I was asked by the folks over at the Newsweek-Washington Post On Faith project if there were religious reasons to vote for or against Barack Obama or John McCain. My response: there is always a religious reason to pick a candidate, at least if one is genuinely religious.
If one is religious, then there is always a religious reason to pick a candidate. At least if your religion cares about this world and the importance of political engagement as a means to improving it. The fact that such impulses are abused by people who arrogantly assume that theirs is the only way to hear God’s voice or honor His/Her call is no excuse for segregating politics and faith.
As a fellow respondent to this question, Professor Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, stated so well, “Religion is not a hat that you can take off or put on at will”. I caution however against confusing having a religious reason for choosing a candidate with being certain that the God in whom one believes is necessarily in 100% agreement with the choice you have made.
We should do our best to use the traditions we love most to reach the conclusions we deem best. For atheists, that probably leaves religion out. Though it would be interesting to see how the wisdom found in various traditions could contribute to better politics even for those who have no interest in the supernatural beings in whom most religious people believe.
But for those who follow a particular faith, I sure hope that it helps them to think about who should be our next president. If it doesn’t, I might start shopping for a new faith. I also hope we see a quick end to religious folks on both sides explaining why theirs “really reflects” the “true values” of their faith.
It seems to me that faiths rich enough to have sustained communities for hundreds, if not thousands of years, have within them footnotes to prove pretty much anything. The issue is having the commitment to make a choice and the modesty to acknowledge that others choices could have been made.
The choice should never be between “no God” and “God understood only in my way”. In this election, as in life, we would all benefit from invoking a God who offers more choices and more wisdom than could ever be contained within any one candidate, any one of us or any one of our traditions