Here is my latest for The Huffington Post, “The WikiLeaks Drama: Religion and Politics”.
The WikiLeaks exposure of DNC emails surrounding the primaries may be damaging to the progressive movement. Just when you think that the elections and the primaries are a democratic exercise, you realize that within this process corruption and manipulation are deeply imbedded. This WikiLeaks exposes how the DNC leadership strongly pushed Hilary to become coronated and there was no way that Bernie Sanders would clinch the nomination.
I became a US citizen in Fall 2015. I was very elated to vote in my first primary and made the effort to get out and vote. Now being aware that the weight of my vote is distorted by the influence of a few with the upperhand, I am not sure that I will have that same excitement to get out to vote for a president on November 8th.
The information shared on WikiLeaks is troubling to say the least. One leak entails an email about portraying Bernie Sanders as an atheist. An email from May 2016 and sent from DNC CFO Brad Marshall suggested that they should “get someone to ask” Mr. Sanders his views on religion:
“It might make no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God? He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist,” wrote Mr Marshall.
I grew up in Canada with the understanding that following a religion or one’s religious beliefs was a private matter. Canadian politicians do not need to share their own personal beliefs as they run for office, nor do the public hold expectations that their religion directly reflects political values. Religion is a personal affair and should not interfere with a public political realm.
In the United States, even though we claim to have separation between religion and state, there still seems to be tracings of a tightly bound relationships that between the two. It seems as though it is everybody’s business to know the religious beliefs of those who run for public office. How can we forget when a reporter asked George W. Bush who is favorite philosopher was and Bush replied, “Jesus Christ”. It is no surprise that every president up to JFK was Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalist or Methodist, Northern Baptist or Quaker. No Catholics, no Jews, and no Irish, Italians, or Germans.
Religion and politics pushes us to reflect on the passage in Matthew 6:1-2 where Jesus says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. … But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.”
This passage asks us to examine whether we are being religious to put on a show for others to see, or whether our religion is practiced so that it becomes a piety between ourselves and God. American politics seems to share a similarity with the former rather than the latter.
Candidates use religion as a qualification advantage. Donald Trump keeps talking about his Presbyterian upbringing, Mike Pence puts his religion first and stated, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a republican, in that order” and now Tim Kaine’s Catholic religious beliefs are becoming an important discussion about Clinton’s VP pick.
To me, religion should not be so much a public statement of faith, because anybody can do the talk—that is too easy. Religion should be more than an articulated expression on how we choose to live out our lives. That means you do not wear a 12K Giorgio Armani jacket as Hillary Clinton did at a speech on equality. But it means you do something to care for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts and the broken hearted. I think we saw a glimpse of that in Bernie’s historical legacy, and that does not need a public profession of one’s personal belief in God.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author of Embracing the Other;Making Peace with the Earth;Here I Am;Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justiceco-edited with Jenny Daggers;Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style”co-written with Joseph Cheah;Reimagining with Christian Doctrinesco-edited with Jenny Daggers;Contemplations from the Heart;Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit;The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other; and The Grace of Sophia. She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.