Do the right thing

by Kristin on October 23, 2008

in Belief, doubt & hope,Culture, ideas & paradigms

OK. Time to put on my Christians Against Christians T-shirt again. (In case you’re wondering, this shirt doesn’t actually exist. Yet.)

I really don’t want to blog about politics—it’s not my thing. But one of my things is spreading the word that Not All Christians Are Like That, and these days it’s hard to separate that theme from politics.

So…here I go. Did you all see this CNN headline yesterday? “Palin: God will do the right thing on election day.” I started spitting venomous bile when I saw it. I’m sure it’s not the worst thing that’s been said connecting religion and politics during this race, but I’m pretty sure it’s the one that’s affected me most violently. It’s so wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. I’ll just say a few things and be done with it.

1. I agree. God is going to do the right thing. But that “right thing” doesn’t have anything to do with American politics. It certainly has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, who seems to think she has God all figured out. I know she thinks she’s trying to present God as really really big, by saying that he can turn Obama’s lead in the polls into a win for McCain. But what she’s actually doing is presenting God as very very petty and small.

2. It’s interesting that when Palin said this “right thing” bit about God, she was at Focus on the Family. That’s the same organization that publicly prayed for rain in the evening of Obama’s DNC acceptance speech (I wrote about this in God, irony and rain). As you probably remember, it was perfectly clear and 72 degrees in Denver the evening Obama spoke, and the Republican National Convention got partially rained out. Coincidence?

3. My first two points aside, and regardless of my personal beliefs, it’s time to demand that religion be left out of politics. Believers of every stripe along with non-believers need to stand up together and insist in a clear separation of church and state. Applying a personal belief system to your personal political perspective is one thing; wielding God around like a weapon and invoking him to promote extremist views is flat out wrong.

4. I know Palin is ridiculous. So do the nearly 700 people who commented on the CNN story. (As I skimmed, I only saw one comment that supported Palin.) This is very comforting. It’s also comforting to know that people are going to do what they want when they go to the polls, because God gave us brains and free wills. When it gets down to it, the most disturbing part of all this, to me, is the damage Palin is doing to the reputation of both women and of Christians. For smart, liberal, Christian women (yes, they exist), the cringe factor is doubled. No, tripled.

At least she creates lots of damage-control work for people like me. Keeps us busy.

I’m going to wrap things up with one of the CNN article comments, from someone in Tulsa. He/she sums up what I think God is really about quite nicely:

My faith tells me these are the virtues to strive for;
Valour: Pursuit of Courage and Knowledge
Generosity: Pursuit of Giving
Liberality: Pursuit of Will
Diligence: Pursuit of Ethics
Patience: Pursuit of Peace
Kindness: Pursuit of Charity
Humility: Pursuit of Modesty
Only one of our candidates represents these. It’s not McCain.

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  • Dagny

    Although I walked away from organized religion many years ago, most of my family is deeply Christian — with a few Muslims thrown in the mix. My 85-year-old Pentecostal grandmother hears stuff like this and asks, “Don’t these people understand what it means to be Christian?” Because my grandma has no problem with ideas like gay marriage. She says it’s not hurting her and besides her religious teachings have told her that it is not her place to judge others. She may not agree but she shouldn’t judge. And no, she doesn’t live in California.

    I have a hard time with folks like Palin because many of the folks in my family are deeply religious. However, they also think that their religious beliefs should not necessarily shape the laws of this country. And at times like this, I think that I am blessed to have grown up around folks who understand the word “acceptance.”

  • KarenDV

    Not to be *too* cynical, but I would not take comfort in the statistics of responses on the CNN site, because CNN is part of the “liberal media elite” and therefore cannot be trusted. Palin supporters don’t even bother going to the CNN site — why would they when they have the unbiased Fox News site, which also tells them the preposterous claims that CNN has made in the last hour? (Don’t you just love it when news channels report on what other news channel pundits are saying instead of reporting the actual news?)

  • Elizabeth

    I’m finally taking the plunge and making my first ever comment on a blog! Sad, I know. Anyways…..
    First, wanted to say thanks for all the great posts lately. I honestly do look forward to checking your page to see if there is something new to read. Second, thank you, in particular, for this post. Sometimes I get a little too comfortable within the NCF community…being a liberal female Christian is not at all out of the ordinary, probably more of the majority. Then I find myself in a situation yesterday where I am at a patient’s home, when somehow at the very end the election was brought up. There was a new caregiver in the home and she repeats a comment apparently made by her friend, “All Christians vote Republican”. I got out of there pretty quickly after stating that, in fact, all Christians do NOT vote Republican. It was good to read your post….God is bigger than all this…he will do the right thing, but it has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats.

  • Kristin

    Yay Elizabeth! Welcome to the conversation. I hope to hear from you often. :)

    Karen: Don’t get me started about Fox News…

    Dagny: I wish I could meet your grandmother.

  • jessica Bern

    I’m Jewish. I don’t practice but imagine how it feels to be told that the only way to live a good life is to be a Christian?

    I find remarks like that to be nothing short of anti-semitic and many who spout this point of view are in fact racists and anti-semites, homophobic and everything else under the sun except what I believe to be the real definition of a “Christian”.

  • PG

    good post indeed. and it’s too bad that dagny’s gramma doesn’t live in cali. could use her vote on prop 8.

    fwiw, i clicked through from the comment section on the good content/no readers post on chuck westbrook’s blog.

  • Kristin

    Thanks for your perspective, Jessica. You’re absolutely right. The racist, anti-semitic, homophobic views of many so-called Christians are among the most disturbing aspects of the faith to me—particularly when those view are held not in spite of but *because* of their belief system.


  • http://TrackBack joi tennant

    Your blog posting has set me thinking about the problem of “celebrities” like Palin who happen to have a public forum for what in our opinion becomes a simplistic misrepresentation of our faith in God and how we believe God works in the world. By the way, you made some very good points. Even the most distinguished theologians, the ones we would prefer be speaking for us, explaining how God participates in our world, would vary widely on this subject. Is there any way that God involves “himself” in the political activities of the nations of the world? Christians believe that the closest we can get to knowing the nature of God and God’s participation with human beings is by studying and then “accepting” Jesus as God in human form. Looking and listening to Jesus we see that he worked with individuals, one on one, planting the kingdom of God here on earth. Jesus said that just like yeast in bread or just like a mustard seed grows into a bushy tree, so the work of God’s kingdom spreads from person to person. Is God voting for McCain or Obama by pressing his will into our minds, thus changing the course of history? Highly unlikely! If it were so, the world would already look a whole lot better than it does today. But Christians do believe that God is in the business of changing US — how we react and interact with each other. No matter who is elected, what happens in this world depends on how each of us behaves the day after the voting is over. Jesus commanded each of us to love and TRY to understand the other guy as much as we love our own opinions and perspectives. Even when we grieve the bad press that often makes a mockery of Christian faith, we are to realize our call to be even wiser — more ready to express the essence of our belief.
    This morning during my meditation time I read this poem by George MacDonald from Diary of An Old Soul. I think it applies here.
    “Keep me from wrath, let it seem ever so right:
    My wrath will never work thy righteousness.
    Up, up the hill, to the whiter than snow-shine,
    Help me to climb, and dwell in pardon’s light.
    I must be pure as thou, or even less
    Than thy design of me — therefore incline
    My heart to take man’s worngs as thou tak’st mine.”

  • Alli Butler

    Religion and politics are strange and inseparable bedfellows. I share Jessica’s concern and offense at comments like “America’s Christian values”. Even when McCain *FINALLY* did the right thing in stopping the flow of venom at one of his rallies by taking the mic away from a woman who said that Obama was a Muslim his response was “no, Ma’am, he’s a decent man…” as though being a Muslim and being decent are not possibly traits that can co-exist. His positive statements for Obama further villianized non-Christians.

    In the last two presidential elections I felt that religion played such a predominant role that it was implied that if you were Christian you MUST be Republican because they were the only party that “shared your values.” I also heard an Ohioian state that he was voting for McCain in this election because he feels that Sarah Palin is “blessed by the Holy Spirit.” Granted, some people base their decisions on the guidance of burning bushes, etc but for me, I prefer more specific qualifications.

    I am an independent voter. I have voted for three different parties in my 20 years of voting. I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I believe in a lot of the same values as the Democratic party, but I am not a Democrat. I refuse the label because – well, what if I decide that I don’t agree with everything that they stand for? What about Republicans that support reproductive choice or gun control? What about Democrats who don’t support civil rights for homosexuals? Why must we be so extreme in our partisanship?

    Well, maybe that’s just me…I resist the “Christian” label as well because I don’t agree with ALL of the tenants (no pun intended) of Christianity. I am also often offended at the hatred and bigotry leveled in Jesus’ name. But as you say, Not All Christians Are Like That.

  • Wellsy

    I don’t think we can leave religion out of politics completely. Whatever you might practice, if you define yourself by what you believe, it’s going to be an integral part of who you are (obviously) and that will be taken into account when you vote on this or that, sign that law in or veto that one. It’s inevitable. To ask that religion be left out is to ask that these people deny a significant part of themselves for secularism.