Reconciling faith and politics

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I have written columns that were deeply personal, some that were somewhat controversial, and some that were simply jovial reflections, but this one has gnawed at me for years.

It touches on why I started writing opinion columns and why I think voices like mine are so desperately needed in this day and age.

When I look and listen to the world and culture around me, I feel like there is an ever-increasing gulf between me and popular culture. It is as though I am swimming towards a boat that seems to be moving further and further away. I struggle to find a line, a bridge, a point of reference to reach the boat, not so that I can join it, but so that I can rescue it from falling over a waterfall that they don’t even see. I could simply swim back to shore where it is safe, or yell at them and say it’s enough, but something inside of me just won’t.

I think becoming a Christian when I was a sophomore at Harvard shaped my faith and political convictions, because there, I could not isolate my newly found faith to just cultural and doctrinal positions. It had to make sense philosophically/intellectually, thus my social and political belief had to bend as well.

I remember one of the first words I wrote in my Bible was the word, “sexist.” I even protested Columbus Day, for I thought Columbus was a racist imperialist. If Black Lives Matter (BLM) had existed back then, I probably would have been a member.

However, God was gracious towards me so that as I prayed and read my Bible daily, my attitude and understanding about life changed. I did not feel a sense of anger or ancestral resentments. My first identification was no longer my race, gender, or partisan politics; it was my sincere desire to simply please God.

As I transitioned from being a full-time student to a working adult, it was easy for me to recognize what it meant to be a good employee, but I began to struggle with the notion of what it meant to be a good citizen. I recognized one of the most sacred duties of every citizen was to vote. So, I have attempted to vote in every election.

But how involved does one truly become? To pray for our leaders, no matter who they are, or what their party affiliation was easy, but was there more for me to do? When I read the example of Jesus, it would appear not. He didn’t entangle himself in Roman politics of the day. If Christ didn’t seem to get actively involved in politics, why should I?

But I later got the revelation of how Jesus chastised the religious leaders and those who knew his word, holding them accountable for their hypocrisy. And herein lies the rub.

This is where I find myself unable to stand along the shore and watch the boat heading towards the cliff. It is because I recognize our nation was not like the pagan Roman empire. Our nation, at it’s very founding, acknowledged and submitted itself to godly principles as revealed in our founding documents.

In our courts, at our inaugurations, during solemn events we place our hands on the Bible, we have our ten commandments, and we pray. In doing these things we recognize certain things as being sacred — the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage, the dishonor of theft (whether it’s done by an individual or a government) and the equality of all people.

All of these values are being eroded, yet there does not seem to be enough leaders actively resisting the onslaught — in fact, many have even defected and accepted the whims of the culture.

To be clear, this is not about projecting religion into politics. Rather, I am crying out to fellow citizens who may be passive participants in the “culture war,” because they view the tenets of their faith as grounds for non-involvement or as being non-credible in the public sphere.

I implore you, they are not!

Sincerely held religious convictions are every bit as valid as the Ivy League-educated agnostic who posits himself as objective but may be blind to his philosophical contradictions — all the while they are forcing their positions on the public.

If we abandon politics, we are left with government officials who will have no regard for the things we hold most dear, representatives who bow to the desires of special interest donors, and vocal constituents that are increasingly intolerant towards Christian beliefs. If we abandon politics, why should government ever listen to us?

As Christians, of course we must pray! Of course, we ought to vote! But I challenge you to have grace and allow room for relevant reflection on the non-essential issues of politics. And I implore you, in the essentials of the faith, in love, be unwavering and true to what the Bible says.

Exercise your right as citizens to hold political leaders accountable because of the oath they took on the Bible to serve this nation. Just as Jesus held the religious leaders accountable for their hypocrisy, so I recognize our leaders are accountable to uphold the Judeo-Christian values that undergird our laws.

Precisely, because of the roots of our country, I am compelled to speak, write, and not be silent. We are not perfect, but Christ is, and if we love our nation, we love each other, and we love our detractors, we must take the risk to share His words, even — perhaps especially — at the points where faith and politics cross paths.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville with her husband and their five children.]