It is not often that I find an argument that shakes me both politically and philosophically.
Frank Schaeffer, a novelist and speaker, came to Maryville as part of the Community Conversations series. What he spoke about was how the current environment of American politics, particularly on the Republican side, was based on name-calling and manipulation.
He discussed the foundations of the religious right as outsiders knocking on the door until the corruption and greed of politics turned them into insiders creating political weapons out of ethical issues.
Anyway, I am not going to talk about Frank because I know another article covers his talk in depth. However, I am going to discuss what his talk led me to discover.
I have grown up in a climate in which religion was often at the forefront of political discussion. I grew up in a time when abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of evolution were political questions. I grew up in a time when the pledge was required and people were fighting to put the Ten Commandments in court rooms.
These were all political questions, though, and since I had no right to vote at the time, I could use my faith only as the compass, pointing me to my conviction on an issue.
It was only after I received the right to vote, upon turning 18, when I really started to let those arguments dictate whom I voted into office.
If they used rhetoric like “right to life” or “marriage is between a man and a woman,” they would not be recognized on my ballot. If they praised equality in marriage or personal liberty, I would often support them with my vote.
It was not until Frank pointed out how I played right into the power struggle and manipulation between politicians and the electorate that I realized voting on faith-based conviction was inappropriate.
I know we all want to be represented by a politician who believes the same we do, but the important aspects of a campaign are secular.
Schaeffer pointed out how politicians will use the passion of an ethical argument to get voters to vote against their own interests. For example, a poor person who votes for Rick Santorum because he is against abortion is also voting for a man who wants to eliminate the programs that help the poor.
The ethical questions blind us.
A vote on the issue of abortion may come up once a term, if that. Legislation dealing with regulations of the market or tax reform comes up every single day. We should want representatives that look out for our financial welfare, not our spiritual welfare.
That brings me to my real point: I think the rise of politics has caused us to lose our faith.
We are constantly looking for ways to put our faith into law, as though if we don’t, we will forget about it.
It has become apparent that our faith is not enough for our conviction. We must raise statues to show how faithful a people we are. Those statues include the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, “under God” in the Pledge and a Texas science book that teaches intelligent design.
We have lost the strength of faith, the conviction of spirit just to believe. It is not enough to have a belief. Now we must ensure that everyone has the same belief. It’s not enough that I believe this country is “under God,” I must require that all school children be indoctrinated into the same belief. God doesn’t need our statues or our laws.
God doesn’t need that Texas science book or pseudo-heroes like Rick Santorum. America needs to stop feeling like the protector of Christianity because God needs no protection.
It is up to us merely to have the conviction of faith to act toward others as we believe they should act toward us.
Ethics is not a political question but rather a question of faith. Do you believe enough to value other people? Do you possess the conviction to endure, even if you are the only one?
That is the faith we once had, before faith was polluted with political absoluteness.
That is the faith we lost.