Saturday, September 27, 2008

World View and Politics

This is sort of a follow-up to my post from last night. Satchel Pooch pointed out this article by Diana Butler Bass regarding Gov. Palin's world view.

Personally I think that a candidate's world view is every bit as important as the candidate's specific policy proposals. Maybe it is more important in view of the fact that the specific proposals are often forgotten as soon as the votes are counted but the world view is still there, controling how the elected official makes decisions.

I said yesterday our world view (which I think is determined by our spirituality) is (and should be) the motivating factor in our political decisions. If that is true, then the candidates' world view should be a very significant factor in our voting decisions because it is the thing that will inform the decisions made by the people we elect.

What do I look for?
More than anything else, I look for a candidate who is absolutely, positively committed to separation of Church and State and to protection of religious freedom for everyone (not just Christians). I am more adamant about that than ever after tolerating eight years of evangelical encroachment on our religious and civil rights.

Denominational affiliation is not necessarily a good indicator of exactly what a person's world view is. We have to look a lot deeper than mere religious affiliation. I grew up Catholic and I know from up-close experience that Catholics are all over the place when it comes to "world view." Some of them are downright spooky. On the other side, I have always been attracted to both the theology and the politics of the liberation theologians (within certain limits). There are good (and bad) Catholics at every point along the spectrum. The same can be said of most mainline Protestant denominations, Judaism, Islam and about every other major world religion. A candidate's religious affiliation may or may not disqualify him/her for my vote. What matters is what the candidate does with his/her own spirituality. Is it the ground and source of their desire to serve God's People? Or, does it provide boundaries that allow the candidate to separate, divide and classify people?

Sen. McCain is often described as a maverick. I've never been really convinced of that. I think he is just very typical of his generation; his real religion is the American Civil Religion that he learned growing up in a military family. Frankly, that is the main thing I always liked about him and why for a long time I really wanted him to be our president. In this campaign, he seems to be singing a different hymn, and that has troubled me. In this religious bio from the Pew Institute, he appears to take from a church what he needs without getting overly involved or worrying too much about the details. That could be a sign of "independent" thinking. It could also be a case of hedging his bets. I am troubled a bit by the idea of a person attending a church for 15 years without joining. Perhaps that is my old church-lady's prejudice against pew-sitters rearing its head. Nevertheless, I find it odd. Nothing in McCain's religious background raises too many red flags, however. The fact that he was raised in a deeply religious home with a father who prayed regularly but who never talked about his faith tells me that McCain understands that religious beliefs are personal, private and that other people are entitled to have their own. If he can work with people on that basis (which his entire political career has evidenced he can), then he passes the smell test.

Sen. Obama talks more openly about his faith, and is very clear about how it informs his decision making. Here's the Pew religious bio on him. He came to Christianity from a non-religious background, so he understands there are people of good will both in the Church and outside of it. While he personally appears to be deeply committed to his faith, he is clear that he respects others' rights to believe as they choose -- and that respect even extends to the looney-tunes beliefs of his friend and former pastor. I happen to like that. I have some friends who believe wacky things, too, but that does not disqualify them for my love. Obama clearly understands the critical need to separate church and state and to distinguish between personal religious convictions and protecting the religious freedoms of people who believe differently. He not only passes, he earns extra points from me for that.

Sen. Biden (here's the article) scores high in this area as well. He's my kind of Catholic! He goes to church and appears to be personally sustained and motivated by his faith. He makes up his own mind, even at the risk of getting him in trouble with the Church, i.e. he is pro-choice despite the Church's opposition to abortion or any other kind of birth control. Best of all, he is very reluctant to discuss his faith in public. He has demonstrated his willingness to protect religious diversity. That's all that matters to me.

And then there's Gov. Palin. Here's the Pew article. It is troubling to contemplate that she is so deeply rooted in Pentecostalism, the American version of which is so weirdly dysfunctional. That is the point of the original article that set me off on this diatribe (
this one). What worries me more is that she apparently hops from church to church without deeply immersing herself in any of them (why?). The most troubling of all is her self-identification as a "Bible-believing Christian." That's a buzz phrase that makes me break out in a cold sweat all over. I just can't get past that.

I want my elected officials to be personally acquainted with a God of love and mercy. I want them to understand the dangers of governments interfering in religious matters. More importantly, I want them to understand the greater dangers of churches interfering in government.

It would be a nice bonus if the officials had at least passing familiarity with Scripture if for no other reason than because it is so fundamentally a part of our culture and our literature.
They (I) can be deeply inspired, informed, and fascinated by the Bible. But I don't want my elected officials actually believing in it! Yikes!

(Here endeth the Ranting.)

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