A presidential race focused on religion? 4-10-19
Pondering theological issues in -- Nebraska: 4-12-19

Religious errors politicians make and may make again: 4-11-19

Yesterday here on the blog, I wrote about the sometimes-surprising way Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is speaking openly about his Christian faith.

Church-stateAmong those who've taken note of this and other examples of religious talk among politicians who identify as progressive or liberal is National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters.

In this column, Winters outlines various errors that politicians on the right have made in talking about and promoting religion as he suggests candidates on the left avoid those same mistakes.

"What are the possibilities," Winters asks, "and the potential pitfalls of this renewed interest in religion on the left?"

He lists several.

One, of course, is an unmerited, divisive focus on human sexuality, particularly homosexuality. A good reason to avoid most of that, Winters suggests correctly, is that "any fair reading of the Gospels reveals that the Lord Jesus spent far more time urging his disciples to be generous to the poor, welcoming to the stranger and treat people with dignity than he did discussing any sexual issues."

This is especially true of homosexuality. A consistent misreading of the Bible has led people who identify as conservative or evangelical or fundamentalist to insist that homosexuality is a sin, rather than a normal, if relatively rare, aspect of created life.

But, Winters insists, at the top of the list of mistakes the right has made with respect to religion is "the conflation of religion and politics." Politicians on the left, he says, would do well not to make that same mistake. It leads to such stunning phenomena as the vast majority of evangelical Christians voting for Donald J. Trump, whose values have long proven to be an almost-complete rejection of evangelical moral values.

Well, the truth is that whether we want to hear about religion and politics in the already-begun 2020 presidential race, we will. And we would do well to remember that one of the few legitimate questions about religion to ask candidates is how their faith commitments would affect public policy.

Pretty much everything else is either spin or is out of bounds.

* * *


A recent Chicago gathering about the Catholic Church in the U.S. caused religion scholar Mark Silk to conclude something like: "the future of Catholicism will be ineluctably pluriform: different things to different people." Seems a safe bet because that's what not just Catholicism but almost all faith traditions now seem to be. But maybe it's a healthy thing to acknowledge reality.


The comments to this entry are closed.