2012 Election: Politics & Religion

“Hi, my name is Brooke and I have zero involvement in government and politics.” I feel like this is a sign that I need to wear prominently across my chest when meeting someone new in this town. Admittedly, I don’t pay that much attention to politics because the inability to get anything done and the bickering between both parties drives me nuts. But as the election season nears I’ve been finding myself reading more and paying closer attention to the candidates and some of the major news stories surrounding the election.

Religion is already shaping up to be a major factor in this election. Mitt Romney is a Mormon (although only four in 10 Americans polled know that), John Huntsman is a Mormon too but claims he’s not very religious, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann both identify with evangelical Christianity, and Rick Santorum is Catholic. On top of that, even since the 2008 election, 18% of Americans continue to wrongly say that Obama is a Muslim, not Christian.

Speaking of Obama, you might remember the controversy over Reverand Jeremiah Wright that ensued during the 2008 election over inflammatory remarks in his sermons uncovered by news organizations, eventually leading the Obamas to resign their membership from the church.  On the Republican side, Sarah Palin faced her own scrutiny where she had to prove she wasn’t affiliated with a pentecostal church, and John McCain had to reject support from pastor John Hagee after he made inflammatory and anti-Semitic comments.

Moving back to 2012, recently Rick Perry drew some criticism over a prayer summit that he held, sparking charges of associating with an anti-gay rights group and blurring the lines between church and state. Michele Bachmann has faced scrutiny over her former church holding anti-Catholic views, and over her husband’s Christian counseling center that allegedly practices anti-gay “reparative” therapy. And some voters, particularly those who come from an evangelical background may have negative perceptions of Romney’s Mormon faith.

Of particular interest to me here at Woolly is Perry and Bachmann (and also Ron Paul) who are reported to be members of the “Dominionism” movement. This movement is the belief that Christians have the God-given right to rule Earth’s institutions and to take over the “seven mountains of society,” including family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. In A Bright New Boise the  character Will is a devout believer in evangelical Christianity—he believes that his life is meaningless and spreading God’s message is his only purpose in his life. He spends his time summoning the Rapture as a means of deliverance. I think one of the questions the play tries to ask is how much do you let your beliefs dictate your life and your interactions with those around you?

Now personally, I would vote for a candidate if I believed in their policy decisions and felt they’d be a strong leader regardless of their religion. But I do wonder if there is legitimate cause for concern about these super religious candidates, should we be worried that they won’t be able to keep the separation of church and state? Will they reverse certain policy decisions based on religious beliefs?

In elections there is always the debate over how much people’s decisions are based on policy positions and how much on personal qualities of the candidate. Which causes me to wonder that although there has been a lot of media hype and discussion about these candidates’ religious backgrounds, how much will it really matter? The economy is once again faltering, and it seems as if many people will be voting for a candidate based upon who they think will be best to create jobs. The Washington Post even reports that the decline of Michele Bachmann’s popularity recently can partially be attributed to voters’ lack of faith in her ability to handle the economy.

What do you think? Will religion be a major factor in this election? How much should the religious beliefs of the candidates matter, and do you think that a candidate’s beliefs can affect their ability to be an effective leader?

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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