One of the tests that has been issued by those who have been running for the office of presidency in this election cycle is that of faith. The question, “Does faith matter?” This is not the first election cycle that the question on faith has taken such prominence. Some historians argue that it came to the fore when the Moral Majority led the way that brought President Regan into office; others say it started when President Nixon, as a candidate invited Evangelist Billy Graham and other religious leaders to his rallies and later to the White House, to pray. Some say it was 1953 when President Eisenhower attended the dedicatory prayer breakfast of the International Christian Leadership group. One might not be able to identify the truth of a beginning, but it is most significant that we are where we are today, and that in every cycle somehow the question of faith is pressed. Who has faith and who does not?
Some candidates have been claiming that they have faith while others do not have faith at all. What I find interesting is that when some candidates go on to describe what they mean by faith, it is hard to be convinced that they know what they are talking about. They seem not to be able to distinguish between faith as one’s personal conviction and commitment to God, and faith as the identification of one’s religion or denomination. They run the descriptions together and are confounding the public, and causing more conflict than is needed.
Except one is a total secularist, one should know that faith matters. It is said, “Faith permeates our world, providing a moral and ethical compass for the vast majority of people.” But I wonder how many who claim to have faith demonstrate a difference in their moral and ethical compass? When we hear people in the public sphere challenging and accusing each other concerning faith, we need to be asking, how does such faith affect:
Their portrayal of God? What kind of God do they serve?
The consistency of their belief practices? Are they about public show or are they transformed in their private world?
Their attitude of compassion toward each other? Are they kind?
Their effort to build unity in community? Are they divisive?
The ways in which they speak of each other? Is the language used to describe those about them, courteous and graceful or crude and disgraceful?
Their tolerance of each other? Must all who have views contrary to theirs be cast aside?
Their receptivity of people? Are all who are outside of their sphere, enemies?
Their view of the economic system? Are they more about greed then need?
The way that they treat the environment? Do they care about the health and wellbeing of others?
The true sign that one has genuine faith is reflected in the role faith plays in one’s personal life , in one’s relationship with each other, and in the way it helps the person to bring about social change. This is the Biblical view. Maybe instead of asking the question of the public leaders alone, each one needs to ask of oneself, “Do I have faith?” Is my faith making a serious difference in the world? Or is my faith looking more like a fake or fraud?