The Fulcrum team was encouraged by the many responses to our question this week: “How does your belief, religion or spirituality influence your politics in our turbulent and challenging times?
The many answers clearly show how important faith is in their lives. For many, faith is a source of understanding, compassion, and a desire to work with those whose opinions differ from their own. We received some responses advocating the separation of religion and politics, with most citing concerns about theocratic rule or privacy.
Given the overwhelming response suggesting that faith, religion or spirituality is a source of healing and acceptance, we cannot help but ask how can our nation be so divided and how can the level of hate crime be so high?
Research shows that over 30 percent of Americans believe “it is very important to be a Christian in order to be truly American.” Given the increasing lack of courtesy we show ourselves as Americans, not to mention the increasing number of hate crimes in our country, one can’t help but ponder the apparent contradiction. How can so many Americans profess to be people of God but not practice the principles they stand for in their daily lives?
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This applies not only to our nation’s citizens, but also to Congress itself. An overwhelming percentage of Congress members profess to be people of faith, yet the lack of respect and decency towards those across the aisle is worse than ever.
As you read the responses, you’ll see that The Fulcrum readers are deeply committed to healing the rifts that divide us and deeply committed to America’s diversity.
Thank you for your dedication and words of acceptance, healing, faith and respect for all. We are inspired to work harder to keep our readers informed, to meet and talk and act together to repair our democracy and make it alive and functioning in our daily lives.
Thank you for your considerations. We’ve included a sample of responses below. Some have been edited for length and style.
My opinion is that a separation of church/faith/religion and state is an impossibility. Although I understand it in theory – we are trying to avoid or minimize the chances of living under a tyrannical theocracy where ministers of the one right religion rule over the masses and have the ear of the nation’s leader as it was in days of old. But the fact is that the state is made up of people. And most people will not be able to separate one aspect of themselves from another. China has separation of church and state. And that means there that only atheists can work as government officials. Does America want this? Probably not. And let’s face it, we’ve never been able to separate them anyway. If we could, people wouldn’t care about our president’s religion. I think Mitt Romney would have won if some people didn’t think he wasn’t the right Christian. I accept what is and recognize that the state is made up of people of religious and non-religious affiliation and they all make up the fabric of the nation. Pedro Silva
Any discussion of religion and spirituality in the United States must honestly examine how fraught with many weaknesses, especially because in the United States we have blurred the lines between personal beliefs and legislative priorities. … Inasmuch as the founding of this nation was tainted by the supposed goodwill of well-meaning Christian missionaries, who established colonies through the slaughter of natives and aborigines and went on to build an economy on the backs of enslaved Africans stolen from distant lands, religion and spirituality remain as Tools exist to build a less than perfect union while ensuring a more fractured nation. I still believe in God; It’s the people who seem comfortable with venturing so far from God that discourage me. Rev Shonda Nicole Gladden
My faith informs and influences my politics primarily in how I deal with those who hold a different political position or ideology than my positions themselves. My faith tells me that everyone is acceptable in God’s eyes and deserves to be with to be treated with respect. Based on that, I try to listen to those I disagree with and respect their opinions, even if I disagree. Of course, my political philosophy is influenced by my beliefs, but I think the biggest influence is and should be how I treat others. Thomas Klein
My belief that every human soul is valuable influences both the “what” and the “how” of my politics. I try to support policies that promote conditions in which human rights thrive, and I try to engage in ways that compassionately and peacefully negotiate the tensions that arise when the rights (and desires) of different people come face to face with one another bounce The motivation to see each individual as a full human being and to treat them with dignity, regardless of how they treat me, is deeply rooted in my love for my heavenly parents and the desire to become a better disciple of Christ. Emma Petty Addams
Thinking about faith, religion and spirituality is like a blended smoothie in my life. My religion is branded as Jewish, my faith and spirituality comes more from nature, small children and animals. My faith actually has only one requirement. Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. Heal the world (tikun olam). All in all, the sight of a newborn or even an elderly person brings my spirit to the fore. I am more wise in dying (age wise) than growing at this point. If I have any wisdom, it’s a coincidence. Terry Gibson
At The Village Square, we’ve been conducting conversations between believers and secular citizens for 13 years, and with our series, The God Squad, we dive head-on into some of the most contentious issues of our public debate. Our Opinion: Speaking from hearts and souls is humanizing, not divisive. Some of the most profound bridge-building moments we’ve seen have been when we talked about faith (and we have a regular group of atheists who are God Squad regulars). Lisa Joyner
In short, people often choose and act in accordance with utilitarian ethics. The old critique of utilitarian ethics still rings true: 1) you cannot foresee the consequences of your actions, and 2) if the goal is important to you, one can act in very detrimental ways to achieve that goal and stick to it The “good” of believing the goal far outweighs any “evil” caused in the process of goal attainment. I just read this article which ironically touches on the same subject, the role of perceived morality in political affinity. Many evangelicals have described the state of politics and the country as a serious moral decline, particularly in relation to abortion, inclusion and secularism. This makes religious people very vulnerable to manipulation by authoritarian leaders. Gary Michelberger
I definitely believe in the separation of church and state. I am not a believer and do not participate in any organized religion. Statements of a spiritual nature by a candidate would put me off. Mary Marshall
Democracy and theocracy are mutually exclusive. That is, there is no democratic theocracy. The drafters of our constitution knew this. They had the choice of either choosing a religion to govern us or creating a system by which we can govern ourselves. They elected government by, for and by the people. In doing so, they granted the citizens of that nation more freedom of religion than any nation in history has experienced. There are, and always have been, many who believe that anything inconsistent with their religious beliefs is a threat to their religious freedom. The fact is that it is the greatest guarantee of this freedom. There are many theologies in the world and if this nation decides to give up our democracy in exchange for a theocracy, only one of those theologies will have freedom of religion, the others will lose theirs. While the most pious assume that their religion would prevail, since it is the only true religion, the fact is that all religions hold the same faith, but only one would prevail. Mike Plantz
Hi. I don’t usually get involved in things related to politics or religion, and why not? Because both are subjective and have little to no meaning other than emotions or feelings about something that cannot be proven or explained. Take religion out of politics, take politics out of religion, both mean mass control. Pedro Pieteri, Puerto Rican poet, put it best: “las Masas son crasas”! Paz Ishmael Carlo
My belief that humanity is capable of creating and continually improving a society that serves the needs of all at the expense of no one comes to me through my mothers’ beliefs. Our faith honors clear-sighted and thoughtful humility, and always bends the arc of the moral universe toward justice. I believe that our precious individual and collective dignity is at stake. My policy is a public expression of my personal commitment to our common path to a humane world. Jeanne Louden
I take my direction for all things, including faith and politics, from the life of Jesus and the gospel message. Jesus, through his words and example, teaches me to love my neighbor as myself, to shed my foolish pride and ego, to care for those less fortunate, and to look for his image in all people. For me, the message of Jesus goes hand in hand with the motto of the Rotary club: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to everyone involved? Will it build goodwill and friendships? Will it be beneficial for everyone involved?” Larry Visser
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