Honestly, I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed watching the political banter this year in the American elections. I even engaged in a friendly little “war” with a certain friend of mine, bolstering all the wonderful things about a particular candidate she was vehemently opposed to voting for just to watch her reaction and enjoying seeing her have, what my Grandmother would call, a “hissy fit.” Never having been one to actively engage in serious political thought (well, American politics anyway) I found it quite interesting to see how people felt about candidates, issues, ideologies and practices. Some of the things people said were awe-inspiring, and some were, well – not. In any case, it was interesting to me so see how people based their opinions on various issues.
Since the election season started, it seems we’ve been continually bombarded with messages about certain issues and how it affects our lives, as well as how certain politicians feel about those issues. Whether it be abortion, gay marriage, rape, or even whether you should build a ballpark or not, it seems like everyone has a long list of opinions on an even longer list of subjects.
Much like previous political seasons, we’ve seen many people espouse their support for a particular candidate based on their personal faith. As a person of faith myself, I have to admit that I’ve often found it refreshing when someone took their beliefs seriously enough to consider how it may play a role in their decision-making process in political candidates, or in any other aspect of their life. Too often, we find people in our society concerned about only themselves, with no regard for how their actions or decisions affect society as a whole. To find people concerned about “the bigger picture” is definitely a breath of fresh air.
As much as I appreciate the role faith plays in a person’s decision-making process, there comes a point where I begin to feel uncomfortable with it. We’ve seen an increasing number of people lately who would advocate the belief that God would endorse one particular candidate over another. While I understand that someone might feel compelled to believe one person to be better suited to some sort of political office based on what they believe about God, I think to blatantly state that God wants this or that person to be President, Governor, etc because of what amounts to their personal belief system is pushing the envelope a bit too much.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. I’ve heard quite a few people go on complete rants about how President Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, a tax-and-spend evil liberal, and all sorts of other labels you could throw at a person. Some of these people have even gone so far as to try to accuse him of being the Anti-Christ and tried to use the Bible to support their view. Surely, God would never support such an evil person to lead a country. Therefore, in their view, things are about to get a lot worse for everyone in the United States.
Others have attacked certain social issues such as gay marriage, stating how anti-Biblical they believe it to be. I personally have heard of more than one person sermonizing until they’re blue in the face about how God is going to destroy their country for letting this happen.
On the other side of the coin, I have heard people of the same faith admonish President Obama as a Christian, someone who believes in a democratic way of government, and all other kinds of positive adjectives one could use to describe a person. In their view, God would surely bless him and their nation. In the matter of gay marriage, you’ll find others who will tell you that they believe God to bless unions based on love, regardless of the gender of those entering into those unions.
So which side is right? Is one side right over the other, or is there a sense of right on both sides of the issues? Is there really a black-and-white answer to all these questions in our faith that would dictate how these issues should be dealt with? I’m of the opinion that, no, there isn’t one right answer to any of these issues, most especially when you attempt to apply them to politics.
To me, admonishing faith as the answer to a political quandary is about as dangerous as letting a balloon loose in a needle factory. No matter where you are, you’re bound to get pricked. While using my faith to decide on my personal stance on an issue or a political candidate is one thing, it’s quite another to attempt to use it to sway others to hold my same opinions.
My faith is a personal thing. It is my guidepost for my own personal relationship with God, not a guidepost for what I believe another’s relationship with God should be. Having said that, I’ve always believed that if I feel God is leading me to support a certain candidate or feel a certain way about an issue, that is between God and myself. It is the same for others as well: I shouldn’t have any place to say what I believe God should be leading another person to feel or do.
I’ve come across people on those sides of issues lately that believe God is leading them in the direction they are leaning. Both sides firmly believe their side is the correct side because “God told them it was.” This leads me to believe one of three scenarios: One, God is severely schizophrenic; two, someone is wrong as to what they believe God is saying; or three, they are using their religion to mask their prejudice. Since the first option is the most unlikely scenario to a believer, I would most likely say most people would fall within the second and third scenarios.
Let’s be brutally honest here, however. Vast majorities of people out there use their faith to mask their prejudice. Why do I feel this way? I think if someone truly believes God is leading them to certain position, there wouldn’t be as much strife and contention among others in order to get there. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe if a person felt as if God genuinely led them, their journey to that place wouldn’t be a continual fight with others of supposedly the same faith. Why do I feel most use religion to mask their prejudice? It could possibly be because they personally don’t believe in an idea, and their selfishness doesn’t want anyone else to believe in it either. They may be fearful of something they don’t understand, and use religion to mask that fear.
Regardless of why a person believes what they do, each of us has a responsibility to respect another’s spiritual journey and core set of beliefs. Simply because a person believes same-sex marriage is wrong, I don’t believe it gives another person the right to force another to believe the same thing. This is why I’m continually dumbfounded when people professing faith are so adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage. I’ve heard arguments about how they believe it to be wrong, and how it will undermine the fabric of traditional marriage. I, however, believe that if two people genuinely love each other they should be allowed to marry regardless of their gender. After all, it is a commitment between these two people, not others. As to it undermining traditional marriage, I think traditional marriage itself has done plenty to undermine itself on plenty of occasions, thank you very much. Besides… if two people of the same sex marrying each other somehow undermine your traditional marriage, your marriage is obviously nothing more than a sham, and a pitiful excuse of one.
There are those who proclaim that America was founded on Christian principles. That’s all well and good. But if I remember my history lessons correctly, it was also founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty to decide for oneself such personal issues as who to marry, who to vote for, or any other highly personal life choice should be able to be made freely, without fear of oppression or retaliation by those who claim to be their spiritual brothers and sisters. Who knows… maybe I’m wrong in my thinking. If I am, however, let it be God to reveal it to me, not an angry mob who somehow is so weak in their own faith the slightest thing different from their ideologies could spiritually destroy them. If there is a different way for me to believe, then show me in how you live, not in what you say.