Christianity and Politics, Should They Mix?


David P. Gushee wrote an USA Today column titled in big bold letters “Christian politics create unholy alliances”:

“They are at it again. Republican presidential candidates are trolling for conservative Christian votes. Christian political organizers are trolling for Republican candidates’ attention. (The next occasion will be the Republican candidate debate sponsored by The Family Leader in two weeks at a church in Des Moines.) The Democrats, too, will make some effort to join this game, as they did in the 2008 cycle.”

This is what he had to say about politicians “abuse of Christian symbols”:

“Politicians continue to use and abuse the language and symbols of Christian faith in order to win political support. They speak of God, Jesus, Christian faith and Christian values. They bow their heads in prayer at a million chicken dinners. Then Christian voters — perhaps flattered, perhaps reassured — think that these evocations of holy Christian symbols and terms actually mean something.”

Mr. David Gushee submits that the “trolling” conservatives are using “Christian values” (gasp!) as a means of winning “political support” (double-gasp!) from Christian America (blasphemy!).  For  Mr. Gushee’s sake  (and I expect about 40% of the rest of America) we ought to have a set of earplugs and blinders at the ready when watching the presidential debates. It’s for our own good;  us “rank-in-file Christians”. We just don’t what’s good for us. Wait? When was politics decreed sterile of worldviews? Christianity tugs a worldview behind it; when a candidate associates himself with this worldview, we acquire some deep insight into the mind of that candidate.  So, I guess my main question is this: how is it wrong for a politician to articulate his worldview truthfully? This question seems to be inaccurate, actually. Gushee isn’t angry at politicians expressing any old worldview; it’s the Christian one that irks him. Why ought politicians hide their religious beliefs? Is politics some sort of sacred ground in which the candidate is purged of all his Christian worldviews and then – enlightened in the ways of the secular humanist – is prepared to run the presidential race? It seems quite contrary to our intuition.  A candidate’s religion usually dictates the ethics that he conforms to. Therefore, when a candidate submits that the Bible is the source of his moral standard, that’s a good thing to know ; understanding the worldview of the person you’re voting for is appropriate and ought to be encouraged.

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  1. #1 by Jay Kappel on November 16, 2011 - 6:33 pm

    Agreed! There is nothing that influences our morality than the way in which we view the World. I personally appreciate authentically Christian candidates. But those who parade Christianity as a tool for gaining votes are very bore-some. It’s quite obvious to me when people are less than committed to Christ yet claim the opposite.

  2. #2 by thedisbeliever on November 16, 2011 - 8:04 pm

    In my own opinion, your religious affiliation doesn’t really speak to your own ethics. Every denomination of Christianity has a different set of rules in regards to ethical discourse … but every individual within those denominations may accept or refute certain ethical positions. You really have to dig into a person who says the bible is the source of moral standards … it could mean anything, really. There are so many conflicting stances to take.

    For me, Religion is a great topic to bring to the ballot, but isn’t a deciding factor necessarily. Often you have to watch for differences between a politician saying they are a Christian, and a politician promising to legislate Christianity. The first, I have no problem with so long as they are capable of running the country well – the second, is a terrible position and a ‘trolling’ mechanism for votes from a fundamentalist ‘right’.

    • #3 by studentsforchristianity on November 17, 2011 - 12:08 pm

      “You really have to dig into a person who says the bible is the source of moral standards … it could mean anything, really. There are so many conflicting stances to take.”

      A candidate stating, “I believe in the Bible” isn’t as valuable as a person listing the certain doctrines that he holds on to and explaining his ethic set. That’s true. However, I wasn’t talking about the level of usefulness of the statement us much I was negating Gushee’s article (i.e. it’s acceptable for a candidate to explain his worldview).

  3. #4 by NotAScientist on November 17, 2011 - 8:41 am

    Actually, it seems the author is complaining because he thinks that a good portion of the candidates don’t actual have the values they espouse. Rather they just spout them to win support.

    • #5 by studentsforchristianity on November 17, 2011 - 12:15 pm

      I thought the same when I first read the article. However, towards the end, he states that we must “secularize, our approach to the next election”.

      If he was simply concerned with the validity of the candidates statements of the values they espouse, why would he want to secularize it; not allowing any religious talk whatsoever? I’m mad at some candidates for supporting one economic model and then turning around to support another. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should stop discussing economic models altogether.

      • #6 by Problem_here on November 17, 2011 - 3:32 pm

        Because disallowing or discouraging religious talk is not the same thing as discouraging or disallowing value-based talk.

        The problem with a lot of religious candidates is the whole “God wants me to be president”…it’s an unverifiable statement that serves to manipulate people’s faith in favor of a particular candidate.

        In other words, “I’m a Christian” is fine because it’s a statement of fact- it would be fine to say even in a secular debate. “God wants me to be president” is the real sticker here. Bush and four current GOP candidates used it, and it’s getting old. Politicians should stand on their policy merits, not on faith-based voter manipulation.

  4. #7 by studentsforchristianity on November 20, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Problem_here,

    // religious talk is not the same thing as discouraging or disallowing value-based talk. //

    I can’t think of any difference between the two, can you?

    //“God wants me to be president”…it’s an unverifiable statement that serves to manipulate people’s faith in favor of a particular candidate. //

    That’s true, but that’s not what Mr. Gushee was talking about. He was mad about how “they speak of God, Jesus, Christian faith and Christian values.” This, he says, is bad for America.

    // “I’m a Christian” is fine because it’s a statement of fact- it would be fine to say even in a secular debate.//

    Most would strongly disagree with that (including Gushee).

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