God's Politics: A Better Option

Why can'

Why can’t we talk about religion and politics? These are the two topics you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. Don’t break up the dinner party by bringing up either of these subjects! That’s the conventional wisdom. Why? Perhaps it’s because these topics are too important and too potentially divisive, or because they raise issues of core values and ultimate concerns that make us uncomfortable.

All over the country I feel the hunger for a fuller, deeper, and richer conversation about religion in public life, about faith and politics. It’s a discussion that we don’t always hear in America today. Sometimes the most strident and narrow voices are the loudest, and more progressive, prophetic, and healing religion often gets missed. But the good news is about how all that is changing.

Abraham Lincoln had it right. Our task should not be to invoke religion and the name of God by claiming God’s blessing and endorsement for all our national policies and practices - saying, in effect, that God is on our side. Rather, as Lincoln put it, we should worry earnestly whether we are on God’s side.

Those are the two ways that religion has been brought into public life in American history. The first way - God on our side - leads inevitably to triumphalism, self-righteousness, bad theology, and, often, dangerous foreign policy. The second way - asking if we are on God’s side - leads to much healthier things, namely penitence and even repentance, humility, reflection, and accountability. We need much more of all those, because they are often the missing values of politics.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2005
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