I’ve been a Christian my whole life, although my theology now would be unrecognizable to the Left-Behind-devouring girl of my youth. I’ve been a liberal since my senior year in high school, when a History of the Americas class made me reconsider what practical policies my conservative ideology was reinforcing.
Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t experience my political transformation any sooner than I did. While I went to a fairly diverse high school, my hometown was fairly homogenous when it came to political and religious affiliations. As it was, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with my new identity as a liberal Christian until I moved to college and discovered that I wasn’t the anomaly I thought I was. I found a community of Christians with whom I could be myself, I found professors who challenged my beliefs, I became involved with social justice communities that challenged me to use my privilege for good, and I grew more as a person than I could have ever predicted (and that’s not even counting the Freshman 15 😉 ).
But my journey to becoming the person I am today wasn’t all easy. There were (and still are) many people who were concerned by my new attitude towards religion and politics. And, as much as it frustrates me now, and as much as I disagree with them, I can understand why people objected to my new acceptance of homosexuality, my reluctance to condemn abortion, my lack of xenophobia, and my general belief that maybe social welfare isn’t necessarily the first step on the slippery slope to godless Communism. Because for most of my life, I was someone who would have objected to those things.
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a culture where conservative politics were the norm among Christians, but I cannot imagine questioning the validity of someone’s religion (any religion, but specifically mine) because of their opinion on taxes or the role of government in charity. Even in situations where I emphatically believe that certain political positions are 100% contradictory to everything the Bible had to say on the topic, I do not believe it’s my place to then extrapolate the validity of someone’s spirituality from that position.
So it is particularly frustrating when people don’t extend the same courtesy to me. This doesn’t happen all the time (I know many people of all religious and political persuasions that I love debating because we can do so in a civil, intelligent way), but it has happened more times than it should. The first few times I was accused of abandoning the “true” faith for a politically correct lifestyle, I was devastated. It’s hard to explain for someone that isn’t religious, or who has never experienced rejection in this way, but it’s impossible for me to understate how much it hurt. I felt like I had to choose between cognitive dissonance or alienation from one of the most important social groups a religious person can have.
Thankfully, I moved to college soon after that, and the rest is history. Now, accusations of heresy are more silly annoyances than anything else. But is is still annoying, and entirely unnecessary, in my opinion.
So here is my request: Please, leave religion out of politics.
(To clarify: I don’t mean in the sense that your religion can’t influence your politics. I believe that it’s only fair that your religion can influence your political views, AS LONG AS they can be reasonably translated into universal values that most people would accept, regardless of denomination. Your faith motivates you to help people, and you think helping people means taxing them less? We can talk. Your religious diet motivates you to outlaw certain foods, even for people whose religion, or lack thereof, allows the consumption of that food? We’re going to have problems.)
Maybe I should say, please leave spirituality out of politics. Political opinions run the spectrum in every religion, and it’s incredibly narrow-minded to say God Wants You to Vote This One Specific Way Or Else. You may vehemently disagree with my opinions on abortion, gay marriage, immigration, welfare, etc., but please trust me when I say my opinions on those matters are as much informed by my faith as your opinions are informed by your faith. The fact that I see no problem with, for example, marriage equality doesn’t reflect a lack of faith on my part, it reflects a different manifestation of the same faith you have. I can believe in Obamacare and God at the same time. I may be the first person you’ve ever met that does, but trust me when I say that others are out there, and it is not your place to make a judgment call on the most intimate aspects of our spiritual lives. Just like it isn’t my place to make that sort of judgement call on people who disagree with me. It’s a common courtesy I try to extend to everyone, and I’d like to see it returned.
So please, if you’re ever debating politics in the future, and you feel the urge to go for the God-attack, just don’t. Nothing could be less productive, and few things could make you look less informed about the actual subject. And, in case that didn’t persuade you, I’ll end with some Bible verses 😉
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?– James 4:12
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
Then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart)- 1 Kings 8:39
(This post doesn’t really apply to my friends of other faiths, or my atheist/agnostic friends, and I acknowledge that. I’m directly responding to some pretty ridiculous dialogue that I’ve heard from within the Christian community, but I’d be interested in addressing interfaith politics in a future post.)