Friday, December 07, 2007

Religion & Politics...

In 2004, when I went to NYC for the Riot Relief Luncheon, James Lane Buckley was the key note speaker. His brilliant speech covered the subject of rising secularism in America. Mr. Buckley's speech cited many quotations by our founding fathers with a theme of faith and concern that the people of this nation would continue to be a people who loved God and a people who would try to discover, learn and then do God's will. Our founders knew this to be a recipe for success and when that recipe has been followed, our nation has accomplished its greatest triumphs.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, a man of deep faith, called the nation to repentance in his Thanksgiving address. He said, "But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."

I think it would be interesting to see what the papers would say if President Bush said something like that. Still, I feel that Lincoln's words are true today. For example, if your only opinion of America was to be gleaned from watching network television, it would be possible to assume that ours is a nation of godless reprobates.

This morning my dad sent me an article that appeared in The Boston Globe yesterday, which quoted a statement made by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in a recent interview, ""It's difficult to talk about religious faith in our political system," Blair said. "If you are in the American political system . . . you can talk about religious faith and people say, 'Yes, that's fair enough,' and it is something they respond to quite naturally. You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter.""

I was very interested in Mr. Blair's statement because from my perspective I think it's getting difficult for American politicians to express any real religious sentiment for the same reason. Politics has been so divisive recently in America that we don't talk about political views in polite company, something I find very sad, and we mention religious faith in hushed tones so as not to be offensive to anyone. And, there is a reason that our culture is going that way. Here in Utah, several years ago there was a lawsuit, which made national headlines, to stop a local High School choir from singing religious music at Christmastime. The federal lawsuit was not successful and the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, but people don't like to get sued.

It is true that in just the most recent history of our nation, Americans seem to want their politicians to distance themselves from God, "rising secularism" as Mr. Buckley put it. But with scandal and corruption in the halls of power in the news on a daily basis, that idea is not working out for us very well.

Americans are protective of their rights and they don't want religious belief to be any thing that is thrust upon them in any way. As I have read books over the past year about the oppression of regimes like the Taliban, I can understand some of that sentiment, but we must be careful not to take that too far, and I think we have.

George Washington said, "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." If we don't look to God for our moral compass, our compass may fail us.

When I choose a candidate for public office, but especially for the highest office. I want to know that I have chosen one who is humble enough to pray. I hope our future leaders will be humble enough to be on their knees before God and ask that they might know in their hearts and in their minds the right course. Our nation needs leaders whose faith informs their actions and whose actions are a testament to their faith.