The Common Good

Politics, Debates, and the Nones

Monday night, I hit a new low. During the last presidential debate, I found myself arguing via Facebook about faith and politics … with a fellow pastor’s wife. Let’s just say, I managed to break each of Eugene Cho’s 10 commandments with my snark.

She who shall not be named suggested that anyone willing to support a certain candidate must be blind, stupid, or foolish. When I made it clear that I have prayed and reviewed the facts and would be supporting said candidate, I was told that my “prayers must not be backed by the Word of God.” I was then lambasted for my so-called "unbiblical" views. Oh, no she didn’t! 

Aside from feeling personally attacked, I was more frustrated that this kind of twisted theology remains in the church. It’s no wonder that more and more people of faith are identifying as the “nones”— or none of the above when it comes to religious beliefs. Who wants to be associated with Christianity — Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. — and the Church when they are often dominated by such judgmental people who dare to speak for God? 

And so since I’m in such a saucy mood, I have to say that this “none” business troubles me. Religious categories and labels do matter.

There are days I’m ashamed to be called a Christian, knowing all too well that my religion is commonly known for its turn-or-burn, God-Bless-America, war-making theology (all in the name of Christ and the Good Book, of course).

But then I remember that Christ came to redeem such brokenness in others and in me. Before I had my Saul to Paul conversion experience, I too gave Christianity a bad name in my fundamentalist days. I often beat people over the head with my interpretation of the Bible. I once told a pastor/supervisor that Jews are going to hell, and even went to Rome on a mission trip to convert Catholics because I didn’t think they had personal relationships with Jesus. 

And so I call myself a Christian because Jesus found me on the road to Damascus and changed my heart and life. I call myself a Christian because I need to witness to the parts of Christianity that are worth preserving. I claim this religious heritage because I want to be a ‘different’ kind of Christian — one who believes in personal salvation and social holiness, who embraces religious tolerance, who fights against the hell of poverty and war, who believes the Word of God is inspired, but that our own interpretations are not infallible. 

Identifying oneself as spiritual, but not religious is all well and good. But all too often, it leaves the most strident and loudest voices to fill the void and define faith in some of the worst and extreme terms. 

We all have some baggage with religion and may have been burnt by it by one point or another. Yet, I believe that we have to wrestle with faith and demand better from our religious peers, leaders, and ourselves by naming and claiming all that is broken. 

I may be on my own on this one. But “none of the above” is simply not an option for me. 

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners magazine.

Debate image, Lightspring /

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