It seems as though a lot of people are grappling with the faith of the two men who are leading their respective parties in the upcoming presidential election. It seems in America -- where every person is free to decide how he or she will worship -- that there is still the desire to personally connect with our leaders' faiths.
The extent of President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's involvement in religious life is very different, but it is clear that faith is part of who they are as people. Many articles have been published lately concerning Mormonism, Mitt Romney's religion, which he has called a "treasure" to him. And Obama has said before that he considers Christ to be his ally in his faith life. I find this fascinating, even as my own practice of faith is different from that of both these men.
Politics and faith are not often good friends -- especially in polite company. It seems that oftentimes we lack a generous or cordial language, especially when convictions are deeply held. I've seen red faces and quiet tempers come like waves on the ocean in conversations of this nature. A conversation we had with a philosophy professor in a class I took, The Philosophy of Religion, comes to mind each time I try to engage this odd arena. In this class, we each were to present a topic. One young woman chose to speak on the pluralism of religions, and how all ought to be accepting of all faiths. It was clear that she leaned toward total acceptance, including the suspension of the concept that there is one "Truth" with a capital T. She posited that there are many roads, and we need to respect all roads regardless of the particular path. Our professor asked, "What about those who believe that one's religion is the only way?" She thought for a minute, but really didn't think that believing in an exclusive faith was acceptable.
It was then that our professor opened us up a bit. This pluralism and total acceptance includes everyone except those who cannot say, "All paths are right." So it is not all-inclusive. Then there are those who believe exclusively that what has been revealed to them is the only way, but they may welcome all people universally. So you have an odd construct -- people who claim to include all, but who exclude those who are not like them. Then there are those who claim one way and seemingly exclude everyone else, but who are charitable and often extremely loving to those who have not decided to come into unity with them.
When God gave Abraham a special promise that his descendants would be a light in the world, he also said that all people would be blessed "through you." Much later, when Paul was reflecting on the implications of the work of Christ in the world, he called us to fulfill the law of Moses by living with one debt, "to love one another."
In this political climate, even as we sit at dinner tables talking about our future leadership, let us remember to bless one another because God has already given each of us so much -- especially to those of us who hold to a faith rooted in the depth of several thousand years.
We can be ambassadors of our God, giving light when many expect only darkness.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.