Mixing faith and politics is OK, if done right

A recent issue of The New Yorker has an amazing profile of the newest meteor in the Republican firmament, Michele Bachmann. Its account of her evangelical worldview is causing a buzz.

I want to zero in on one Bachmann quotation. Have to say, I agree with it:

Speaking about Francis Schaeffer, a theologian she admires, the congresswoman from Minnesota said: “He really tried to call Christians to do more than just go to church, to have an application to how they live their lives, to have Christians think that whether they are called to be a dentist, or whether they are a doctor, an artist, a sculptor—whatever it is that they’re called to do … to have a bigger purpose to it.”

As someone striving to be Christian, I concur. If you don’t believe that, why bother to call yourself a Christian? If your faith doesn’t shape your everyday behavior, then it isn’t much of a faith, is it?

Unlike secular liberals, I have no discomfort with politicians telling me how their religious views shape their political outlook. I want them to. If they say there’s no influence, they’re either a liar, denying the truth, or a faker, pretending to hew to a faith they don’t hold.

It’s fine to be candid about how your faith informs your politics. But here’s the key caveat: Your religious belief is not by itself a valid argument in favor of a policy. Your faith is not binding on anyone who doesn’t share it. You must also make a sound secular case for your position.

My main point of disagreement with some conservatives is not that they want to bring God into it. It’s this: What Gospels are they reading? I can’t see the Jesus clearly depicted in the Bible I have at home smiling at a lot of their positions.

The Gospel Jesus goes out of his way to welcome the outcast. He vividly favors the needs of the poor over the whims of the rich. The sin that seems to rile him most is self-righteousness.

He never says: Blessed are the CEOs, because to them go the spoils.

Nor: Cursed are the poor, because they have an annoying need for some of our plenty.

Nor: Blessed are the rigid and the namecallers, for to them shall go the next election.

He did say: Blessed are the peacemakers.

We might want to give that one a try sometime.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.