samedi, janvier 12, 2008

A quadrennial mirror

LancasterOnline.com
Believers have a lot riding on their votes
By Elizabeth
Published: Jan 12, 2008 12:01 AM EST
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA -
The 2008 presidential primaries have only just begun, but it is by no means too early for people of faith to ask themselves how their beliefs will or will not influence the votes they cast.
One thing is certain: We will make those determinations in a social setting that has undergone a quiet but profound revolution, offering new hope along with entrenched challenges.
Watching the two leading Democrats as they are swept up in a wave of social change long in coming, it is almost impossible not to be deeply moved.
Regardless of who wins in November, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are powerful icons. Their very prominence is the fruit of our long national struggle for racial and gender equality, a struggle underlined and echoed in our country's religious history.
As joyful as it is to see us move beyond the racial and gender polarization of the past, let's not kid ourselves: We still have a long way to go.
Although a formal religious "test" for public office is prohibited by the Constitution, various factions will undoubtedly be applying an informal one.
Sorting out religious differences is more likely to be a concern for Republican voters, particularly evangelicals.
Mormon practitioner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has already come under scrutiny. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has an uneasy relationship with the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, also may have to field some uncomfortable questions.
Though no one questions the religious commitment of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, his decision to declare a Christian Heritage Week in Arkansas and his push to restrict abortions and get medical insurance for children living in poverty, among others, also are controversial because they seem to blur the line between church and state.
For various reasons, at least in this primary season, the specific beliefs of the Democratic candidates are not as likely to be hotly debated.
That is partly because Clinton, Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are comfortable — to one extent or another — talking about how their religious beliefs affect their lives.
Not only is their faith part of their campaign rhetoric, its threaded through their biographies.
Yet their party's sometimes-awkward embrace of belief and nonbelief, ardent secularists and equally convinced people of faith may prove nettlesome to some conservative Democrats and independents.
As believers grapple with how much their beliefs should influence their votes, they must move with discerning caution in seeking direction.
Shining a spotlight on Jesus and his relationships, the Gospels provide principles and guidelines rather than laws.
To the question: "How would Jesus vote?" the answer probably is: Jesus, who lived in an occupied land under the rule of an empire, wouldn't vote.
In the Gospel according to Luke, Luke told spies who tried to entrap him into just such a dispute about secular and religious power to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:25).
Yet as citizens of a democracy, we are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping our nation's course.
While we don't have Gospel specifics, we do see that Jesus' own standard seemed to be one of integrity, the coherence of belief and of action.
How salutary it would be for our candidates, as well as for ourselves, if we ask them to try harder to attain that particular standard.
How wonderful it would be if we demand that they cease the backbiting and snide attacks, bringing civility back to the public square.
If we were to do that, of course, we'd have to apply the same lens to our own behavior.
In this fluid cultural climate, we are forced to ask ourselves not only how we judge a candidate's character, but also how we see ourselves.
Will we be part of perpetuating the old walls of division? Or will we dare to reach across the boundaries that keep us from truly knowing each other, knowing that we will be changed in the process.
The presidential primaries are not solely about the aspirations of a group of fascinating but imperfect public servants.
It also is about our own.
Elizabeth

2 commentaires:

Charlie a dit…

Well said, Elizabeth. I especially like your focus on integrity, coherence of belief and action. The reformation of American politics away from the pettiness and destructiveness it has taken on of late has to start with us, each of us as voters, by electing people who are committed to a more civil political debate about the issues. If we value civility, we need to live it and require it of those who lead us.

Offcenter a dit…

Thank you, Charlie. Maybe if enough of us cry out for that, it will happen. Interesting column by Bob Herbert in the Times today on just that issue-it's also about hope. I think people are craving someone who sees the good in us.