Faith and politics

The Amen Corner
2007-06-20T00:00:00Z Faith and politicsJOHN WOLF
June 20, 2007 12:00 am  • 

Take your pick: "Religion and politics do not mix" or "religion and politics do mix."

Whatever you think, now they are mixing.

In the 1970s, religious conservatives led by the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson entered politics and were credited with voting 80 percent for President Bush. The Democrats were taken aback, to say the least.

After progressive Evangelicals awakened they have taken the initiative. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of "Sojourners" magazine wrote "God's Politics" in 2005 with the subtitle, "Why the right got it wrong and the left doesn't get it." On June 4, CNN began the first of a series on "Faith and Politics."

Democrat candidates John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the first to face the questions of how their faith impacted their political views. It was a historic moment of change. Or was it?

The founding fathers at the Continental Congress in 1774 faced the same issue. Jon Meachan in his book "American Gospel" recounts the day when Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and others made a momentous decision to open this secular government with prayer. Benjamin Franklin called this "The birth of Public Religion."

The right wing conservatives made the mistake of calling ours "A Christian Nation" and declaring that the main religious issues were abortion and gay rights, neither of which are mentioned in Jesus' teaching.

The liberal Christians contend that the First Amendment protects all religions with no preferences. The candidates who spoke at the forum at George Washington University were all Evangelical Christians who differed from the previous "moral majority" and "Christian Coalition,"

The major political issues are poverty and social justice they said. Along with these they dealt with the Iraq War, climate change, energy and the environment.

Edwards identified the "39 million Americans living below the poverty line as the great moral issue of our time." This included health care, housing and education.

Obama revealed his theology as both "personal and social" and "the lostness of America's community spirit. We are our brother's keeper," he said.

Clinton affirmed that her faith had "helped her get through her husband's infidelity." She believes common ground can be found on the issue of abortion.

Other candidates will be heard later. What was important in this forum on "Faith and Politics" was the open subject itself.

Amen until next Wednesday.

The opinions in this column are solely those of the writer. Wolf is a retired minister and lives in Valparaiso. Write to him c/o The Times, 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN

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