Faithlink Discussion: Faith and Government
by Jacob Juncker
I have struggled with how my faith should determine my involvement in politics. I didn’t vote in the 2008 election year. I did vote this year; shoot, I even encouraged others to vote (making up for missing the last cycle). Yet, I still struggle. It’s not that I’m anti-government. Our government has many helpful and beneficial qualities. It guarantees certain rights to all persons. It provides assistance when other groups (sometimes even the church) look the other way. It provides order, protection and justice. But, there are times when my understanding of faith clashes with the decisions and attitudes of my government.
For instance, this past week, the senate filibustered the DREAM Act. “The purpose of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, is to help those individuals who meet certain requirements, have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship which they otherwise would not have without this legislation” (http://dreamact.info/students). I think this piece of legislation would be helpful in opening up the “American Dream” to more and more people.
An interesting aside: Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party, in protest of the UMC’s support of the DREAM Act publicly said last week, “I have a DREAM. That is, no more United Methodist Church.” To view the entire blog post, click here.
Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights for the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, responded to Phillips by saying:
Our support of the DREAM Act is in alignment with the principles of support for immigration reform found in our resolutions passed by General Conference. More importantly, many United Methodists throughout the country are immigrants themselves or are in close, intimate relationships with immigrants through outreach and service. And from the position of these close relationships modeled to us first and foremost by Jesus whose birth we celebrate this week, we advocate for humane and workable solutions to a badly broken immigration system.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, said:
I am proud of the fact that our United Methodist Church stands for justice for all of God’s children in the name of Christ Jesus, and I consider it a moral calling to stand up for young immigrants who deserve the opportunities that the DREAM Act would provide.
Mr. Philips’ visceral attacks in response to this advocacy, by contrast, reflect neither American values nor the Christian faith. But as a committed Christian and United Methodist who follows Jesus, I am committed to praying for Mr. Philips. Even while he may dream of the demise of the United Methodist Church, I will pray for abundant life for him, for that is the Christian way.
I identify with the struggle the writer of this week’s Faithlink points out: “requirements of our faith and our citizenship seem to pull us in different directions.” Our faith calls us to love all persons. It calls us be peacemakers, even when others are violent. It tells us to love the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and feed the hungry. These things often seem strange to a government and culture like ours.
How does your faith impact your political involvement? Do you struggle? in what ways?