Politics and Religion: Getting Goofy
Religion & Liberty Online

Politics and Religion: Getting Goofy

This is a blog, so I can say “goofy.” There are some other erudite and tremendously complex terms, but “goofy” pretty much sums up political norms at the moment. What are we thinking. Or, rather, are we thinking?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life just released a report titled, “Many Americans Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics.” Not to slight Pew’s substantive work and fully defensible conclusions, but do respondents not see that it’s just plain goofy to object to religious values in politics and then wish for a stronger religious witness in the culture? Does some high school debater need to come along and point out internal inconsistencies on this topic? Do people honestly think that such a bifurcation of life is desirable — or even possible?

Our political parties, increasingly trying to figure out how to burnish their image as “God friendly,” must be experiencing a good deal of angst over this report. What will they do?

Perhaps the man or woman on the street is simply saying that values should only be imposed selectively. Could that be? How about the basics: truth, honesty, transparency. Surely the man on the street doesn’t mean that those religious values (generated broadly from every faith tradition) shouldn’t be imposed on politics. Don’t we occasionally indict politicians for the lack thereof? And given the rampant disclosure of all types of “truth morphs” that were reported amidst the anniversary Katrina replays this weekend, isn’t that truth and transparency value good for all media?

Oh, maybe this is it: Values are only important when they are created as “mine” as opposed to those pesky absolutes. And if government policy is going to be influenced by Christian truths and that becomes something I don’t care for — then the Christians have gone too far.

The Pew study is extremely insightful. It should make us seriously think (for a change) about the amorphous nature of the “religious values” label that many Americans so quickly attach to the things they don’t like. Perhaps we could be really counter-cultural and actually consider the impact of a particular value on others besides ourselves. When we abandon values that truly undergird a civil society then, well, it’s goofy. And the consequences catastrophic.