Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Faith Forum: Should religion play a role in choosing a candidate?

February 16, 2008


Religious beliefs not a political litmus test

Charles Gruber, Sufi minister, student of Zen Buddhism and member of the Oread Friends Meeting:

The short answer is the easiest one: No role whatsoever. Are we going to get behind this separation of church and state thing or not?

The longer, more thoughtful answer has to do with vision. What vision does your religious collective want to encourage? What's important to your personal needs and your group's needs that you want the next president to know?

If we invoke spirit and make our individual or group vote contingent upon the candidates' acceptance of our various positions, then we risk compromising our relationship with spirit just so we can "get our way."

Regarding the specific beliefs of various candidates, the discussion gets dicey. There's a basic belief involved here that either the candidate's beliefs will or won't have any effect on their governing decisions. For me, personally, I wouldn't vote for someone even for dog catcher if I felt their religious beliefs would affect how they did their job. This may not be a popular viewpoint, and this IS an opinion column.

Instead of holding a political candidate's feet to the fire around actions my group endorses, I'm going with attitudes. Will I be proud to tell my great-grandchildren I voted for a candidate who was genuine, compassionate and accountable or one who pandered to my group's religious views in order to get elected?

My country was founded on the principle that religious beliefs would neither dictate actions nor be a litmus test for suitability of a political candidate. Our progenitors left England because of this. They had a bloody good reason for leaving.

- E-mail Charles Gruber at

You cannot separate 'you' from your vote

The Rev. Robert Leiste, pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2700 Lawrence Ave.:

As a Christian who has a sense of moral ethics, should I leave those ethics behind when I go to work for someone and steal from them?

Should I leave my ethics behind and refuse to try to help someone? Should I, as I enter the voting booth exercising my God-given duty to be a good citizen, leave behind a major source of my identity?

No, I cannot separate who I am and seek to be from how I live in this world as a citizen.

Yet, we have a Constitution that requires a separation of church and state. Fine. My church, nor should any other, be part of the governing authority of any part of this world. To loosely quote a long-dead Christian philosopher: "When the church and state get into bed together, the church gets raped."

A Christian is a person whom God has called through faith in his son to be a pilgrim here, whose final citizenship is in heaven. We have become a new creation, and that new creation is to be so profound, so deep and influential that it literally changes the way a person lives.

Since it changes the way a person lives, it becomes part of us as Christians that is always to be expressed in our actions and words before others. Yes, even when we live as part of this world as the citizen God calls us to be when we vote.

- E-mail Robert Leiste at


canyon_wren 9 years, 11 months ago

I think Rev. Leiste said it very well. I don't think the candidates should use their religion as a qualification; however, I do think we as Christians need to judge as well as we can whether the candidate's views and goals are in line with our beliefs, and vote accordingly. With the manipulation of the two major parties and the media, this is "nigh onto impossible," as we can be pretty sure we will never get the straight dope on any candidate. But I think Christians must view everything they do in light of their beliefs and make the right choices along the way, being fully aware that most voters around them probably do not share their perspective. We cannot do otherwise, in good conscience.

Lindsey Buscher 9 years, 11 months ago

Religious beliefs should help you choose a candidate, if you're dumb enough to believe a politician really will carry through on religious-based promises. SUCKERS!

I went to catholic schools my whole life and even they talk about the importance of separation of church and state.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

You can't choose your race or sex. Those shouldn't matter in a candidate. However, you do choose your religion. It says a lot about you, and therefore is relevant when choosing a political candidate.

Would you vote for a Pastafarian from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Of course not. That one is easy. It's a parody religion. The people who started it don't even think it's real. Anybody who seriously chose to believe in the FSM would have either serious mental problems or a terminal lack of a sense of humor.

How about a Scientologist? I wouldn't. In my opinion, Scientology is a fraud perpetrated by a con man to get rich. Anybody stupid enough to fall for it is unfit for public office, IMHO.

It gets a little harder after that. How about a Mormon? IMO, another religion started by a con man so he could get rich and have a harem. I have known many Mormons that I liked as individuals and could work with, but I wouldn't vote for them for public office due to an obvious lack of critical thinking.

How about a Jehovah's Witness? Not for me.

Paul R Getto 9 years, 11 months ago

We will know we are making progress on this issue when an avowed athiest who believes in the 'golden rule' (common to all religions) has an equal shot at the nomination.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 years, 11 months ago

I would vote for anyone who has proven themselves to be honest and supported the same vision I have for society, no matter what religion or non religion. Religion and atheism are answers to bigger things in life, like why are we here, what happens after we die, etc. But most people have shared values, unfortunately the politicians only share the value of money and power over others, not making the world a better place for all.

And, of course, everyone knows the true answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. :>)

highendgranola 9 years, 11 months ago

I wonder which Republican strategist came up with the idea that true Christian fundamentals (charity, compassion, turning the other cheek) could be bought and traded for oil and bombs.

Roadkill_Rob 9 years, 11 months ago

Hey Newell,

How do you know that Christianity wasn't started by a con-man? Do you have any more valid evidence than Mormons or Scientologists?

Whip101 9 years, 11 months ago

Newell_Post, Yes, I would vote for a Mormon. But only if that Mormon agreed with myself on issues important to this country. Strange that you ask this question as I was excommunicated from the Mormon church several years ago. I didn't agree with their changes in doctrine.

A "neo-Christian" is a "Christian" of a new order. One who practices religion only as part of his own personal agenda. One who claims to believe in the Christ yet, is politically correct, (i.e. a liberal/communist; George Bush).

Dixie Jones 9 years, 11 months ago

Politican= liar Preacher= liar Diffrence ....none

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

Good point, Roadkill. I don't know that Christianity wasn't started by a con man. It might have been.

However, when voting for political candidates, I prefer ones that belong to the more liberal churches. For example, I'm not a huge fan of Barack Obama, but I like the fact that he is a member of the UCC. The Congregational wings of the UCC are among the more liberal churches. They are willing to admit that lots of religious dogma is allegorical in nature and they allow lots of room for individual decision making.

Since the last major American politician who belonged to no church at all was Abraham Lincoln, we're pretty much stuck voting for Christians and a few Jews if we want to vote at all. I just prefer the ones who don't follow religions that try to hard to force themselves on the unwilling.

Speakout 9 years, 11 months ago

First of all, I don't think that Jesus started the Christian church, Paul did and he did because he wanted to worship Jesus. All the books before that said to worship God, the creator of Jesus.

Any way, if the past is any guide and it should be, we look at all of the people who have held that office and ask ourselves was it the Christian in him that made his presidency? Look a GW Bush, he says he is a CHristian and launched a war against another country instead of trying to avoid it. Not very Christian, what do you think? And others who started things without diplomacy. Oh, there wasn't anyone else who started a war? Oh sorry. And no one else ran on the idea that they were such a good Christian. That makes me think that good men and women, regardless of religion, will do good things and pass on a legacy of good. Not one who Says I am a good man, now find me a way into Iraq so I can kill people.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

Official church membership:

George Washington: none John Adams: Unitarian Thomas Jefferson: Congregationalist James Monroe: Episcopal (just barely) John Quincy Adams: Unitarian Abraham Lincoln: none

They all did OK.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

.... and "42" was Douglas Adams' answer long before Marion laid claim to it....

notajayhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Newell_Post (Anonymous) says:

"You can't choose your race or sex. Those shouldn't matter in a candidate. However, you do choose your religion."

To an extent. I'd be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves religious attend the same church and perform the same rites as their parents brought them up with. You're right that it says a lot about you, it becomes part of you, and merely switching religions when you grow up is not quite the same thing as saying you're no longer a Yankees fan - or a Democrat - just because dear old dad was.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

I think you do choose you religion, either through action or inaction or just plain guilt....

Whip101 9 years, 11 months ago

As a Christian I would more likely vote for another Christian than I would for a jew or Muslim or a Pagan or a Satanist or a judeo-Christian or a neo-Christian or an atheist. I think that would be in the best interests of myself and my country.

The reason for separation of church and state was not meant to protect the people from what some seem to think of as evil Christianity. It was intended to protect all people from the unfair influence of one church. When our founders left Europe they did so in part to escape the undo control of the government by one church. They did not want that repeated here. Separation of church and state does not say, nor imply, that a person cannot or even should not be a member of a religious organization and run for office. Churches have the right to a voice in government and no amount of Christ bashing can change that.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago


Would you vote for a Mormon? Why or why not?

mommy3 9 years, 11 months ago

you all pull this seperation of church and state but forget about the right to free speach. People are getting angry on this blog but when it comes down to it that is plain old hypocrisy. People should do what they are compelled by their thought of the canidates, or theire prayers or what their spirit is telling them to do. Not because of someone on a blog.

Paul R Getto 9 years, 11 months ago

Marion: That "42" biz is my line

You should, give credit to Douglass Adams: The dreaded wiki has this one right-- According to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a race of vast pan-dimensional hyper-intelligent beings constructed the second greatest computer in all of time and space, Deep Thought, to calculate The Ultimate Answer to The Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Distracted by a demarcation dispute with two philosophers, a "simple answer" is requested. After seven and a half million years of computing cycles, Deep Thought's answer is: forty two.

" "I think the problem is that the question was too broadly based..." "Forty two?!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"

"I checked it very thoroughly," said the computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."

It's another discussion, but one of my fantasies is meeting a "hyper-intelligent being ." I fear if such a race discovered eath, the would wipe us out as being too dangerous. Why take a chance on hyper-intelligence, which will eventually evolve in our species, being used with a mean streak? In the more immediate future, we ask the wrong questions and find out they are still wrong even after they are answered. The current political hysteria is our version of a demarcation dispute.

fourkitties 9 years, 11 months ago

I think Charles was right on. It shouldn't be about religion it should be about who you feel is right for the country.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

You should definitely vote for whom you feel is right for the country. The religion they espouse is just one good hint as to what is actually going on between their ears.

Paul Decelles 9 years, 11 months ago

Religion shouldn't have anything to do with picking the president, but for me it can be a factor since religious beliefs do often relate to how the person views the world.

For instance I would find it very difficult to vote for someone whose world view assumes the Earth is a recent creation or that Native Americans were descendants of a lost tribe of Israel.

I don't expect the President to be a scientist but I do expect that person to have some grasp of how the natural world works. Maybe 100 years ago that wasn't important but so many of the major decisions we need to make as a civilization involve science and its intersection with ethics and religion that I want the person in charge to display some sense of understanding and an ability to avoid treating their sacred texts as science texts.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

Good grief, mommy3. I just hope someone else is teaching your kids spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Tom McCune 9 years, 11 months ago

I said Lincoln never joined a church. Lincoln, Washington, and many others were Deists. They believed in God and chose to disbelieve in a bunch of man-made dogma and structures intended mostly to enrich the men who created them.

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