When we stepped into the election booths on Tuesday (or mailed in our ballots anti-climactically two weeks ago), we were finally alone—there was blissful silence from the seemingly never-ending campaign commercials, a lack of fliers and posters and bumper stickers, no friends telling us which way to vote, and no camera phones posting our opinions to Facebook. But we did bring in one thing: our values.
Let’s look at some ways in which religion and religious values played an appropriate role in this election cycle. Houses of worship have emphasized the importance of voting, regardless of the candidate. 52% of those who attend religious services at least monthly reported hearing their clergy encourage voting. Religious coalitions have supported causes they consider to be integral to their faith. In the four states in which same-sex marriage won support this week, faith coalitions have emerged as staunch allies. In Florida clergy mobilized voters across the state to reject a measure allowing public funds to be used to directly aid religious institutions in Amendment 8, which would have significantly limited existing church-state safeguards.
Faith has an important part to play in politics, if and when used in a constitutional manner. Your morals should inform your political decisions. They should not, however, infringe on others. You should not face expulsion from your prayer community if your beliefs are at odds nor should your clergy back a candidate from the pulpit (as 19% of fairly regular service attendees report). No matter what is or is not unconstitutional, our religious values continue to inform the choices we make.
The fact that not everyone shares the same values and is allowed to choose how to embody them is a freedom Americans hold dear. This is why we warmly welcome two new “firsts” to the 113th Congress. Mazie Hirono will be the first Buddhist senator, and Tulsi Gabbard will become the very first Hindu member of Congress. Our Congress should represent the American population, and these two members lead us two steps closer to that goal.
So as our TV programming returns to normal once again, I urge you not to return “politics” and “religion” to their comfortable silos. I challenge you to consider how the two overlap. Are you okay with how you see them interacting? What would you change if it was up to you? What will you change this year? (Comments welcomed below!)
Image courtesy of the Pew Forum.