The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: The Morality of Politics

Taylor asks, “Do you think that one political group, wing or ideology is more moral than another?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

"Yes, I believe the ideology that expresses the most compassion for others takes the moral high ground. For me there is no greater example of compassion then in the scripture of Matthew 25 the Sheep and the Goats. ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Take the issues at our borders regarding immigration and separating parents from children. If you speak out against this because of the lack of human decency and compassion you are acting like the Sheep, if you show only concern for yourself and no compassion for the suffering of others, you are acting as the Goats. If you only think in terms of what is good for yourself and not in terms of the least of our brothers, sisters, and siblings you are not taking the moral high ground.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Political parties are combinations formed for political ends. As we used to say about women of loose morals, political parties are no better than they have to be, in order to get what they want. The ends are to hold office and wield power in the state. Religion and morality are only incidental concerns. To secure Christian votes, many politicians give lip service to the faith and morals of Christianity, rather like the man who professed to admire virtue even though he did not practice it.  

“Presbyterians believe that officers of the state should rule in the fear of God, for the glory of God, and for the public good (Westminster Confession, Ch. XXIII.I); that is, the prosperity and well-being of the whole commonwealth or “body politic,” not just a part or parts thereof. They should advocate for the poor, the weak, and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3, 4). 

“It is grievous sin for such officers to neglect their duties, or to seek their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; to command things unlawful, or discourage that which is good; or to dishonor themselves or lessen their authority by unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior (Larger Catechism, Q. 130). Such beliefs and norms should determine our choices in the voting booth, regardless of the party labels involved.”

Chris Curia, the Director of Youth Ministries at Fairway Christian Reformed Church, responds:

“First, let me show my cards: I'm pretty disenchanted with our current geopolitical climate in general and the toxic ideologies perpetuated by the current administration, more specifically. I believe in a wealth tax, our need to prioritize environmental protection in the years ahead, and the expansion of civil and political liberties to especially consider the needs of the most marginalized people in our society. Furthermore, I'm growing more aware of my blind spots. From a place of cis-white-male privilege in which significant policy changes hardly affect my day-to-day living, it can be easy for me to demonize the state of current politics on one hand and tune it all out on the other.

“But I have a hard time believing in the morality of the administration that began its political career with a birtherism hoax targeting our first president of color. I have a hard time believing in the morality of an administration that has not only gutted environmental funding but withdrawn from crucial partnerships to make environmental protection a global priority. I have a hard time believing in the morality of an administration that is responsible for separating children from parents, encaging migrants, and banning entry for refugees from war-torn lands. At times, it’s unthinkable to me that this is our "evangelical candidate.” James Baldwin writes that if our concept of God does not make us larger, freer, or more loving, then we have to get rid of that God. The same holds true for that God’s representatives.

“Nonetheless, I work in the heart of conservative West Michigan, wherein I daily rationalize the fact that my congregants, with whom I may fundamentally disagree on every political level, still love me well. I’m trying really hard to listen to them because I might be the only person of my political affiliation in their lives who is, and I believe that morality might at least start there.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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