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The 2016 US presidential election has been notable for many reasons – not the least of which being how little the discussion has centered around faith. What has traditionally been a campaign pillar has barely been mentioned by either the nominees or the mainstream media, which – regardless of your beliefs – says something about where we are headed as a country.
Clearly, America is a place where evangelical influence is fading rapidly.
This is due in part to scores of citizens who have simply left their faith, but it’s also the natural result of fundamentally changing demographics that have brought new traditions like Buddhism and Islam into the fold.
Our growing diversity, coupled with our overall desire to be politically correct, has created an environment where virtually any discussion on religion has been pushed out of the public square.
But what does that mean?
This is a question we’ll be grappling with for a while, but here are two thoughts to consider:
- Up to this point in the West, religion has typically been about shared identity while politics has been about the mechanics of shared culture. With the decline of religion, it appears that politics has stepped in to fill the identity void. In other words, we are slowly but steadily becoming defined by our political leanings and – while the jury is still out on whether this will prove healthy in the long run – so far it’s not looking good.
- Without the language of faith, we spend a lot of time discussing judgement at the expense of discussing wisdom. A serious spiritual path requires us to think deeply on values like humility, compassion, and grace with the goal of transcending our own ego. If we abandon that path entirely, will conversations around ethics and morals alone achieve the same end?
While I would never say that “faith” is the missing component of our political life, what I do know is that when the ego is allowed to drive, both wisdom and ethics are fatally compromised.
This is not part of the issue. Since every decision we make stems from what we value most, this is the issue.
We may have succeeded in throwing religion out of politics, but it’s up to us to keep the baby separate from the bathwater.