Faith, Politics and Your Vote, Part Two

Our Panel Discussion on Faith and the Vote Continues

Salam Al-Marayati Fr. John Coleman, SJ Dr. Richard Land
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra Varun Soni Fr. Larry Snyder


<<Part One

BustedHalo (BH): Should our beliefs/values as people of faith inform our political decisions?

Fr. John Coleman: Of course it should and it does, but those values are multiple, and therefore it becomes really difficult to take just one as a yardstick. I’m pro-life as my value, but to make that the benchmark, then I would have to vote for the two candidates that, in my

“Our beliefs and values cannot help but inform our political decisions. God is the God of the whole world, not just the inside of the sanctuary.” —Alexia Salvatierra

opinion, do more harm to the common good. No candidate perfectly mirrors my Catholic values, but if I take a number of them, such as preferential option for the poor and concern for the international common good and the environment, it’s quite clear to me who should get my vote.

Fr. Larry Snyder: The reality is all political decisions are moral decisions because they ultimately affect people’s lives and influence the values and practices of our society. A person of faith is obligated to be formed and informed by the moral teachings of that faith. Any contrary action threatens the credibility of discipleship. If you were placed on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Alexia Salvatierra: Our beliefs and values cannot help but inform our political decisions. God is the God of the whole world, not just the inside of the sanctuary. However, to recognize God as God is to humble oneself, to not pretend to absolute knowledge. We make our decisions in fear and trembling, prayerfully respecting the positions of those who disagree with us. At the same time, there are several, core biblical themes that are hard to ignore—more than 600 verses on economic justice, for example. Of course, beyond specific texts, at the core of our faith is the belief that all people are equally beloved by God and that we are all family. We are out brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. This core truth carries multiple implications for public policy.

Richard Land: We should vote our values, beliefs and convictions and not our narrow self-economic interests. For each person of faith, those values will differ. For me, I could never vote for someone who isn’t pro-life. I’m pro-life and pro-family, and believe in laws that encourage family formation.

BH: What would you tell a young adult or first-time voter about his or her role in choosing the next president?

Alexia Salvatierra: Pay close attention to the candidate’s beliefs, histories and policy proposals. Do you believe that the candidate will be about the building of the beloved community—of a society where everyone is equally valued and welcomed? Will they work for the common good and care for the most vulnerable? Does the candidate have a track record of listening to and respecting the voices of all the people, even the most “unimportant?” The right person will set up the processes that will make true democracy possible.

Fr. John Coleman: As a Catholic, I would say Catholic social thought has this enormous, wonderful idea of the common good, not just for Catholics, but for all of us in a pluralist society. We need to support the further flourishing of human life and the implications of doing the opposite. Frankly, I’m scared to death about one of the candidates.

Varun Soni: I would tell him or her to extensively research the candidate’s position on the major electoral issues to determine which one best represents their own political positions. I would also advise them to choose the candidate who clearly articulates the interconnectedness of the issues and the interdependence of all nations.

Salam Al-Marayati: Assess the candidate’s stand on human rights abroad and pluralism here in America. Has this person taken a leadership role in countering hate and prejudice in our society? It takes a special kind of person to fight prejudice in our society.

Richard Land: Be an informed voter and know where the candidates stand. Character is important: They can make all the promises they want but unless they demonstrate character, you can’t believe them.

Fr. Larry Snyder: As a first-time voter, you have the opportunity to mold the leadership and values of this country. But most important, your vote defines who you are and how you perceive your fellow human beings. Our faith calls us not to a life of self-centeredness or selfishness, but to a life given in service, mindful of the reality of doing our part to build the kingdom of God in our own time and space. Where will you vote fall?

<<Part One