Politicians, Speech, and Religious Beliefs

I’m thinking a lot about the three pieces in my title.  I imagine this is because of what’s been happening in the country post-Tucson.  Incidentally, isn’t it interesting that people say “Tucson” now and assume to relay that one event two weeks ago?  Anyway. 

I imagine it’s also because of my reading of Miroslav Volf.  Miroslav is a theologian with things to say about God, reconciliation, people and politics and so forth.  He wrote what is still currently in my top three theological books, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.  Here’s a quote from Against the Tide, the book I’m reading right now, where he’s writing about the exercise of political power:

In contrast, if what ultimately matters is not naked political success but the well-being of a political community in the context of the larger world, then politicians must have not only spiritual character as individual human beings, but also character that is infused with a moral political vision.

I’m turning over this language of “a moral political vision” as I think about what our city and country’s politicians and leaders are doing and saying.  The president is finishing copies of his next major address.  Candidates and politicians continue to do what candidates and politicians do. 

There’s much talk about the words we use in the course of promoting ideas and policies.  What should be said and what shouldn’t?  I think Volf has a point here because some of the answer to what should be said is tied up in this moral political vision.  If politicians have such a vision, it can anchor how they communicate and how they don’t.  If the well-being of our community is the test for effectiveness, it grounds a leader’s leadership in ways different than if endorsements and votes and polling were the criteria for success.  Of course, someone has to promote the rudiments of the criteria.  Somebody has to name community as more valuable than, say, endorsements.  But even then, it changes the discourse if the language of community is inserted and take seriously.

It doesn’t require particular religious beliefs for this to happen on the part of the political person either.  Volf also said, “For whether we believe in God or not, God may be at work in the hearts of people and in the providential leading of the world.”  God may be using people who don’t believe in God, who may not desire to be used, or who may see their role as opposed to a particular theological view.  Indeed, that secretive work of God may just be the saving element for our communities.


2 thoughts on “Politicians, Speech, and Religious Beliefs

  1. ‘God may be using people who don’t believe in God, who may not desire to be used….’

    I love that God uses non-believers and people who don’t want to be used, and sometimes whole nations who in the words of MLK ‘don’t even know His name’. After all, he uses me, in my unbelief, unwillingness, and disobedience. God is truly worthy of all praise.

    • Byron, I think at some level, God only uses people who don’t want to be used. I think it’s consistent that God does things first, initiates good in and through people, and that we catch up. That’s goodness, isn’t it.

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