Undeniably, Christianity has its roots in American society and politics. There are government measures that guarantee freedom of religion in America that do not favor one religion over another. I will focus on the measure of favoring the Christian faith over other religions in American society.
I interviewed Cara Burnidge, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions. The idea that religion affects politics isn’t new, but it may not affect politics the way most people think. “There is observable evidence that Christianity influences America’s political climate because Christianity is an important part of American culture. Even if you’re not a Christian yourself, you’ve probably been touched and met in some way,” Burnidge explained when discussing the idea that Christianity affects American politics. It is proven that religion has and affects ideologies and political decisions all over the world because religion is a fundamental part of society. Countries have many different types of religions around the world, but not all of them have a direct influence on the government.
Religion and politics have unique dynamics that need to be thoroughly discussed to understand the intricacies of their relationship. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment clearly states that a religion cannot be favored over another religion, or a non-religion favored over religion. However, it is clear that American politics has begun to change over the past 10 years, especially more recently following the COVID-19 pandemic, social issues and the growing divide between the two major political parties. “Thinking of President Biden and more, he is both a Democrat and a Catholic. Yet many conservative Catholics have questioned his Catholicism throughout the election, even now. He identifies as Catholic. He comes from a Catholic family. There is no doubt that he participates in the Catholic faith, but his Catholicism and his Christianity are questioned by people of a different political orientation,” says Burnidge.
Some people in America have noticed the recent activity of Christian ideologies brought up in legislative debates such as abortion rights, the nomination and confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, or the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Many questions Jackson was asked during her nomination process focused on whether or not she was religious, as well as whether she could judge a trial fairly based on her religious beliefs. Some saw this as another example of Christianity becoming more involved and/or discussed at the highest levels of our government. If someone is not religious, they may not be considered someone who cannot hold political office in the US government. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 Census of American Religion, “both major political parties are overwhelmingly Christian, with 83% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats identifying as Christian,” showing that there are politicians on both sides who identify with the Christian faith. Religion is a bipartisan factor among officials who set the rules of the US government, but only one side appears to use religion as a major talking point in its campaigns and legislation.
Breaking down the history of the relationship with the Republican Party and Christianity, Burnidge explains that “it is an important reminder that the current expression of the Republican Party and its relationship to conservative religious practices is recent. It’s very recent. Not so long ago, it was perfectly normal for a Republican not to have a strong religious affiliation. It is clear that today’s Republicans tend to use their Christian ideologies to explain their decisions rather than having non-religious arguments to solve the country’s problems. For example, in the abortion rights debate, most of us have heard the phrase, “Well, all life is scared.” The clear use of the word “frightened” comes with the connotation of this reasoning as coming from a religious point of view. It is easy to see and/or believe that there is a connection between the Republican Party and Christianity in America. There is a fine line that can seem to blur on the idea of favoring Christianity over any other religion and this has concerned many people, especially those with different religious ideologies and beliefs.
UNI Buddhist President Finn Morris-McEwan believes that “all non-Christian religions are being targeted in the United States, what is particularly disturbing is the amount of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in our current political climate. “. Over the past 100 years, there has been an influx of people who are extremely opposed to people barely related to those who brought violence to our soil, as well as people with a heightened interest in understanding people who are not like they. People have used such events to advance their racist and discriminatory views by combining a small number of bad people with an entire race or religion. “I believe the Republican Party is not a party of ideals. It is a party that has given in to the worst impulses of its members and has taken every opportunity possible to spread and promote hateful ideologies,” McEwan said. Many people believe this due to the rise in ideas about keeping certain people out of America as well as many phrases heard on TV and social media such as “go back where you came from”. Racism and religious discrimination are key factors in these comments.
Most minorities and religious denominations have received this kind of hate for many years, but more recently it has been shown in the public eye by people who are “Christian Republicans”. However, Burnidge refers to the fact that “there is not a single Christian position on any of these political questions. So if you are interested or concerned about reproductive rights, for example, there are powerful Christian activists on many sides of this issue. The focus tends to be on Christians who would like to limit reproductive rights or overrule Roe v. Wade, but there are Christian activists and more generally religious activists who also support abortion rights. Christianity is not a one-sided religion and many people feel misrepresented when people combine Republicans and Christians. This raises another issue of some people turning away from religion as a whole due to misrepresentation seen and believed on social media. Students who have seen “protesters” come to campus and tell each of us that we are going straight to hell, may have noticed that the Wesley Foundation: United Methodist Campus Ministry has advocates who have come to counter-protest with signs. of love and acceptance. .
Although it may seem like a very complex idea that can be difficult to discuss in a single newspaper article, we can begin to understand and navigate religion and politics in the United States to learn more about their relationship. “What we see in the religion curriculum is that if you’re wondering why nobody talks about religion and politics, there’s a course for that,” Burnidge says. UNI offers a wide variety of religion and politics courses in the fall, which would be highly recommended for students who wish to learn more about these two subjects as well as their relationship to the United States. Having a discussion with classmates, friends and family can help to better understand their own ideologies while having meaningful discussions that bring people together in the direction of understanding each other.