If there is one mantra we repeatedly hear in the public square it is that change is coming.
Our political life in America is robust and we are beginning a new cycle of policy debates that will potentially have a big impact on us and how we live. The political parties will thrash it out — as to be expected. Political lobbyists used to tell me that politics is war without the guns.
What about the religious community? As much as America is about separation of church and state, we have a long tradition of religious advocacy in areas that relate to social justice. So count on hearing from many religious groups who will want to contribute to the political discourse.
Let’s remember that the religious community will take positions different than the typical partisan advocate, and that groups such as Christian evangelicals or fundamentalists and Jewish progressives and conservatives will lobby positions completely contrary to their fellow religionists. So what are some of the hot button issues we will see from the religious community in America?
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Let’s begin with the immigration issue. There are two parts to the issue: illegal immigration and immigration from countries in the Middle East. There is also the question of sanctuary cities and houses of worship that protect illegal immigrants who are usually from Central and South America. Discussions of immigration from the Middle East will lead to discussions of our national security versus our moral and religious mandate to protect those who come from Syria and other nations which are primarily Muslim countries. America’s Muslim community will certainly be coping with the Trump administration, which seeks to limit immigration from lands afflicted with terrorism.
The Jewish community will be struggling with the United Nations and its obsessive bias against Israel. I cannot help but criticize the Obama administration for its silence against the recently passed Security Council resolution against Israel and what momentum that will lead to in terms of emboldening the U.N. toward more anti-Israel resolutions in the near future. Yet, there are Jewish advocacy groups who will probably support that resolution, a move that proves religions are equally divided among themselves on the issue of the West Bank territories.
We will see the faith community out in full force when President Elect Trump makes his first Supreme Court nominee. Rest assured all religious groups on all sides of the political spectrum will speak out for or against the that nominee.
One of the biggest issues for the faith community will be the anticipated changes to the Affordable Care Act and potential changes to Medicare and Social Security. Religious groups from completely different political perspectives might very well find themselves on the same side when it comes to the impact that policy changes will have on the poor. They will call to our attention to the question of what is America’s moral obligation to its citizens in providing universal health care and a safety net for working class Americans.
I hope the religious community will speak out publicly against the steady rise of the alt right movement. We have seen the ugliness of hatred already demonstrated against the Jewish community in places like Whitefish, Mont.,the home of one of the leaders of the alt-right movement. The swastikas being painted on Jewish institutions indicate an upsurge of bigotry. Jews are not the only group of minorities threatened by this group, which seeks to divide the nation. I foresee other religious groups getting involved in the fight against hatred.
When the new administration takes over, be prepared to hear from the religious community concerning the congressional hearings on the nominations of the forthcoming appointments to the cabinet. Such positions as Attorney General, Health and Human Services and Environmental Protections Agency may bring out strong positions from religious groups — pro and con — during their respective hearings.
These are just a few of the issues the faith community will have a vested interest in during the new year.
That community, which includes many denominations from all religions, will come to positions not just from the normal partisan platforms of the major political parties. Those positions will be developed on the basis of Scripture and the traditions which represent the various faiths.
My only hope is that the faith community can lead the way in advocating a respect for and civil conduct with each other and set a good example of vigorous debate without turning it into the same kind of political infighting that has turned so many off to politics.
America’s faith community has a special role to play in advocating civility and mutual respect, even for those whom we disagree with in policy debates.
Let’s not forget that the greatest threat to America will not be another nation. Rather, it will be from within. We must be proactive politically but at the same time hold on to the big picture that our morals and values as a nation cannot be torn because of internal dissension.
Compromise and moderation will in the end lead us toward keeping our blessed nation whole.