Now why, would I want to bring that up now? Surely, we have had our fill of debate, diatribe, accusation, distortion, and any other word you can think of on the topic of faith and politics. Now, for better or for worse, the economy has shifted our political attention away from religion.
Talk about faith and politics hasn’t gone away. It’s still out there. And it’s still pretty loud and intense in certain circles. But for lots of us, our attention has shifted. We’ve moved on to other topics. If you live in a state with early voting, you may have really moved on. To the important stuff, like the World Series.
But before we all walk briskly, if not run, away from election year politics; it might be helpful to think about religion and politics. More specifically, the separation of church and state. We all seem to have a deep concern about where and how we draw the line between politics and religion, between church and state. How close should they be? How far apart should they stay? How much should a person’s faith shape how they act, especially if they are an elected official?
We all have our own answers to those questions. I’m interested today in why we agonize over the questions. Every election for weeks on end, as a nation, we obsess over this. Day after day, year after year. In great detail and with great passion. Political pundits and preachers pontificate. We write letters to the editor. We read political commentators. We read religious commentators. We sent each other You Tube clips. We forward e mails. We talk on and on. We scrutinize. We analyze. To the point even the most die hard among us has had enough. We may all absolutely disagree over the answers but we all think the questions are important.
And I guess that’s the answer, for us in the United States, the relationship between religion and politics matters. They are both important parts of who we are. Getting it right matters.
Almost intuitively, we realize that trying to get this right requires nearly constant attention. There are lots of ways of getting religion and politics wrong. And sometimes we do. (Fill in your “favorite” mistake here.) But because we just can’t leave this topic alone, because we constantly revisit it; sooner or later we start to correct ourselves.
It’s messy. It’s unending. It’s frustrating. But I don’t know that there is another way to work this out. So when I become frustrated and annoyed by politics and religion, I need to remind myself that it’s good to live someplace where both these subjects matter and a vigorously debated. It certainly seems better than the alternative.