I’m not often quoted. Seldom have I said anything original that is worth being repeated, but a few years ago I made a statement which some people have picked up on. Let me explain.
For the past ten years I have co-hosted a radio show on secular stations. We have had several names for the show. The current version is called “A Show of Faith.” The show airs weekly Sunday nights from 7.00 to 9.00 pm on 1070 KNTH in Houston. We stream it live over the Internet at http://www.1070knth.com/.
I said I co-host the show because my partners in crime are a priest and a rabbi. I know. It sounds like a joke. “A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a radio station . . . “ But it is not a joke. We’ve been on the air ten years on three different stations in America’s 4th largest city. The mission of the show (remember, it is on a secular station) is to talk about events in the news from the perspective of our religions. We will also have representatives of other faiths: Islam, Bahai, Hinduism, etc. A secondary mission is to demonstrate that it is possible to be “friends across faiths.” The rabbi and the priest are two very good friends of mine. We “agree to disagree and don’t become disagreeable.”
I relate all of this because of the context. Often, when we talk about events in the news, politics come up. As the election in November comes close, discussions have ensued over the debates, the policies of the President Obama, the challenges by Governor Romney.
There are people who want to keep religion out of the public square. They want to relegate faith to the margins arguing that faith is really a private matter and should not enter in to our public life. The statement I made, however, was a challenge to this. Here is what I wrote:
“The `line of separation` does not run neatly through a man’s soul.”
While many want to separate church and state--so much so that there is never any contact between them—I don’t think it is completely possible or even desirable. Let me say it this way. We may be able to pass rules and create policies which keep any one religion from dominating our public life, but I don’t think that it is possible to compartmentalize our lives to the extent that faith does not inform our citizenship. When American citizens step into the voting booth, they take their faiths with them. When they vote, they vote values which have been formed by their faiths. When citizens hold public office (from president to dog-catcher), they govern and make decisions based in large measure on the values they have been taught through their faiths. In a complex world there may be competing values, but in the end mature citizens must cast a vote or make a decision. “The line of separation between church and state” does not run neatly through a man’s soul.
As election day approaches, I pray that people formed by faith will take their faith with them into the voting booths across America. Some will vote for the President and affirm the platform of the Democratic party. Others will vote for the challenger and affirm the platform of the Republican party. What is important is that we vote and not accept by default whatever happens. Citizenship is about participating in the process; it involves risk, but risk can bring reward.
Both candidates have said that this election is about two competing visions of America and our future. Both sides think that they know how to achieve a good life and a good society.
Which vision do you find the most compelling?
What values will inform your decision this November 6th?
May God bless the United States of America.