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Faith and politics ala Joe Biden

Image by Robert Henrich

During the 2008 Presidential race, Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden did something atypical in the world of politics: he took a stand on a matter of faith. In a “Meet the Press” interview, Biden said he was ”prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.” (Falling somewhat short of a ringing embrace of church doctrine, it's still a position  – something both Obama and Pelosi managed to avoid.) But at the same time, he did something quite politically typical: he hedged his ‘stand’, couching it in disclaimers until it was effectively no stand at all.

The broader question here is not when a human life begins, but when and where a life of faith should end. Does any religion teach that its moral code is binding in every aspect of one’s life – except the political? As a nation, are we better served by political leaders who check their beliefs at the caucus room door, or by men and women who live their faith fully and without reservation, working to make a place for all, a place where each person’s faith and conscience are respected and represented? And how should a voter feel about the integrity of a candidate who is able to vote contrary to his or her religious beliefs? Being true to one’s faith – while respecting the faith of others – forces no one to believe differently; rather, it goes a long way toward ensuring that no one will ever be faced with having to choose between crime and sin. (Pending health care reform legislation, as well as the Obama administration’s position on the health care conscience clause, both have the potential to put many health-care workers in this very position.)

The American political fabric has always been and still is far stronger, richer and more enduring when it is woven upon a warp spun from the moral fiber of all its citizens. With all the faith bleached out, all the moral substance removed, it is a fragile gauze easily shredded by the winds of change.

For more info: Websites such as Sojourner and Beliefnet have a great deal of content addressing issues of faith and politics. The Faith & Politics Institute attempts to foster faith and spirituality among members of Congress and congressional staff.




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