Two weeks ago, I wrote a post that stated that First Christian Church was not a progressive congregation. At the post’s heart is how Christians try to deal with faith and politics. Both are important in our society, but when and where do they connect? Or do they never connect?
Some Christians think faith and politics should never be together and try to stay above it all, never mentioning political issues. Coming from the black church tradition, I’ve always found that impossible. You can’t make the church a politics-free zone, because life is about politics. Issues like the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s were issues that could not be separated from faith.
The flip side is people who tend to merge their ideological viewpoint with faith until what you end up with is an ideology with a patina of faith to make it sound religious.
This week there were two examples of what faith in the public square should look like and they happen to be bipartisan.
The first comes from Utah Senator Mitt Romney. As most of you know, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict President Trump during the impeachment trial. In an interview with the Atlantic Magazine, Romney explained that it was his Mormon faith that guided him in his decision making:
Romney, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described to me the power of taking an oath before God: “It’s something which I take very seriously.” Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father’s favorite verse of Mormon scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good. “I have gone through a process of very thorough analysis and searching, and I have prayed through this process,” he told me. “But I don’t pretend that God told me what to do.”
He made a decision based on his faith, even though that went against the rest of his party. In a speech to the Senate explaining his vote, he said he wanted to go with the team, but he had to follow what his faith and his oath called on him to do:
In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.
The true character of how faith interacts with politics is when your faith calls you to do something that will conflict with your politics. Romney is a loyal Republican, but in this case, he felt his call as a person of faith called him to do something that went against his politics.
Another example of this comes from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic representative has said that she prays for the President. In December, she responded to a reporters question about praying for the President:
“I don’t hate the president,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I pray for the president all the time.”
Pelosi was responding to a reporter’s question after she had announced that she was asking the House of Representatives to impeach the president. She was asked if she hates the president by a reporter who cited Rep. Doug Collins’ statement that the Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they hate him. Collins, a Republican from Georgia, has been a staunch defender of President Donald Trump during the impeachment hearings.
Pelosi strongly rejected the question, which she saw as an insult to her faith and her upbringing.
“I don’t hate anybody,” responded Pelosi. “I was raised in a Catholic house. We don’t hate anybody, not anybody in the world. Don’t accuse me of hate.”
Being accused of hatred was, in Pelosi’s mind, the same as accusing her of being a bad Catholic.
A devout Catholic, Pelosi believes in praying for President Trump, even though she strongly disagrees with him and has gone toe-to-toe with him. Praying for an opponent might upset some on the left, but it is her faith that sends her to her knees to offer prayers for Trump. Prayers for a political opponent, even one you don’t like is allowing faith to dictate politics and not the other way around.
Both of these politicians are doing something that is not easy, but their faith calls them to seek a path beyond the partisan fighting.
An example of how some put politics above faith comes from the President himself. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast the day after being acquitted in the Senate, President Trump to say something that wasn’t very prayerful. Arthur Brooks, the former head of the American Enterprise Institute and a Catholic spoke to the audience about loving our political enemies. The President followed Brooks and said the following:
“Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you, and I don’t know if Arthur’s gonna like what I’ve got to say,” he began, promptly demonstrating the very contempt Brooks battled with reflections on his impeachment trial and his enemies therein. “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said. “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.” His apparent targets: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), both of whom have cited their faith (Mormon and Catholic, respectively) as an influence on their politics.
The President can’t understand that someone would do something propelled by their faith. Instead, he seems to think politics should dictate one’s faith, not the other way around. It is a pathetic reminder of how some in our culture worship politics over their faith, who see hate as more effective than love.
First Corinthians 13 states that we could do some of the greatest things in the world, but if we don’t have love, it isn’t worth squat. Love is what can move us to pray for someone we don’t like or to do something that might not be popular. Faith and love are important for people of faith and vital to a free society.
As this very political year continues, I hope we will see other examples of politicians that are act out of their faith to do what is difficult, instead of those who act out of their politics to do what is so very easy.