Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The "God Gap"

The theory of the "God gap" suggests that religious Americans are conservative and will vote Republican while non-religious Americans are liberal and will vote Democratic. This theory has been prominent in press reporting and political maneuvering in the 2004 presidential race. At their recent conventions, both parties seemed to grapple with faith dynamics and respond to the perceived God gap in interesting, unexpected ways. For example, the Republicans tried hard to keep faith out of the primetime convention speeches, while the Democrats were determined to give religion its share of the limelight.

Stephen Waldman, a former editor for U.S. News and World Report, and co-founder and CEO of Beliefnet, has followed the election closely and argues that the "God Gap" is a myth. Recent polls have shown that while there is a divide between those who go to church more than once a week and those who don't go at all, the percentage of americans for whom religion, prayer and a relationship with God is important divides between the parties.

All this brings me to an experience I had recently; Janelle and I were visiting Doug and Katrina in DC this weekend and the sunday school teacher, as sunday school teachers are unfortunately wont to do, expressed her political opinion that people should vote according to how "religious" the candidate is. Apart from the fact that being "religious" in the sectarian sense of the term doesn't necessarily make a good leader (Lincon never went to church, but was a very spiritual man), you really can't tell look into someones heart to see how genuinely faithful they are.

I would hope that whoever is in power acknowledge (implicitly) a spiritual aspect to their life, but making overt religosity a part of politics only encourages people to fake it. Is faith important for me? Yes. Do I want a moral president? Yes. Do I want someone who does a great job at pretending to be both religious and moral as president? Of course not. Do I care to know whether as president, a candidate will pray in a certain way, or to a certain God? Not at all.


At 9/22/2004 12:48:00 PM,

Your thoughts parallel mine. Reagan was also an enigma on religion. He strongly recommended religion to the American people, yet as far as outwardly appearances were concerned, he didn't seem all that religious himself. Reading his personal letters reveals otherwise, but I think he took a more modest approach toward religion than Bush, who in a truly evangelical way externalizes and vocalizes his own personal religioin ad nauseum.

At 9/23/2004 06:06:00 PM,

I think it’s funny that a president today would promote his religion to gain votes. JFK had to insist that his devotion to Catholicism would not guide his presidential decisions. Today, Kerry proves that one can practice Catholic principles and support policies that contradict that practice, for which he’s taken heat. Why was JFK exonerated after his statement, yet Kerry is criticized for apparently putting into action what JFK promised?

I would say the final qualification is not religiosity, but morality. I don’t care how the candidate achieves that morality. However, it has to conform to my standard of morality, for that standard is as unique as individuals. My standard of morality stems greatly, if not entirely, from my religion. This still doesn’t mean that I am choosing based on religiosity. There is more that one way to arrive at a standard of morality with which I agree. This is something that I think more latter-day saints would do well to understand: that the church does not have a monopoly of every good belief. I’ve digressed, so I’ll call it quits for now.

At 9/24/2004 10:55:00 AM,

The sunday school teacher Chris referenced prefaced her comment with the sentence, "I don't care about a candidate's economic policy, I vote for the candidate that is the most Christian." My question: Can't so-called economic policies be a good indicator of a person's morality? Don't candidates spend money on things they think are good or right, and withhold money from policies they deem bad? Are/should the more notable moral issues such as abortion, same-sex marriate, etc. be the dealbreakers in an election?

At 9/25/2004 05:16:00 PM,

I agree with what Mark said about morality. Although, similar, there is a huge difference between morals and the religious leanings of a person. There can be an association, but definitely not a causation. Morals do tie in there, of course, but too many candidates fatally attempt to use God and relious undertones as qualifyiers that merely come off as propaganda. Bush and Carter, for example, -- religious, good men meant to lead an intervention for a friend, not a country. Unfortunately for the voting public, especially LDS, this whole religious issue grossly overshadows other far more important qualities that make a succesful, respected president.
Running a country has little to do with religion or how cohesive it may be to someone else's and everything to do with principles, ability, and respect. Knowing that most presidents don't fulfill all those pre-electorial promises anyway (amongst other things that tend to happen that weren't "originally planned"), it ironically seems that a candidate who is banking on religiosity is only setting himself up for loss of credibility.

At 9/25/2004 10:06:00 PM,

Hey Tueller!




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