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Faith in the Public Square: Reviving the Heart of Our Democracy

I love politics. My heart burns with a passion for the intersection of faith and religion in political discourse. Some say never to mix religion and politics, but save for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, I don’t see how they can be separated. And though I grow weary and frustrated by partisan politics that are more about self-interest than the interest of the people, I still love politics. I love politics because politics is finally and fundamentally about people and our world and the gospel compels me to be interested in the welfare and well-being of my neighbor, especially the vulnerable ones for whom God shows particular care and concern.

I have no interest in legislating doctrine, but neither is quietism an acceptable alternative. Far too often these are the choices presented in both the media and by various Christian denominations. On the one hand rightwing fundamentalists often seek to inscribe their theology into policy. While on the other hand, my own mainline Lutheran (ELCA) tradition along with others, has a too long history of keeping faith relegated to our personal lives.

When a particular issue hits the news having a fundamentalist pastor and an atheist discuss “both sides” is neither helpful to the conversation nor fair to the public. More the version of Christianity often presented in the media is a distortion of both the scriptures and the tradition. It is possible to accept both the big bang theory of evolution as science and the Genesis creation accounts as mythological stories of origin.

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II addressed the assembly as a preacher and passionately showed how faith calls us to lift up our deepest moral values for reviving the heart of our democracy.

He challenged us all to move beyond left-right and liberal-conservative dichotomies and see some issues as right verses wrong for the sake of reviving the heart of our democracy.

I say to you tonight, some issues are not left versus right, they are right versus wrong. We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival at the heart of our democracy. When we fight, to reinstate the power of the voting rights act. And we break the nullification of the current congress. We especially note that when we do that, we are reviving the heart of our democracy. When we fight for $15 minimum wage and a union, and universal health care and public education and immigrant rights, and lgbtqt rights, We are reviving the heart of our democracy.

When we develop tax and trade policies that no no longer funnel our prosperity to the wealthy few, we are reviving the heart of our democracy. When we hear the legitimate disconnect — discontent of black lives matter and become together — we come together to renew justice in our criminal justice system, we are embracing our deepest moral values and reviving the heart of our democracy.

The Rev. Dr. Barber went on to call us to be the moral defibrillator of our time and shock the heart of our nation into healing.

We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all. We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy, not now, not ever!

By going to the heart of our deepest moral values, people of all faiths and those with no faith can come together and work for the common good of all in this nation and throughout the world.

In hearing the call of the prophets to establish justice and Jesus’ message of good news for the poor and oppressed, people of faith can enter the political discourse with passion, courage, and conviction.  Working together for the general welfare of all people we can show the love, mercy, and justice that are at the heart of the biblical witness and the Christian tradition.

I love politics because politics is about people and our world and that goes to the heart of the gospel. For the revival of the heart of our democracy, I pray you will love politics too, enough to raise your voice and your vote.


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