Religion in Politics

As the political season ramps up even more(!), I’m already seeing plenty of posts on social media citing religion to back up political beliefs. You’ve got people who cite quotes from the Bible about the importance of independence, or the sanctity of marriage, or the evils of legalized marijuana, or the need to be more compassionate. And when I see these posts, I have a mixed response.

On the one hand, I’m a deeply religious person, and so it’s natural that my politics are influenced by my religious beliefs. On the other hand, I try to avoid making religious arguments, and I admittedly bristle when those arguments are made online for a number of reasons.

First of all, if you make an appeal to religion as a way of “solving” a political issue, you’re only going to further polarize an already polarized topic. If you have people who agree with you, they’re going to nod and give you a solid amen. You might have people who aren’t religious but still agree with you. They’ll likely just go wander off elsewhere, because why bother. If you have people who aren’t religious and don’t agree with you, they’re going to yell at you for bringing something irrelevant into an important conversation. (At which point you get to begin to argue about religion AND politics at the same time.) Finally, you also might have people who are religious but disagree with your conclusion. (In which case you’re back to arguing about religion and politics again.)*

Second, there’s no really good way to interact with a post that uses religion to prove a point. If you critique it based on religious grounds, then you’re called a heretic. If you critique it based on secular grounds, then you’re just a heathen who hasn’t properly been enlightened yet.

Again, I can and do have political beliefs that are influenced by my religion. But do I believe God agrees with those beliefs? To me, that’s what’s happening when these sort of posts are shared online. They’re saying “God wants you to vote against _________” or “God needs you to protect ___________.” And that kind of argument is really tenuous at best.

What if it’s a Muslim making the post? What if it’s a Jew? A Buddhist? If you would dismiss those religious posts as irrelevant, then why post your own version of them? Because your religion is right and theirs is wrong? If that’s the case, then we’re right back to arguing about religion and politics again instead of just politics.

It can feel very cathartic to find a religious quote or argument that really resonates with us, and that’s fine. It’s when we go on and use that quote to try and convince others that things just fall apart for me. Because a religious quote is using an appeal to an ultimate authority to prove your point. It’s saying, “Not only do I think I’m right, but GOD thinks I’m right too. So if you disagree with me, you’re just flat out wrong.”

“But, Bryce,” I anticipate some of you saying. “There are certain ultimate truths out there. Why *shouldn’t* I post something if God is clearly in favor of it or against it? I need to make sure everyone knows they’re wrong.”

To which I respond, “Unless God has decided to make you His ultimate mouthpiece on earth, maybe deciding to speak for Him on social media is a bit premature.”

If actual church leaders aren’t throwing up posts left and right in favor of a candidate or against a position, maybe we could learn a thing or two from that and follow suit. If they *are* putting up those posts, then go ahead and share and like them, I suppose, but don’t expect that post to be the sort of a Mic Drop post online that you want to think it will be.

Generally speaking, I believe there are good people with deeply held religious beliefs on both sides of the aisle. No party has a monopoly on virtue or faith. Almost every single hot button political issue I can think of is a thorny mess of contradictions, with no clear right and wrong answer.

I’m not sure what I think this post is going to accomplish. I fully expect to continue seeing posts from both sides drawing religion into politics. Maybe my best approach to dealing with it would be to just decide not to say anything on any of the posts. Probably safest for me . . .

But if you’re thinking about posting something in this vein, and this post makes you think twice about it, then maybe I’ll have done some good.

*If only we could somehow throw in a divisive sports reference into the same posts. Something like “God said the Yankees need to lead the country against socialism.” Maybe that could make things even more spicy in the Facebook comments.

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