Faith, Politics and Ethics

Welcome to this new blog. I realize that a blog about faith and politics is not something unique, but I do hope to bring some new insights to the topic.

Many people endeavor to keep religion and politics separate and proclaim loudly that the two are not and should not be connected. Religion is personal; politics is public. This is the perspective that somehow one can approach political issues and governmental actions from a neutral, objective, and non-religious position.

Following a speech in 2008 by Mitt Romney concerning the relationship of faith and politics Martin Medhurst wrote about the varied reactions to the speech in which Romney attempted to lay out his understanding of the interplay of religion and politics in America, both historically and for contemporary times. Although there were many who were open to what Romney had to say, there were also many who thought there was no place in American politics for a discussion of religious beliefs.

My claim is straightforward: the responses to Romney’s “Faith in America”speech underscore the five basic issues that all Americans must face when making civic decisions: (1) Is talk about religion either necessary or desirable in American politics? (2) If such talk is necessary or desirable, what aspects of religion are relevant to the political process and, especially, to the office of President of the United States? (3) Are there some aspects of religion or some uses of religion that are simply inappropriate, and if so, why? (4) How do we reconcile the constitutional issues of free speech and free exercise of religion with the equally constitutional issues of no religious test and no establishment of religion? (5) Can religious and democratic attitudes toward such intangibles as truth, knowledge, virtue, and belief ever be reconciled, and if so, how?[i]

 The answers to those questions, as Medhurst cited, varied depending on the premises of the respondents. Those who mistakenly think that reason and reason alone suffices to provide an understanding of reality asserted that religion has no place in political dialogue. But it’s the very terminology of the questions that may present the crux of the problem. Is it “religion” that is the issue here, or is it the idea of faith and belief in general? Clearly, people who are involved in organized religions are adherents of specific faith positions. However, what is not true is that those who are not involved in organized religion are not adherents of specific faith positions. Yet it is almost an accepted truism in liberal American politics that the opposite of biased, religious, irrational politics is open-minded, non-faith, rational politics.

This is the fallacy of the enlightenment project: the mistaken notion that somehow one can live her/his life without premises that are accepted on faith and are not able to be proven. It is my assertion that everyone has faith positions, whether they are involved in a specific religious group or not. And those faith positions do, and should, impact the political and ethical positions which they take. Unfortunately we often either discount those beliefs or treat them as disconnected. It will be one of my goals on these pages to show the importance of one’s faith positions and how they not only are, but must be, connected to, and coherent with, one’s political and ethical positions.
I hope you will both profit from and enjoy reading the meandering musings while I endeavor to explore this topic.

[i] Medhurst, Martin J.  Mitt Romney, “Faith in America,” and the Dance of Religion and Politics in American Culture. Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 12, No. 2, 2009, pp. 195–222 ISSN 1094-8392 Academic Search Premier. Web.  August 30, 2011. p. 199.