October 21st, 2012
09:45 AM ET

Letters to the President #1371: 'The faith factor'

Reporter's Note: Both the president and his Republican challenger have sought support from religious leaders. I seek a reply to one of these endless letters. As the Stones say, you can’t always get what you want.

Dear Mr. President,

Seems like Mr. Romney had a productive meeting with the legendary evangelist Billy Graham and now Graham’s group is putting a little weight behind the Romney bid. It’s hard to say what that will mean. I suppose with the right people in the right states it could make a difference, but who knows?

I’ve often noticed in our church that whenever someone speaks up about politics it feels as if a cold breeze has just blown through the sanctuary. Those who are inclined to agree with the speaker, I guess, feel encouraged and warm to the message. But by and large it looks like people hunch their shoulder against the message; as if to say not “I disagree” but rather “I don’t think we should be talking about matters as crass and earthly as politics in here.”

Religion has always walked a fine line when it comes to politics. Undeniably some congregations have fully engaged political causes, and they have felt utterly justified in doing so. The role of black churches in the civil rights movement comes to mind. The Catholic Church’s stance on abortion does too. In each case, proponents of religious action on these matters would argue that they were doing what their faith demanded; fighting for justice and to protect those who need it most. And in each case, there were others who disagreed. I don’t want to dwell on those examples too much, because I know they are very sensitive and I’m not picking sides.

All I’m saying is, as candidates seek the support of religious groups, those candidates also balance on a high wire. I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of that task, because I suppose we all go through our own versions of it. I’m sure every day good people with strong religious beliefs find themselves bending or breaking them to keep their jobs, protect their families, guard against personal injury…you name it. Maybe that’s why we refer to people “practicing” their faiths; because we never get it entirely right. Ha!

Just a few thoughts for a Sunday. Btw, how are you doing with the church vote this year? I seem to recall you fighting for it a bit more last time around. Did I miss some strategy change?

Give a call if you can.