to generate corporate profits and build empire. We don’t have a candidate on the ballot in this presidential race who we can trust to absolutely not commit American troops for any reason other than the protection of the people of this country. What we do have is a choice between a candidate who is partly sold out to corporate interests and corporate desire to make war for money, and another candidate who is totally sold out to corporate interests and the plan to make war for profit.

I could do this on almost ever issue. I could go on all day taking one issue after the next and explaining how both parties and their candidates are not representing you and me.

But the point here is not that the political parties are shills for special interests. The point is that when you are a Christian you have to stand clear of this and demand better of them.

We live in a Democracy. Involvement in our political process is both our right and our duty. As Christians, we have a job of work in front of us to bring the Kingdom. We are here in this life to be Kingdom Builders.

If we are going to do that in the political process, we need to start taking a clear stand for Gospel principles at the precinct, state political party and ballot box levels. When one of our political pundits we agree with starts sounding like hate-filled brass, we need to send them an email telling them we are switching the channel and then actually switch the channel. When one of our politicians raises moral reasoning to an oxymoronic level, we need to let both him and our party officials know that we know the he’s lying.

If we start doing this consistently, they’ll get the message in a surprisingly short time. The only reason they’ve sunk this low in their behavior is because we have rewarded them for doing it.

Does faith matter in this election? Absolutely. But the only faith that really matters is the one that empowers you and me to walk our talk of Christian faith in all aspects of our lives, including the political.

That, and not more gummy rhetoric, is what can save this country.

  • Arkenaten

    One reason the States is the way it is is because of its attitude. It radiates an arrogance at times that is almost palpable. And it likes to insert ‘God’ at the top of the pile and use it as the figurehead to do, on so many occasion, pretty much the hell it wants.
    For example: It will not keep its nose out of foreign affairs and has been involved in a war almost every decade since the close of WWII. And their is so often an economic motive.
    Why no intervention in Rwanda? Nothing the States could possilby want.
    I’d wager most Americans wouldn’t even know where it was! Or for that matter, point ot Afganistan
    on a map.
    It uses nigh on 25% of the world’s electricity and 22% of the world’s petroleum.
    It deems itself untouchable, and has vetoed or abstained from voting on several major protocols.
    Even something as simple as slowing down the speed of shipping off US shores to help save Whales it
    wont do.
    Why did terrorists fly into the twin towers? Why do they attack American and British interests and personel?

    I admire your passion for pro life but widen your vision, Rebecca.
    Some of the most brilliant things ever came out of the States. But you sure as heckfire have a nasty habit of stepping in the cowpats on a regular basis.

    Ah yes, God Bless America….And god help us all.

    • Ted Seeber

      How to widen your vision in a pro-life way:
      Get out from under the Malthusian lies and admit it isn’t how many of us there are, but how we are choosing to live that is the problem.

      Uganda has it nearly right. The American Empire, Europe, Canada, Japan and the UAE? Not so much. And our way of life is built upon murder.

  • http://www.diocese-sdiego.org/restore Deacon Jim – San Diego

    A Christian calls someone a sociopathic jerk? I used to read your blog.

    • Ted Seeber

      When it’s the truth- Jesus didn’t withhold calling the Pharisees out for what they were, and we should not either.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually, I think I was a little imprecise with my statement and I’m going to correct it. I did not say that anyone is a sociopathic jerk. What I said is that followers of these people tend to ignore the fact that they sometimes SOUND like sociopathic jerks. That’s a fine point, and I admit it, but it is a real one.

      What I meant, precisely, is that when they go off on one of their hate-filled riffs against some person, they are practicing demagoguery, and that if we ignore this and pretend that they are not acting as demagogues, we not only encourage them in their behavior, we become a part of it. Lies of this nature only work when someone is willing abandon critical thinking and believe them, usually because they want to.

      I knew that I’d make people mad when I criticized Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. But I honestly believe that it’s past time for somebody to say this. Remember: I’m a Democrat, but I had no trouble criticizing Vice President Biden’s statements on abortion. We need to follow Jesus, not political leaders.

      Let me say that again: We need to follow Jesus.
      Thank you Ted for your comment. I appreciate it.
      Now, off to correct what I wrote so that it more accurately reflects what I meant to say.

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    As usual, I agree with some of your characterizations and disagree with some but, it doesn’t matter. In your main thrust you are absolutely correct. I filter everything through the hard filter of a life lived in the private sector of which the main lesson is to always distrust government. Some are better and some are worse, all are human, with all that implies.

    One thing and I’ve touched on it before is that a major change is occurring in America, and it because of people like you Rebecca, me, and all the rest of us. We are taking control back from the politicians hiding behind the big media, it’s slow but it’s happening. I read around 50 blogs a day, depending, some conservative, some middle of the road, the far left ones I’ve given up on there is nothing useful in false ad hominem attacks, I know far more than my father’s generation did of what is going on in Washington. This is the cause of the whole TEA party thing (I had hopes that Occupy would turn into a left/libertarian/anarchist counterpart but oh well). The bubble that has surrounded the government (especially federal) is bursting and changes are going to happen. This is a fascinating topic, far too much for a comment, so I’ll have to put together a post.

    Superb post, Rebecca, Thanks.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Well … we are trying my friend.

  • Joyce

    While I don’t disagree that we should follow Jesus first, I will quibble with your statement that we live in a democracy. As a duly elected Representative you should of all people be aware of the fact that we live in a Constitutional Republic and NOT a democracy. They are NOT the same thing.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      True.

  • George Houchens

    I just love all these people who talk about how nasty America has been to the rest of the world. Can they point to another country who has shared more resources outside their borders with people who are suffering or victims of natural disasters? Can they really explain why demigogues like Iran’s leaders are elected in the United Nations to lead humanitarian causes?
    My response to all you America haters is as follows: Get Out. Go somewhere else to find your nervana. Go to France or England or Australia, even. Then tell me how terrible we are.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      George, I’m not sure who you’re speaking of here.


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