Monday, December 17, 2007

Religion in the Presidential Primary

The internet and media are suddenly abuzz about the role of religion in the presidential primary. The discussion centers primarily on Romney and Huckabee. Romney’s Religion Speech a few weeks ago brought the topic to the fore (fascinating commentary by Comm Scholar Josh Gunn here. Fair warning for my non-academic readers: cites Levinas.), and Huckabee’s rise also solicits a lot of discussion about the role of religion, given his background as a Baptist Minister. Frank Rich wrote a really interesting piece in the Times this week about the kind of religious perspectives both of these people espouse (and how they are hostile to non-religious or secularists, which is pretty terrifying for democracy even if you think religion is important).

There also has been some discussion about whether or not questioning political candidates if they believe the bible qualifies as a religious test. Christopher Hitchens reminds us that the constitution is not talking about how individuals should decide who to vote for, but about official rules for who can take office.

I tend to side with Frank Rich – I’m quite nervous when anyone makes statements that are hostile to any people, regardless of their faith OR the lack thereof. While the US has a long history of being vaguely Christian (In the 1950s, for example, a lot of vague God-talk was used to unite American Christians and Jews and to differentiate theistic Americans from atheistic communists) as globalization continues, democracy must learn to include those who do not believe. Deliberative Democracy advocates suggest that religious people must translate their values into arguments that appeal to those outside of their belief system. Barack Obama’s 2006 Faith and Politics speech forwards this view. While my faith is important to me, I think in a democracy it’s important that we speak from a position that includes everyone, and does not start out excluding some people’s assumptions before their positions on the issue at hand are even voiced. Rhetoric from candidates that is hostile to some members of our nation should be unacceptable to all of us. But it seems that to some, it’s appealing. What does this mean for our democracy?

1 comment:

Julie said...

Good point Beth!