2004-11-16

The Politics of Faith


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My apologies … no one wants to let the election firestorm die more than I do. But, I've had this post brewing in my mind since Wednesday, Nov 3rd, when the post-mortem began and I think it's important.

Some of the conventional "wisdom" has it that the just-concluded election was about gay marriage, abortion, or religious faith in general. I have some personal comments on why I think this is so, and the lunacy of buying this, when the exit polling powers of misinformation have been exposed so many times in recent weeks.

Let's just talk about where politics and faith mix for a bit. Ahhh … I can already hear the clamoring of the separation of church and state-ists. Unfortunately, I find that as a Christian I am not able to separate my faith from anything.

The abuse of Thomas Jefferson in this area is a topic for another day. Right now I'll just observe that every time I open a can of media coverage I'm being told that this election was all about faith. Whether or not you agree with that, could it be more clear that like it or not, these two do come into contact and conflict? Right now there is a whole lot of incorrect and confusing dialog bouncing about. If I want my Lord to get a fair shake I'd better think this through and speak my piece.

1. I can't know for sure where someone stands when it comes to their faith and relationship with Christ.
Thank God! Not my business. I am more than happy to leave God's work to Him.

That said, I've spent a lot of time around people of faith and a lot of time around people who are not active Christians, and I recognize that just judging by words and actions, I can form some pretty strong suspicions. I would never act on those suspicions and I would never swear by them, but I would also never hesitate to ask, "What is this apple doing in the orange grove?"

One other thought after speaking with my Catholic friends. They do have some mechanisms by which they feel they can know where someone stands beyond the shadow of a doubt. Now again, I wouldn't go too far with this as I'm not Catholic, and I don't agree with the Catholics here. But, this sure presents some problems for someone who does.

All of this is to say, that as I move on, I am making no assumptions regarding where George Bush or John Kerry stand with the Lord. Again … not my business.

2. Faith is not a strategy.

We saw this pop up several times during the campaign, and now that it has been decided that the election was about faith, it's becoming more persistent.

As the Democratic Primary focus was getting ready to shift to the South, Howard Dean revealed that he needed to talk with people more about his faith. John Kerry dodged the gay marriage issue by proclaiming his conviction not to impose his faith on others. Coming out of the election one Kerry apologist in journalist's clothing complained that the Senator was uncomfortable talking about his faith, and this hurt him.

OK, let me just say that on Nov 2 I had grown very tired, and am now even more tired of this line of the Kerry defense. "It only appears that the Senator has no conviction, no stand, no character, no faith (insert other intangible here), etc. Actually he has so much of the aforementioned item that he has chosen to do you a favor by not weighing you down with his depth. He is, after all, too good to share anything real with you."

Back on point. Some Democrats are now, by their own admission, scrambling to figure out how they can work more faith into their message. Just in case it wasn't already dreadfully apparent that many of them just don't get it.

Faith is not a plank in your strategy, or a component of your message. Faith is not a photo opp, and it's not a sound bite. It's not something you can turn on in the south and off in the metropolitan north, and crackpot west. It's not easily hidden and not easily faked.

You can't conjure up faith. It's there or it isn't, which brings us to …

3. You can't not talk about your faith.

Again, it is difficult, though not impossible, to counterfeit where you stand when it comes to faith. You may choose to not blatantly speak of it in words. Fine. You have simply eliminated what is already the least significant manner in which faith is communicated.

Words are not needed. Everything you say on other matters and everything you do, everything you don't say and don't do says plenty about your faith and what is at the core of you.

When you can't seem to make up your mind on fundamental issues it says something. When the World Series concludes and you are suddenly never seen without a Boston Red Sox cap, it says something. When you go out of your way to attack a man's family in hopes of garnering some small gain from it, it says something. When you pretend to be a man of faith and stumble over the simplest of biblical knowledge, it says something. When you think your campaign speech is appropriate for a church pulpit, it says something.

John Kerry said plenty about his faith on the campaign trail. It simply wasn't a very flattering message.

So does this mean that faith is the exclusive domain of the GOP. Absolutely not!! It simply means that if the Democrats' goal as a party is to beef up the element of faith in their message: they won't do it by increasing the references to God in their speeches, and they won't do it by claiming that your entire platform is the picture of moral purity. You'll have to do it by choosing more faithful standard-bearers.

An aside to Democrats: Although the election was a referendum on the administration of George W Bush, it was also yours to lose. You could not ask for a more solid chunk of the electorate to desperately want to vote against the President. Somehow you figured out how not to offer an appetizing choice to a starving nation.

4. Absolute separation of Politics and Faith is a pipe dream.

Personally, I won't check my faith at the door to the church where I vote.

Granted, I don't set out to be sure to vote for all the Christians and against all the non-Christians. Once again it is not in my power to sort out which is which in the first place. But, I'm voting for leaders, legislators, judges and administrators. My main concern is who can do the best job in those capacities.

But, faith is a factor. It is impossible to know specifically what is going to happen in the next four years. Back in 2000, who would have imagined 9/11? Since I can't know everything that is going to happen, I certainly can't know how each candidate will deal with it.

So, the candidates' core values, judgment and overall philosophy are very important. This is where faith comes in. I will lean toward a candidate who appears to be a person of faith because I am a person of faith.

5. Faith trumps Politics every time.

With all of that said, faith is very liberating, because it puts politics to shame.

I don't have to be heart-broken when my candidate doesn't win. I don't have to begin clamoring to figure out how we're going to beat Hillary in 2008 before 2004's winners have even been inaugurated.

The dominion of those elected by man is relatively small. Like me, the President can not make something happen that isn't part of God's plan, and he can't prevent anything that is part of that plan.

Even better, God is not term-limited.

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