The Common Good

Vote for Me! The Politicization and Manipulation of Jesus, Christians, and Religion

I confess that I don’t have much idea with what’s currently going on with the Presidential primary process but can assume that things are heating up as candidates ratchet up rhetoric about all things including their affection for Christ, faith, religion, evangelicals, etc.

And why does this make sense? Because supposedly, America,  is a Christian nation – or at the least, a religious nation.

Statistically, in the United States, 83 percent claim to belong to some sort of religious denomination 40 percent claim to attend services nearly every week or more, and 58% claim to pray at least weekly. The majority of Americans (60 percent to 76 percent) identify themselves as Christians.

All this to say that it makes perfect sense why politicians and political parties would want to politicize religion or faith – however genuine their faith is or not. This is why it made perfect sense for President Obama’s opponents and critics to question, Is Obama really a Christian? And that’s why it makes sense & smart strategy for Rick Perry to throw down some religious rhetoric to say “I’m one of you” when he promised in a recent political ad (click here for RSS readers) to:

“end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. ”

He goes on to say…

“there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

While some folks holler and scream about Rick Perry’s ad, the blunt truth is that this has always been the consistent strategy of modern day politics.

See video
, religion has become fair game for politicizing – at its best or worst depending on your perspective. What I’m saying is that I while I really dislike Rick Perry’s ad and strongly disagree with his assertion that President Obama has waged war against religion. But that’s not the point. My point is that we’ve allowed the politicizing of religion (and other things) to be FAIR GAME.

Listen folks: I’m not criticizing Rick Perry (or other candidates) because, truth be told, we’d probably do the same politick-ing.  I’m actually critiquing you and me. I’m critiquing us.

And as such, voters (and especially people of faith) have to realize that political parties and candidates (all of them) will engage, distort, manipulate, cajole, emotionalize, tug, and whatever other tactics to “speak” to our religion and faith. And if we’re not careful, we can be dumbed down and influenced in such a way that “religion” becomes the ruling or dominant way we decide to vote. Who cares what a respective candidate’s views are about economics, jobs, immigration, poverty, education, foreign aid, blah blah blah as long as we know that a particular candidate and I are “equally yoked”?

Don’t get cynical. Get smart. We have to remain engaged because politicization aside, politics really do matter.

This is why we need discerning, smart, thoughtful, and deeply engaged voters. Folks that will dig beyond the politicization (and manipulation). We have to attempt to humbly and discerningly become “the new evangelical voter.

That’s why I was really encouraged by these two young women’s video, “A Christian’s Response to Rick Perry, in response to Rick Perry’s commercial. I would have rather they titled it “Two Christians’ Response…” since they can’t possibly speak for all Christians.

See video
might think it’s too simplistic. I don’t because what I hear is this:

“Our faith is important but please don’t politicize our faith. Rather, we want to hear: What’s your substance for the Presidency of the United States?”

Eugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café and music venue. This post originally appeared on Eugene's blog. You can stalk him at his blog, Twitter or his Facebook Page. Eugene and his wife are also the founders of , a movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.

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