By Graham Glover –
A candidate’s confession of faith matters. In fact, I think it matters more than most voters want to admit. However, in American politics our voters have come to embrace the odd idea that one’s faith shouldn’t influence their public policy (as though it’s possible to entirely separate the two). Consequently, we all but ignore the religious affiliation of our candidates. Or, if these affiliations are discussed, they are done so as an afterthought. This needs to change.
I think a candidate’s religion should be discussed at length during the election process, because I think a candidate’s faith greatly informs their politics.
Am I suggesting that there should be a religious litmus test to run for public office in the United States? Of course not. As I noted in my recent column on public prayer, we are a religiously diverse nation. This means our candidates and our politics are equally as diverse. So, I have no problem with a Lutheran, a Roman Catholic, an Independent Baptist, an Orthodox Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Deist, etc., running for office. Honestly, I don’t care if an atheist runs and wins. So long as we live in a democracy, such could be the case. But when our candidates are seeking office, especially national office, I think the voters deserve to hear about their faith. We should know what their faith teaches, what doctrines they embrace, what social and political issues are important to their communions. And we should know how long the candidate has followed this faith and how regularly they participate in the services of their faith. The voters deserve to know these things because the dictates of one’s faith can be one of the most important driving forces behind the public policy decisions that they will make if elected.
Again, this is not a call for exclusion. I have no desire to prevent anyone from the political process. Rather, mine is a call for religion to take its place at the forefront of our political discourse. And this will only happen if we start talking openly, honestly, and frequently about religion and then, asking our candidate’s to articulate how their faith shapes their own lives and their political beliefs.
This dialogue should not be limited to social issues. Abortion and sexuality are and will remain at the forefront of many religiously minded voters. It should go without question that a candidate’s faith, or at least an understanding of that faith, informs their position on these issues. Most of us know this. But I want to dig deeper. I want to get at the heart of these issues and the faith/philosophy that informs them. Moreover, I think it’s time to discuss how one’s faith informs their economic policy – their foreign policy. And like our political pundits get deep in the weeds on a candidate’s policy initiatives, I want to get deep in the weeds on their philosophical foundations. It’s great to know sound-bites. It’s better to know substance. And one’s religion is the substance of much of what one believes.
When voters consider whether an individual is qualified and worthy to hold public office, questions about family, finances, education, and employment are always front and center. But why isn’t a candidate’s religion the first question we ask them about? I love my family more than anything in the world, but my faith informs my worldview more than they. My financial portfolio could be significant to understand where I come from, but the doctrines of my church dictate what issues I support more than my account balances. The University of Florida is, without question, the finest educational institution in the world, and the almighty Gator reigneth much, but I don’t worship my alma mater, I worship the Triune God. And the myriad of employers I have had over the years does little to tell you about who I am as a person or the convictions I hold as a Christian and an American. My jobs only give you a glimpse of who I am. My faith tells a much bigger story.
During the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush was asked who his favorite philosopher was/is. His answer, Jesus. Great. Good on W. But that told us very little. It was a nice sound-bite, but nothing more. I’m not interested in questions like these. I’m interested in deeply theological, philosophical, and personal questions about faith. For in our confession of God we will find the truest picture of our person and in so doing, give voters they best picture possible of the candidate they might elect.
Faith matters in the ballot box. It matters a lot.