Faith-Based Politics

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Alaina Haylock

In America, there’s always an entanglement of religion with politics.

While chaos runs rampant in America, a backing principle seems to fan the flames of division: religion. According to Pew Research Center, more than 70% of Americans practice Christianity. With such a prevailing majority, it raises the question of how much influence religion has on politics.

In previous elections, most candidates practice a religion. In fact, almost all presidents, with the exception of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson, have followed a religion, despite the US Constitution prohibiting any religious tests for any form of office. With true consideration, the topic of religious Presidents is a bit odd but not completely taboo. 

I believe Americans tend to favor presidential candidates with similar faith, mostly because people believe in Presidents having a set of morals. This belief must reign true with both parties: 52% of Democrats are Christians and 79% of Republicans are Christians. The noticeable difference is that Democrats are far more religiously diverse than Republicans. However, despite these differences, Christianity shines through as the most common religion.

In terms of recent events, I think Christians continually make a mockery of religion. Like Christianity states, no person is perfect. So, Evangelicals often find themselves weaponizing religion to match their personal bias. An extreme example of this stems from the far-right group called the Proud Boys, who are neo-fascist and affiliated with white nationalism. 

Before the Capitol Riot in Washington D.C. on January 6th, the Proud Boys kneeled and prayed with Jesus in mind. They prayed for “reformation and revival” and asked for their “value systems” to be reinstated. This happened moments before they proceeded to storm the Capitol in an act that I consider wildly unpatriotic and honestly an embarrassment for what America is supposed to stand for. 

On the flip side, there are lesser extreme displays of religious support in politics. Across America, megachurch pastors have prayed for the victory of Trump. One of the most prominent is Trump’s spiritual advisor Paula White-Cain who prayed for President Trump’s re-election. As a follower of Christ, I find her actions unfavorable. Her focus shouldn’t be on re-electing Trump but rather on the next events to be purposeful in the eyes of God.  

The divide of religion has always been apparent in American history: the catalyst was President Trump. While I don’t identify as a Republican, I genuinely believe President Trump is one of the worst representatives of the Republican party. He has successfully furthered the divide existing between the left and right and has made a mockery of traditional politics, along with the degree of sophistication associated with it. 

However, he has managed to be the most pro-religious president America has ever had. Trump painted the narrative of Evangelicals– predominantly white Evangelicals– close to being stripped of their basis of living with religion and made himself the savior at the forefront. By catering to specific issues and using the fear factor, he manages to draw support from a multitude of Americans.

Another significant factor is the separation of church and state that comes from the Bill of Rights. It backs the first amendment in principle by allowing citizens to practice their religions. This prevents the murky waters of religion from having too much of an overarching influence on politics, especially in the case of non-religious people. Actually, Christianity seems to be on the decline in America. According to Pew Research Center, self-professed Christians are “down 12 percentage points over the past decade.”

Nowadays, hateful Christians have skewed the overall image of religion. On several accounts, I’ve discussed religion with people who find it unappealing. Even though the actions of a few shouldn’t speak for the majority, Christians have continually given themselves a bad rep. The sacrilegious take it upon themselves to condemn sinful behavior, which is distasteful. I truly believe it isn’t our duty as Christians to ‘save everyone.’ Instead, I think leading by example is far more effective. Christianity shouldn’t be deemed as bad solely because its followers practice it incorrectly. 

In terms of future events, I’m intrigued with what happens next with America following the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. On his first day in office, President Biden rejoined the WHO, asked the Department of Education to extend the loan payment and interest pause, stopped the construction of the wall, and more. Despite the outcome of the election, American Christians should continue to do good works for others, for their community, and for the future. Presidents will always change, but Christianity’s foundational truths still hold true.