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Faith and politics — a dish best served separately?

Is it dangerous for faith and politics to be mixed? (Photo of Seattle's St. James Cathedral by Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

Faith and politics — for many, the two powerful identities are inseparable. But the former deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush cautions not to mix the two together too firmly.

Peter Wehner, who also served in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations and is now a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, may have made himself known on the conservative side of the aisle, but he keeps an open mind about politics in relation to his Christian faith.

“I don’t think God is part of any political party, and to do so is a danger to faith and a danger to politics … God stands in judgment of all political ideologies and all political parties,” he said to the Dori Monson Show.

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It was for a similar statement that Wehner on Tuesday praised 2020 presidential candidate and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Twitter. Buttigieg, who is an openly gay and devoutly Christian Democrat, spoke of God’s political impartiality during a CNN Town Hall on Monday.

The political world is not a simplistic system in which one party is entirely moral and the other entirely immoral, according to Wehner. In reality, he stated, if Jesus came to America today, “he would find things that are problematic in both parties, and probably some things to praise in both parties.”

Wehner’s own Christian principles, such as the belief in the dignity of all human beings, have led him to be a conservative — but he acknowledged that this could always be a misinterpretation on his part.

“I say that [my faith has led me here], I hope, with some degree of humility and modesty, because I may well be wrong,” he said.

There are certain views on political topics that may fit better with a religion’s moral code, he pointed out, but it can be very challenging to make a statement with certainty that a deity would vote a particular way on a complex issue like the opioid epidemic or illegal immigration, for example.

Politicians can certainly argue that their faith and politics align closely, he went on, but they “need to hold lightly to that position, they need to be open to counter-arguments.” That’s something with which, Wehner said, Evangelical Christians on the far Right have trouble.

“It’s very very dangerous to hold onto the view that, ‘My way is the Christian way, or my way is the way that Jesus would end up, and if you disagree with me, you’re on the opposite side of Christianity and of Jesus,'” Wehner said.

That said, Wehner does not want people to keep faith and politics completely separate, but to make sure that they do not weaponize religion. He noted that “faith informed politics” throughout history, from the Founding Fathers to Martin Luther King, Jr., but that Christianity has been “disfigured and misused … turned into a political instrumentality” at different times as well.

“I’ve never thought that faith ought to be hermetically sealed off from politics, and the reason is that politics, which is about a lot of things, is fundamentally about justice,” he said. “And political actions have profound human consequences — at least they can — and therefore faith should have something to say about that.”

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