Faith in our leaders
Last month, events transpired that solidified the role faith would play in the coming election. In Jacksonville, Fla., Donald Trump said, “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”
Many journalists took these comments as an initiative to really examine the Adventist Church and its beliefs.
As a church, it seems we have welcomed the speculation, leaving judgments to the public rather than defending our beliefs. In an interview with Times Free Press, Steven Grabiner, pastor of the East Ridge Seventh-day Adventist Church said, “[the Church] is comfortable in the spotlight, because the Church—both in practical ways and spiritual ways—has made a contribution to the larger good of society.”
Though we expect Trump-esque comments to be routine from our political “experts” due to the obscurity of our church, they allude to a much larger issue: the role of religion in modern politics.
According to Vice News writer Diane Winston, there exists a large group of spiritual “nones” in America. She says that though the term is vague, it can be defined as a group who doesn’t “[identify] with a particular faith tradition.” The reason this group is worth noting is that it’s growing.
With major Christian denominations declining in numbers, “a full 36 percent of millennials are ‘unaffiliated.’”
Despite falling numbers in most major Christian denominations, a study done by The Economist shows that about 30 percent of unaffiliated voters “still want politicians to have a strong faith.” A dichotomy rears its head upon further inspection of this study: one of America’s founding principles was the separation of church and state, yet we have developed into a “Christian” nation.
Early in the candidates’ campaigns, save Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s, religious affiliations were made clear. To no surprise, all candidates professed some form of Christian or Catholic faith.
Faith and its emphasis often set the groundwork for how the public will view candidates and their policies. For example, Republican and Democrat candidates are expected to disagree on issues such as abortion, gun control, marijuana and border control, to name a few.
Though faith is a factor, voters still consider policy the major, if not number one, determinant as to who will win their vote, according to a Barna Group study. Still, according to Christianity Today, faith arguably affects how many candidates determine and justify policies they uphold. In other words, while policy is the main focus in elections, faith is said to influence policy.
Ben Carson and a number of other Republican candidates feel this election comes loaded with the question of America’s faith. In an interview, Carson said, “Our nation has to make a decision, and that is: Are we people of faith, or are we not people of faith? …And there’s no question that we’re right on the precipice of deciding…”
Setheesh is a sophomore mathematics and religious education major.90.