Friday, December 21, 2007

Measuring a candidate's faith

We are entering an odd presidential campaign in which the acceptability of a candidate is measured in part on how well they can express their faith, preferably their Christian faith. It’s not exactly a litmus test, but it is an indication of how fearful the candidates are that they might alienate the Christian Right if they don’t say the right things about their faith. Debate moderators aid and abet by peppering their questions with references to faith. As a Christian I realize that one of our treasured mantras is that we are saved by grace through faith, but I fear that it has become almost meaningless through unthinking and often hypocritical overuse. Proclaiming belief in God through Jesus Christ or claiming that “the day I gave myself to Jesus is the day I was saved” is one thing, but following him is an entirely different thing. I think James had it right: faith without works is dead. If (Christian) faith is to be the measure of a candidate's character then I want to know how closely the candidate’s platform conforms to Christ’s teachings, and I suggest a place to start is a close examination of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew’s gospel. Using that as my template I want to know if a given candidate:
• Is humble in spirit and demeanor
• Mourns for this fallen world and the role of our nation in it
• Hungers and thirsts for righteousness
• Is merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker
• Is willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake
• Is a person of worthiness, which is to say a person of honest integrity
• Can let their light so shine that others will give glory to God because of them
• Understands the spirit and depth of the Ten Commandments and not just their words
• Seeks reconciliation with those whom they and our nation have injured
• Lets their yes be yes and their no be no
• Is able to confront violence in radically peaceful ways
• Is willing to learn to love their enemies
• Will pray for those who persecute them and our nation
• Doesn’t act too pious, especially in public
• Gives anonymously and with generosity to those in need
• Prays with simple words
• Serves God and not wealth or earthly riches
• Trusts God and doesn’t worry so much about this life
• Isn’t quick to judge others recognizing that they are not very qualified to do it anyway
• Respects and honors that which is holy
• Asks, knocks and seeks knowing that God who loves all of us will answer
• Aims for the narrow doorway – the wide one leads to hell (Iraq perhaps)
• Can discern and beware of false prophets (especially the ones who seek to be closest to them)
• Builds their life on the solid rock of faith in God through Christ
So much for the character of a candidate running on the faith platform. It seems to me that God also has a pretty clear cut political agenda, and that might be a platform plank for another day, but if you want an advance clue take a good hard read of Amos.

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