Religious Americans and Political Choices

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Marie A. Failinger



The Journal of Law and Religion held its 2006 Law, Religion, and Ethics
symposium, “Religious Americans and Political Choices,” at Hamline University.
The event focused on reframing the divide between the so-called
religious “Red State” and secular “Blue State” political discourses. Its objective
was to discover what the major American faith traditions share by way
of political values and understandings about the critical issues facing the
United States, particularly in the areas of race, poverty, environmental protection,
and restorative justice.
Keynoter David Gushee (Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union
University) began with an “insider’s critique” of how evangelicals have
allowed political conservatives to capture their commitments on issues that
do not fully reflect their broad priorities as Christians. He argued that evangelical
Christians should cast a wary eye on politico-religious alignments in
accord with their basic principles. Evangelicals, Gushee noted, believe that
God is redeeming the world on His own time and that a Christian’s first loyalty
must be to Jesus Christ as Lord, not parties, and teaching the Good News
as well as loving God and one’s neighbor. This evangelical commitment
entails the recognition that political activity cannot redeem the world; but
because the world is an arena of moral concern, politics is a necessary (if sinful)
part of life. Thus, Christians must seek peace and prosperity for the entire
human community, with a consistent ethic of life that embraces those members
of the wider world community who have been marginalized.
In the panel on race and poverty, David Skeel (professor of law, University
of Pennsylvania), an evangelical Christian, continued this theme by discussing
the important role that evangelicals and other Christians have played
in pursuing debt relief for Africa, despite their traditional suspicion of big
government. He called for religious Christians to identify the “moral blind
spots of our age” and demand that political leaders recognize the equal
worth of every human being, both at home and abroad ...

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