This is the sixth and final entry in a series of posts from Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, titled “Values of a Public Faith: A Contribution to a Conversation.”
18. Public Role of Religion
Value: Every citizen, religious or not, Christian, Jew, or Muslim, has the right to bring his or her own perspectives on human flourishing and on the common good to bear on public life and to do so on equal terms with everyone else.
Rationale: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7). “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
Debate: The debate should not be whether religious voices should be excluded. It should be about what kind of political arrangements will ensure the equal access of all to participation in the political process on equal terms and what might be the limits to legitimate pluralism.
Questions to Ask: Does the candidate support the participation of every person in public life, encouraging them to do so on the basis of their own specific motivations and reasons? Does the candidate seek to protect the voices of ordinary people from being drowned out by powerful interest groups (like lobbies and Super PACs)?
Value: Those seeking public office should forswear spin and contempt, being truthful with the public and civil to one another. You can “advertise” but not fabricate; you can criticize but not disrespect.
Rationale: We should all “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and seek to “honor everyone” (1 Pet. 2:17).
Debate: While the line between advertising and spinning is not always clear, the main debate should be about effective means to diminish the spin and contempt that have become part of our democratic system of elections.
Questions to Ask: Do the facts about the candidate’s own performance as well as those of their opponent match with the candidates’ words? Is the candidate attempting to correct rather than benefit from the spin that others, without his direct endorsement, do on his behalf?
Value: Competence (technical expertise, including emotional intelligence), though essential, matters less than character because knowledge, though crucial, matters less than love.
Rationale: “If I . . . understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Debate: The debate should be about what dimensions of character matter most and what blend of virtues and competencies is most needed at this time.
Questions to Ask: Whom does the candidate strive to be like? Whom does he most resemble in character? Will the fear of losing power corrupt him?
For more information on A Public Faith, click here.