Sunday, July 27, 2008

Do We Want Politicians To be Authentic About Their Faith?

In a disturbing violation of privacy, an Israeli newspaper published the prayer that Barack Obama left at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Hat tip to David McDonald, who writes:

This incident, and all the hullabaloo about Mr. Obama's church in Chicago have gotten me thinking--to what extent do we want our politicians in this country to be genuinely religious?

Apparently not very much. Part of running for public office in 21st Century America is turning Sunday morning worship into campaign stops. We know this because candidates encourage the media to photograph them sitting in pews, attentively listening to the pastor and enthusiastically singing hymns. These events never fail to offend me, regardless of candidate or party, because they adulterate the purpose of worship.

But I suppose that I am not in the norm in this regard because candidates, backed by marketing studies, continue to make Sunday morning worship campaign appearances. Despite occasional gaffes, professional campaign managers are pretty smart people, so I'm inclined to think that the problem isn't smarmy candidates, but the electorate that is impressed by such smarminess.


Earl said...

It is not important that a candidate for public office be genuinely religious. It is important that he/she be genuinely Christian.

John said...

Why is it important that a candidate be Christian at all?

Michael said...

I don't hold Christianity as a viable component of a candidate because we've had Christian presidents who, as John points out, use that faith for purely self-serving purposes. The whole process, especially the photo ops at churches, has rendered faith virtually meaningless. We cannot measure a man's (or woman's) level of faith, so it is unfair to use it as a means by which to measure one's ability to serve as chief of state/commander-in-chief/CEO. We are much better off if politicians will stay out of the religion business altogether because they are not running for pope or bishop.

Incidentally, John, the electorate falls for the church background and this is sad, but I think the pastors of those churches are the ones who truly should be ashamed of themselves knowing that they are nothing more than mere props.

Oloryn said...

I'd settle for having candidates who don't prioritize PR over effectiveness. That's probably one of the prime drivers of political smarminess.

Michael said...

Well said. AMEN!

Kansas Bob said...

Frankly, I'd just like to hear one story about McCain's religion or have him talk about his faith at all.. I am tired of folks blasting Obama and giving McCain a free ride. Here is what Obama said last year in a speech:

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Here is what he said to a Christianity today reporter:

I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn’t ‘fall out in church’ as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn’t want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.