Thursday, August 26, 2010

Let's Talk About Religion and Governement.

I want to talk a little bit about religion today. I think I've been pretty clear on this blog that I'm a Christian, specifically attending the Lutheran Church. Not all of my friends--either here on the internet or in real life--share my beliefs, and that's totally okay. I daily try to walk the line between being transparent about my own beliefs and how they tie into the way that I live my life, without being condescending or judgmental towards others who believe differently. As a Christian, I don't believe that it's my duty to "save" others who believe differently than I do, but rather to carry myself in a way that demonstrates Christ's love as I know it, to the best of my imperfect ability. I am certain that sometimes I fail at this, but I try daily.

I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but I often feel frustrated within my faith in that there seems to increasingly be an expectation that all Christians share (or should share) a particular political worldview. And the fact of the matter is that I don't necessarily believe that there is a relationship between religion and politics. In fact, I'm not even sure that I believe that religion has a place in politics, except within the personal lives of those involved.

For example, I have often heard the war in the Middle East be justified through Bible scripture, and it always makes me pause. For a long time, I felt like I was one of very few Christians who took issue with this line of thinking. It was a hard place to be for me, especially since any time I vocalized this opinion, I felt like others believed that I was disrespecting the men and women who serve in our military. I have always felt like respecting those who serve, and taking issue with the way that the Bible is being used to justify the war are two separate issues. However, it's been my experience though that for many in my faith, they are completely entwined. Sometimes, I felt like I was one of the only ones who felt differently.  However, I recently read a passage from a book by Rob Bell, and I wanted to share an excerpt, because he summed things up better than I ever could:

"The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military mights, and anybody who didn't see it this way just might be put on a cross. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the 'Son of God,' the 'Prince of Peace,' and one of his propaganda slogans was 'peace through victory.'

The insistence of the first Christians was that through this resurrected Jesus Christ, God has made peace with the world. Not through weapons of war, but through a naked, bleeding man hanging dead on an execution stake. A Roman execution stake. Another of Caesar's favorite propaganda slogans was 'Caesar is Lord.' The first Christians often said 'Jesus is Lord.' For them, Jesus was another way, a better way, a way that made the world better through sacrificial love, not coercive violence.

So when the commander in chief of the most powerful armed forced humanity has ever seen quotes the prophet Isaiah from the Bible in celebration of military victory, we must ask, Is this what Isaiah had in mind?


A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage."

-From Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto For the Church in Exile, page 18. 

This passage was like a light bulb for me. It put into words so many things that I have been feeling about my faith and recent political events. For me, the last two sentences rang especially true, and have encouraged me tremendously.

But I'm interested to hear from you--if you're a Christian, do you feel like you're "supposed to" subscribe to a particular set of political beliefs? Regardless of your religious beliefs, what role, if any, do you think religion should carry in terms of Government? What are your thoughts, in general?

PS- It's 100% okay if you express opinions that differ from mine in the comments. I will not delete ANY comment for that reason. However, I WILL delete comments that are blatantly disrespectful towards the beliefs of others, so play nice.

14 comments:

  1. WOW! I could not agree more. I feel there is a certain expectation that because I'm a Christian I should fall in line with certain politics. There are certain things that are just so personal that trying to legislate them is an exercise in futility.

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  2. We go to a conservative southern baptist church and the pastor's wife was talking to me the other day about Prop. 8 and how they could be forced to marry gays/lesbians or get their corp/non-profit revoked. I am ALL for love, whether it be a man and woman or man/man or woman/woman. I felt horrible but I didn't speak up as loudly as I should have. All I said is that my political beliefs (democrat) probably aren't always on par with the church.

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  3. Thank you so much for posting this. These are my thoughts exactly. I once heard that "God is not a Democrat or a Republican" and I wish more people had that same opinion. God created us as his children to love Him and to love each other;he didn't create political parties, we did!

    True story: during the '08 election my husband's aunt asked my friend and I how we could call ourselves Christians and vote for Obama. I bit my tongue but really wanted to say "How can you call yourself a Christian and such mean things?!"

    Anyways, thanks again--this is a great post.

    P.S. I grew up in the Lutheran church too!

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  4. I don't know how I feel about this!

    I am a Christian, and as such, I have specific views that are informed by the Bible. The way I see it, I can't separate my belief in Christ from my belief in the Bible. Some of the things in the Bible may be hard to agree with, but I think I must agree with them, since I believe the Bible is the Word of God and that what God says is true.

    Naturally, my beliefs are part of my everyday life, and thus inform my political thoughts. It seems natural to me then, that those who believe in God and in the Bible have very similar political beliefs. And, obviously, those people are going to vote for the person who most represents what they think is right.

    I don't think there should be a mandate that all Christian's vote the same way, or that they all be a specific political party, but I think it does make sense that most are. Of course, there are political issues that aren't religious in anyway, I think. For example, I believe in the right to bear arms, but I don't think God mentions that in the Bible. Oh, and I really feel like EVERYONE should be educated on all the issues, not vote a certain way because they generally subscribe to a certain political party's viewpoint. I do not always vote straight party, though I have, but I try to understand where each candidate stands, and vote that way. I think this is super, super important for all voters.

    Most importantly, Christian's should strive to understand why other Christian's political views are different then theirs, not look down on them because of it. Second most important, is the fact that we are to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." So, no matter what are political beliefs are and no matter how similar or different the beliefs of the person/people in power over us are, we are still to obey them.

    I hope that makes sense. I feel like I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about this one...

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  5. I personally believe certain things because of my faith/the Bible, but these aren't things that I feel like we can vote based on..

    Because I believe one thing based on my faith, I don't feel like the government should be able to force that onto people who don't believe what I do/have the same faith that I do... Voting issues and political issues need to be based on more than "because God says so" because the government functions for more than just the Christians in the country.

    For me, I believe certain things, but certainly do not think that my beliefs apply to the whole country and try to take a wider, more "holistic" view to issues before applying them to everyone.

    I don't know if I even make sense. ;)

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  6. I think you're right - I don't think there's a clear relatioship between faith & politics. For example, my sister & I were brought up the same way & go to the same church now. However, she's a school teacher & the democratic party's view on education means more to her than a lot of other things, but I don't put the same weight on the issue, so I prefer the republican party. I still love her regardless of her poor political choice. (Toooootally just kidding. :-))

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  7. I TOTALLY agree.

    We're Christians. I'm not at all "conservative", in the political definition of the word. My personal views on things, and my political views on things are often different. Not because I'm contradticting myself, but because I don't think the two sould ever go hand in hand.

    I had someone once tell me that if I was a christain, then I MUST be a Republican because otherwise I wasn't a real Christian. Wha??? Blanket statements like that are just so asinine.

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  8. I should mention before I start this, that I am an atheist. While I do not believe in any higher religious figure, I do respect those who do, as well as their opinions based on religious facts or otherwise. I would never ever judge someone based on what they believe - I think that someone's faith (or lack of) should be a personal relationship.

    now, onto the topic at hand. I wholeheartedly believe that church and state should be completely separated. I do not believe that all Christians should be marked as being conservatives, and I don't think all non-Christians should be labeled as being liberal or democratic. I hate the campaigning process of elections, mostly because of the speeches that mention religion. it's almost like they push their religion out there in order to get those of the same faith to vote, and it honestly makes us non-believers (well, at least me) feel a little lost.

    I think that there are so many different belief systems out there (in religion AND politics), that it's just impossible to be a cookie cutter Christian, or non-Christian, or Buddhist, or Pagan, or whatever. I say believe what you want to believe, support whatever political movement you want to stand behind, and you will not only be happy, but you won't feel guilty. :)

    PS - this is also why my voter card says I'm an Independent. I just can't choose one party or another.

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  9. I couldn't agree more. This is a huge issue for me. I believe strongly in my faith, and I believe strongly that my faith and the political fate of our world are not always intertwined.

    As a whole, I hate the idea of the religious right. As Christians, we are not all one voting bloc, as much as the political community would make us out to be. It's frustrating and hurtful, to be labeled and placed in such a box.

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  10. Great post. It's something John and I talk about a lot. He is religious and I am not, but we both believe that politics and religion don't belong together. Despite our religious views we do both have the same liberal political views. It frustrates him when people automatically assume he must be conservative because he's a Christian. He usually replies back to people that he thinks Jesus would have been a Democrat rather than a Republican back in his day. Trust me, that comment can really turn some heads!

    I think the two just don't belong together. I'm a huge proponent of gay marriage because to me it's the state that says you're married. I don't see any problem with the state giving any couple a piece of paper acknowledging their union. If a gay couple wants a religious ceremony that's another matter, and if a church chooses to recognize that union or to perform that ceremony it's up to that church to decide. I see them as two completely separate things.

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  11. I couldn't agree more. I am a christian. I don't really consider myself to be perfectly aligned with one political party. But I definitely lean to the liberal side of things.

    When I tell people that I think our troops should come home they are usually aghast at that statement.

    I end up hiding my belief that we should not be at war.

    It's hard to explain, but I once saw a photo of a girl holding up a sign. It said, "Bombing for peace is like f*cking for virginity."

    Foul language aside, that sign hit the nail on the head for me.

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  12. WILD CHEERS AND APPLAUSE!!

    i LOVE that you wrote this blog post, mere!!

    as a Christian woman, married to an amazing Christian man (who is a former Navy sailor of the year) who was spurred by 9-11 to investigate what is REALLY going on in our government/military and who then published a book about the whole TRUTH of the "war on terror" ... suffice to say that i am deeply troubled by the (successful) propaganda machine that has convinced white, evangelical voters that they "should" vote republican and should support this war.

    when the facts, the history, the TRUTH of the behind-the-scenes machinations are brought to light, it becomes impossible to support - blindly - what is happening. =(

    i feel so strongly that we MUST be informed (not by media and propoganda) ... as a Christian, i must be a truth-seeker first, not a repub or dem.

    thanks, mere!!

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  13. I agree with a few pp, in that as a Christian there are several firmly held beliefs that I find to be scripture based that lend me to vote consistently. That is not to say Christians should be one political party however, because personally I feel very anarchist and that the whole system should be completely overhauled.

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  14. I'm an atheist. I suppose it's unsurprising that I believe the gulf between church and state should be deep and insurmountable. It appalls me that the religious preference (or lack thereof) of candidates for public office is even an issue in America--and not just an issue, but a major one, as with the case of Obama's religion (which a fifth of Americans still believe is Islam).

    And, let's be honest--America will have a military coup before it elects an open atheist to the presidency. It's oppressive to have one's religious beliefs so thoroughly marginalized. On the other hand, atheists have it way better than gays, women and ethnic minorities in this country, so I can't complain too much. Still, something to think about--and you can bet that most Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and what else have you in America felt pretty similar over the media rage over Obama's religion.

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