Dear Candidates for President of the United States (yes, all of you):
On the subject of politics and religion: Please don't mix the two...in the name of personal morality or in the name of social justice.
You cannot and you will not get it right.
And, although a few among us have been telling you that if you want our vote, you should share our faith, really, that's not good for you, for us, or for the country. Really.
- Because Christian notions of private and public morality are rooted in our understanding of God, and their perfect expression is found in God.
That will sound odd, but it's true. Christians aren't just people who subscribe to a particular moral code, they subscribe to the conviction that the best of what we might be and can be is embodied in the character of God. You have to buy that for it to make sense and if you don't it won't.
- The office you seek and the nation you might lead does not share those values, nor are they embodied in our body politic as a nation.
To be sure, many of national values are rooted to one degree or another in Judaeo-Christian values, so there is a tempting similarity that prompts you to exploit them and tempts us to insist that you conform to them. But the founding documents of our nation protect a space for religious beliefs, they don't require them.
So, for you to make noises as if you were our social or private conscience doesn't ring true. You can't promise to be the country's pastor, priest, or minister, even though you'll be called upon to offer words of comfort and encouragement. You're going to be elected to public office, not ordained.
So, please don't make those noises. It makes most of us uncomfortable and, although we don't know you well enough to be sure, we're afraid you are just pandering to our religious commitments.
- Please remember, that even if you share our convictions, you have no authority to impose those values on the nation and we have no right to expect you to use them in governing the country.
We are grateful that we don't live in a theocracy. Especially with terrorists scattered around the world determined to make us the citizens of theirs. The God we believe in appeals to people out of love and out of love gives them the freedom to respond - or not.
So, we are good with a country where the chief executive officer doesn't consider herself or himself as president and priest and confessor. And, if we're good with it, imagine how people who don't share our faith must feel?
- What we would like to see is integrity and reliability.
We would like to believe that your actions and your words provide a window into some reasonable estimate of your character and that your character has some vital connection to your words and actions.
That's what we need most, right now, in a world that is more dangerous and less predictable than it has been for a while. That's also the President's job, to uphold the Constitution and preserve the common good.
- As for the claims of our faith and the work of our God in the world?
Thanks. We'll take care of that. That's our calling and responsibility.
We've been doing it around the world for over two millennia without relying on you. This is not time for us to start.