There are some things I look for when hiring a plumber. I want to know if he knows what he is doing and if he is good at it. I want to know if he is honest, going to show up on time, do quality work, not leave a mess, and charge a fair price for his services. I might want some references, but I won’t ask about his religious affiliation or beliefs.
When I hire (vote for) a president, I want to know something about his character, because if it is seriously flawed, those flaws will be magnified by the power of the office. I want to know about his commitment to the people of the nation and the constitution, because we are his employers and the constitution is his job description. I want to know about his competency, because it’s a gigantic job with new challenges presenting themselves on an almost daily basis.
He needs to be a heck of a visionary leader and manager, a gifted team builder who listens to a variety of advisors, a negotiator who builds relationships with those who oppose his initiatives, a communicator who can hold the confidence of the American people, and a decision maker who can make the hard calls.
I look for Jesus-like character qualities too, like someone who values all individuals, especially those with no clout. But I would not be impressed because he wore a particular religious tag since that is not an indicator of any of the other things I have mentioned.
Unfortunately, what we see of our candidates for elected office is a carefully crafted image, which, by design, involves some deception. It’s like a resume or a job interview in which we try to create the very best possible image and avoid even the slightest hint of flaw. So, we can only guess about their true character. So, all we can do is examine what they have done, rather than just what they say.
We don’t see much personal religious verbiage coming from candidates anymore because it would alienate a large number of people in our increasing secular nation. I believe that it is better to keep it to a minimum, since overall there is too much religious talking and too little religious living.
I have been racking my brain trying to come up with an example of religion and politics merging into something positive, but I can only think of horrible instances, like crusades, inquisitions, totalitarian theocracies, and an emboldened Evangelicalism that left the nation with the bad taste of judgementalism and a lack of compassion.
How you vote will be a reflection of your religious beliefs and your understanding of the role of government. One young adult put it this way, “I believe Democrats want to help people and Republicans want to make things so people can help themselves.”
I thought it was rather brilliant.
Don’t pay attention to the ads, the surrogate campaigners, the professional spin doctors, or the stump speeches. We need to look at actual actions and not political rhetoric to see who most aligns with a Jesus-like lifestyle and has the skills for the world’s most difficult job.
This post is part of a synchroblog on faith and politics.
Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm
Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus
You Cannot Serve Two Masters by Sonja Andrews
Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers
A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum
I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer
5 Ways to Make it Through the Election and Still Keep Your Friends by Kathy Escobar
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Glenn – great thoughts about how to incorporate our faith into our politics. I agree with you that it is difficult to wade through all the contrived stuff but I think that with some concentrated effort and a level head we are usually able to make an educated decision on who to vote for. The trick is not letting ourselves be manipulated or worked up into a frenzy.
On another note I was wondering if you think that Romney being a Mormon is significant in any way? I personally want to say no it isn’t significant but the more I learn about the Mormon religion it does seem that there are some tenets of that religion that would promote a system that would favor the privileged. I would add that I have an acquaintance who is Mormon and a liberal democrat who voted for Obama last time around and will do the same this time around but from what she tells me she is not the typical Mormon. I feel sort of politically incorrect thinking about this but I am trying to understand who Mitt Romney is and that has included me trying to understand his faith. I was particularly surprised to learn recently that the Mormon church built and owns a megamall that was completed earlier this year. They spent $2 billion on it. Anyway … I was curious about what you thought.
Liz – The Mormon thing was a factor with some Evangelicals. I was taught it is a cult. Huckabee mentioned how Obama was the only person who claimed to be an Evangelical. None of the Republican field of candidates were Evangelical. So, he was saying that an old Baptist preacher like himself can support a Mormon because of his personal values and his political positions. There does seem to be a lot of prominent and wealthy Mormons. I have no idea why they would build a mall. That’s cool that you have gone to the trouble to investigate Romney’s religion.
This is a very good post, and I like what you say about the proper qualifications for each and the way character matters. I personally think religion can be useful because it tells us about a character’s integrity and honesty. I’m not saying vote for a Christian; but if a candidate is Catholic and his political actions don’t reflect Catholic values, that’s relevant, or if he’s a Mormon or a Baptist or a Jew or whatever else but he doesn’t live out that tradition the same thing applies.
As for mixing politics + religion and it ending well, how about the American civil rights movement? So much of that was based in the churches and MLK was a pastor. I think a big part of why it worked is, King et al were allowed to appeal to our shared religious heritage, black and white, to drive home the point of why segregation was so wrong. Then political persuasion was used to accomplish that good goal once you had a certain number persuaded. (So the racists who simply did not have ears to hear or the people too busy living their lives to consider issues carefully, they weren’t allowed to continue discriminating.) I think that’s actually a good model of how politics and religion can work together in the best of circumstances.
Btw, I had a late entry. Can you add me to your list? http://fidesquaerens.livejournal.com/128026.html
Marta – Good point! Maybe I should say religion and power are a dangerous combination. Obviously, the push for the civil rights movement came from what was a minority position (no pun intended). Because they endured for many years, it became the majority position. They were fighting against the prevailing thought and changed the course of history and the laws of the land.
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