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Faith & politics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If the results of a recent study are at all accurate, most Americans don’t consider the precepts of their faith when they make their decisions on which political candidates to support.

In a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, fewer than one in six respondents (14 percent) mentioned their religious beliefs as having the most influence on their political views. If an individual’s faith has an impact, it apparently is indirect and is wrapped up in the amalgamation referred to as “personal experiences” by the pollsters. Most of those who were surveyed (34 percent) said it was those personal, life experiences that most informed their choices. The news media was cited by 19 percent of those who were asked about the primary influence on their political thinking.

Yet the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s iVoteValues.com initiative holds that not only should an individual’s faith drive their Election Day decisions, it should also compel a person to be involved in the nation’s civic affairs.

Given that God Himself instituted the “governing authorities” (Romans 13) and that these authorities are “God’s public servants,” there is no room for Christians to assert that they can’t bring their faith-informed perspectives to bear on the political process.

In general, Americans have no problem with people of faith bringing their values and convictions to bear on public policy. The ERLC partnered with LifeWay Research in conducting a national survey by an independent polling firm that posed this statement to Americans: “I am concerned that at times Christians are too involved in politics.” Over half (52 percent) disagreed with the statement. Those who described themselves as “born again, Evangelical, or fundamentalist” expressed the highest degree of disapproval (72 percent) with the statement.

When the ERLC placed the same question before individuals who visited its booth at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis this summer, 90 percent of them disagreed. More than 81 percent indicated they strongly disagreed.

The ERLC publishes several products that address the area of Christian citizenship, including the importance of people of faith being involved in the political process. In our drive to make biblically centered information on ethical and moral issues more accessible, we have retooled our issue-specific informational hand-out, known as “impact,” and made them available online, including a new piece on Christian citizenship. To view a copy of this downloadable (pdf) resource, go to iLiveValues.com/citizenship and download the “impact” product. This resource was previously available only as a print piece and at a cost.

The Christian citizenship “impact” underscores the fact that, as voters, we shouldn’t necessarily be endorsing candidates, but instead looking for candidates who endorse us and our beliefs, convictions and values. That’s news to many Americans.
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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