How Much Does Your Faith Motivate Your Politics?

Some people think that their religion should have very little effect on their political outlooks. What they don't realize is that it can't help but have an effect.


In the recent Republican presidential debate, Governor Mike Huckabee answered a question about faith and politics in an interesting and, I think, correct way. He said essentially that "If you don't think your politics are motivated by your faith, then your faith doesn't mean very much to you."

Looked at from another vantage point, if our faith does mean a great deal to us, it is disingenuous to say that it does not motivate our political thinking. How do you feel about capital punishment? Abortion? Campaign finance and lobbying gifts? Nuclear power? The war on terrorism? If your religion means anything to you, then it has had a hand in coloring the way you look at all of these issues and more.

In this context, I want to make clear my definition of faith. It is evidence to ourselves of things we think are true, and the motivation for us to act. In this regard, journalists are also motivated by their faith. They have a certain way of looking at life and have a certain evidence that corroborates that view; therefore, they will report the world as they see it.

So much history exists that we cannot possibly consume all of it. As a result, we often follow a thread of 'history' that is only one side of the story.

It is very difficult to notice this in ourselves, but it is there. Being the only animal capable of introspection and self-analysis, the human can examine him- or herself to discover evidence of bias. A great place to start is one's religion (including if one is atheist, for that is a religion, too). For example, certain aspects of my perspective on the war on terror are influenced by my reading of the Book of Mormon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I recently received a comment on Serving Iraq that a producer of a video was clearly biased in his views, so therefore, his work should not be shown on PBS. This is true that he is biased, because that is essentially true of all of us. But it is hardly a criticism that uniquely qualifies this person's production to be banned from PBS.

Dan Rather is biased. Nina Totenberg of NPR is biased. Wolf Blitzer is biased. Robert MacNeil of PBS Frontline is biased. Brit Hume of Fox News is biased. Rush Limbaugh is biased, and he admits it. Bob Bernick of the Deseret News scarcely hides his bias, even in his front page reporting. Andrea Mitchell of NBC news, in her recent book Talking Back... admits that she is.

We can't help it, except to analyze and note our bias as best we can. To claim that someone else is biased but that we're not is blindness.

Comments

  1. I really disagree with Huckabee. I am an active Mormon, but I am for legalizing a laundry list of things the Church tells us not do to.

    Because I personally like those things? No.

    Because I am a libertarian. And as a libertarian I believe you have the right to self determination whether or not myself or the majority personally finds what you do acceptable (provided you don't infringe upon the basic rights of others).

    I believe the problem is that people use religion to empower themselves. Invoke the name of God and reduce scrutiny. It's a simple formula used for centuries in this country and has produced some of our worst leaders, including our current President (who btw, is no Christian).

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  2. You have a good point. Particularly thought-provoking to me is the "Invoke the name of God and reduce scrutiny." In the LDS church we sometimes place too much trust in people simply because they currently hold high ecclesiastical office. It really has produced some of the worst leaders.

    I am leaning toward libertarianism, but for some reason I haven't let myself take the plunge, although it's been a while since I've voted--on a national level--for someone from the two major parties.

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