Separation of Church and Politics

In the final season of the NBC drama West Wing, it is the time for a presidential election.  Senator Arnold Vinick, played by Alan Alda is running for the Republican nomination.  His faith becomes an issue in the campaign, and he makes an innocent statement about church that lands him in some hot water.  After a meeting in the Oval Office with President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, the two men are sitting in the White House kitchen eating ice cream out of rather large containers.  They are discussing faith and Vinick asks whatever happened to the separation of church and state.  Bartlet replies that it is just fine but the separation of church and politics, well that is a different issue all together.

Much has been made about the faith of the candidates running for President of the United States.  Much has also been made of the faith of the present occupant of the Oval Office, but I shall leave that for the moment.  Faith is a very private thing, but when it becomes an issue in a campaign, I guess the people have a right to know.  My faith teaches me that it is our actions and not our words that determine our faith.  In other words, how do we act and are we acting in a manner that brings shame and disgrace to our faith or are we acting in a way that brings glory to God?

The United States of America is a complicated place; it always has and it always will.  Sure we were a nation founded on the Judeo-Christian principles, but we were not founded as a Christian, or any other religion, nation.  One of the freedoms we hold dear is the right to free exercise of our religion and that the government will not interfere with that.  With that said, I am not sure how anyone could aspire to the high office of president and not be a person of faith, no matter what that faith is.  I also feel it is important to know what influences our leaders.

Kristin Du Mez, of the Religion and Politics Blog, has written a piece about the faith of Hilary Clinton.  She makes the case that Secretary Clinton has held her faith in private and did not wear it on her sleeve.  As a common rule Democrats do not court the Evangelical vote, so the need always to talk about one’s religion does not usually come into play.

Here are few words from that piece:

Although Clinton has confessed a certain reticence when it comes to “advertising” her faith, and a preference for “walking the walk” rather than risk trivializing “what has been an extraordinary sense of support and possibility” throughout her life, she has consistently testified to her Methodist faith over the course of her long career in politics.

Skeptics may be surprised to learn that Clinton taught Sunday school and delivered guest sermons on Methodism as first lady of Arkansas, and that she devoted an entire chapter of her first book, It Takes a Village, to the importance of faith. They may not know that in her memoir Hard Choices, she credits the Wesleyan mantra, “Do all the good you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” with prompting her to enter electoral politics, and later to leave the Senate and accept President-Elect Obama’s invitation to become secretary of state. In short, Clinton depicts her entire career in public service as a means of putting her faith into action.

Read the rest here

Living your faith in public is fine, but it better sync up with what it means to be the faith you profess.

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