Politics lost in religion


Politics and Christianity seem to be more and more intertwined in America today, with evangelical Christians at the front line. Mike Huckabee is bringing religion to the foreground in the 2008 election, using his Baptist beliefs as part of his platform. While speaking at a prayer rally in Grand Rapids, he quipped, “Some people say that I believe only Baptists are going to heaven . but I don’t think all of them are going there!” This was from a serious presidential candidate.

Religion has become so intertwined with political thought that the true principles of religion have been lost. The issue boils down to one key point: The religious right feels that they have the right to tell you how to live. Whether it’s the right to die, the right to life or the death penalty, it seems the Christian right is always trying to stick its nose into someone else’s business.

This may stem from the underlying concept of conversion present in Christianity. Certain passages in the Bible exhort believers to spread the good news to others, thereby bringing them into the fold. But does telling others how to live equate to saving them?

Gay rights are a hot button issue for this reason. Biblical prohibitions against homosexuals have influenced the dialogue on gay rights, when in truth, the Bible should have no bearing on the law. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment states

“Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion.” specifying that one religion is not above another, and all are protected. How can the government deny gay people the right to marry based on a Christian value?

In spirit, the Constitution is based on compromise; political opposites must come together with a law enough people can agree to, and the evangelical right refuses to consider a different viewpoint than their own.

When arguments are based on a moral stance that not everyone shares, a compromise is seen as blasphemy to the Christian right, rather than a rational decision which enters into law and applies to everyone. The fight over whether to keep Terri Schiavo alive using machines was intensely publicized. Court battles raged for over a decade. Right wing groups were up in arms, calling her right to die “state-sanctioned murder.” Such a fight would seem logical, except her husband testified in court that she didn’t want to be hooked up to life support. How did her right to die, which she laid out before she was incapacitated, get trumped by religious considerations?

The Christian right has forgotten to forgive, and has taken it upon itself to judge those not following a strict doctrine of beliefs. Legal institutions have begun paying attention to sinful behaviors on the Christian watch list; several groups celebrated when another Conservative justice was appointed to the Supreme Court, saying it was only a matter of time until the Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The Bible says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). Is this what the Christian right is exhibiting today?