Religion in Politics
A Word for the Day…
I was talking with a neighbor a couple of weeks ago when the topic of the presidential debates came up. “I do not talk about politics or religion with people,” she said. “I do not think any of that matters in the whole scheme of things.” I was dumbfounded. I do not know anything more important than talking about politics and religion, and I believe it matters more today than ever before in human history.
Let me state the obvious. Our theology – what we believe and say about God – shapes our politics. Look at the jihadists as an example. If you believe that God is an angry, vengeful God, then likely you will behave in angry and vengeful ways. If you believe God has a predetermined history and everything is “meant to be,” then you might feel justified staying silent in the face of violence, oppression, and injustice. If you believe God is active in our lives and a loving force for good in the world, then you likely behave in active, engaged ways that channel God’s love into the world. Because we live in community, we shape our laws and social codes through the lens of what we believe about God and each other. Talking about religion and politics matters.
A few years ago I saw the play “8” about the trial that overturn proposition eight (legalizing gay marriage) in California. Dustin Lance Black created this play, which toured the United States, because the court transcripts are sealed, barring any access to public viewing. The play is actually a word-by-word reading of what was said in the courtroom. It was astounding. What shocked me most of all was learning that in the past few years over 200 pieces of legislation have been targeted at LGBT people in an attempt to take away or further oppress their civil rights. What is this really about?
We cannot escape the obvious connection between religion and politics. When you listen to people who passionately stand in opposition to others being treated equally (as they are treated) – gay people, black people, Latino/a people, women, immigrants, people of others faiths, people who are differently-abled, etc. – you come to understand that their God is an angry God – a God of law, judgment, and rigidity – who will not be mocked. It is their Christian duty to ensure God’s law (whatever that is) is upheld. Many supporters of equal rights and respect are also Christian, but they argue that God is still speaking, still revealing ways of understanding and expressing loving and life-giving human experience. God is a teacher, a prophet, a mystic, showing us more ways to give and offer grace to each other.
Do you see? How we see God in our own lives is not a private matter. It shapes our public policies. Religion and politics have always and will always be connected. But here is what we must remember – good theology always says that faith overcomes fear, love overcomes hate, and grace overcomes judgment.
The debates we are having in households across the world are not so much about the laws of our land but about the authority under which we place our lives. We are fighting for what image of God we want to embrace. Do we want a wrathful God who upholds fear-baiting, control, deception, white supremacy and patriarchy? Or do we want a God of Love who celebrates the diversity of every single one of us as Her most precious creations? The choice is ours.
Go talk about religion and politics. It matters more than ever.
We are in this together,
Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight
Post Date: October 21, 2020