Monday, April 12, 2010

Religion and Politics

The old saying that you should never talk about religion or politics is probably good advice.  But here I go anyway.


I know why not to discuss these two things.  People have very set opinions on both, and are not likely to be swayed by your comments, therefore instead of discussion, you end up with argument and often hurt feelings.  But the other day, sitting in the lunchroom at work, a young co-worker made a comment that has been creeping into my thoughts repeatedly.  She asked, "How can you be a Christian and a Republican?"


Now, at first, I thought that was a strange comment.  After all the Christian Right and Moral Majority are strong Republican sects.  I am sure they would be appalled at her statement.  But then, I started to see her point.  Why would anyone be against helping others, especially the poor and children?  Why is it considered liberal to support government programs designed to feed the hungry and give people out of work assistance?  Oh, don't start about the people that abuse the system or don't deserve the aid.  I know all that.  But are you willing to deny someone who really needs help, because someone else cheats the system?


My co-worker asked if Jesus was a socialist.  After my initial shock at the question, again I saw her point.  After all, he was all about helping the poor and living in peace with your fellow man.  Certain aspects of the ideology of socialism definitely feel Christian, even though the entirety of it has not proved to be an efficient form of government.  We send aid to Haiti without asking their religious or political beliefs, yet we question whether we want to force the insurance companies to not deny coverage to a child born with a heart murmur. I suppose the answer is that only some people are sending aid to Haiti, and only some people don't want to change the insurance industry.  Generalizations are so easy, but the reality is much more complicated.

Then I was reading the book Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.  If you're not familiar with him, he's a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who was kicked out of that country for his unpopular writings.  I was appreciating his simple theology about peaceful living and mindfulness, when I came upon the chapter about the Eucharist.  Here is a Buddhist monk supporting the life work of Jesus. That led me to take my co-workers outrageous question one step further.  How can we be Christian and not support people of other religions following the same path?


 For the record, I am a Christian.  While I was raised in the Episcopal Church, I do not currently claim any particular denomination.  I would have to say, I agree with those who believe in a loving God as opposed to those whose God condemns them for every little grievance.  I certainly need forgiveness way more than threats.  And for the record, I am an Independent politically.  I vote for the person, not the party.  And I believe there are many good Christians, who are Republicans.


It's all food for thought.