Jewish Journal

Is Religion Just About Sex and Guns?

by Rav Yosef Kanefsky

March 20, 2012 | 1:14 pm

When a candidate runs as a devoutly religious person, what kinds of public positions does he or she take? In the political contest playing out in presently, the foreign policy positions of the devoutly religious are hawkish, and their social policy positions are conservative. The devoutly religious politician is anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-feminism. The same general pattern (with shades of difference) holds true among devoutly religious politicians in many other countries, regardless of which one of the world’s major religions is being practiced there.

Is this the only voice that the devoutly religious can bring to the political sphere? We know that it isn’t. When Isaiah brought his voice to the political sphere for example, he spoke neither of God’s demand that we utilize military force to uproot idolaters, nor of the need to insure that our womenfolk are properly chaste. He spoke instead about how the widows and orphans can’t get justice, how small landowners are being forced off their land by the larger, more powerful owners, and how the elite political class is too self-absorbed in material pleasure to care or even know. He spoke of the urgent need to fill the world with knowledge of God so that warfare would become obsolete. He cautioned against reflexively seeking military solutions to all threats, emphasizing that the nation’s security will ultimately be determined by its pursuit of social righteousness and its consciousness of God. 

There is no shortage, tragically, of evils in today’s world.  Every devoutly religious person is undoubtedly moved by and concerned about the fact that 15 million American children live in poverty, that 40 % of minority students nationally aren’t graduating high school. Every devoutly religious person can’t help but be horrified at the rape and killing of women and children in the Congo or at the starvation in Southern Sudan, or by the carnage created by the drug wars just south of our border - drug wars funded by drug consumption here at home. Wouldn’t it be inspiring if these issues were the ones most that were central to the platforms of our devoutly religious politicians? Which is not at all to say that the defense of our homeland, the thwarting of terrorism and the promotion of a sexual ethic that honors sacred relationships, are not vitally important issues as well. But they occupy just a portion of what the religious person sees when he looks out at the world and the people who live inhabit it.

I am a devoutly religious person.  And I believe that our deepest religious values should inform our political views. And I am befuddled and disturbed by the fact that our leaders who wear their religion on their sleeves, exhaust their passions on our military challenges abroad and birth-control pills at home. The world awaits the expression of America’s deep historical religious passions for justice, compassion, and peace for all humankind.

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