Public life is a “…battlefield where everyone’s individual private interests meet everyone else’s” (Hegel). If beliefs could just be private, it sure would simplify things. Some people think they should be private. Ironically, that’s a belief.
In the U.S., faith-based views in public often trigger concerns about separation of church and state. But public life is broader than government. Church, state, the press, the entertainment industry–all these influence social norms.
Imagine what the country would look like if churches just circled in cul-de-sacs without concern for neighbor or nation? Universities, hospitals, and charities are the result of faith going public to serve the common good. Where things run amuck is when it goes public for power rather than influence.
Are all beliefs religious?
Everyone believes something. Every conclusion we draw is based on partial information. Even today’s science can become tomorrow’s science fiction. That’s not to say there are no facts, but only that our values profoundly influence how we interpret what we observe.
Now and then, I see people of faith selectively dismissed as biased. But an emotional investment in any idea can produce blind spots no matter your worldview. Self-awareness assists objectivity better than raw skepticism.
“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.” C.S. Lewis
“The truth will out”
Christians sometimes are labeled as hypocrites. I take this concern seriously rather than defensively. For faith to have integrity it must be lived from innermost identity to outermost public influence. The inward call is to recognize one’s heart of darkness, freed by grace alone, like a beggar finding bread. The outward call is to express through deeds what might later be explained through words. When people have been changed inwardly through faith and express it outwardly through service, words are invited rather than inflicted.
Someone’s values are always influencing public life. Words get invented or sharpened as weapons to slice up opposing values. Instead, values become compelling by living them. A great test of any value: “What if everyone lived it?”
Should faith trump politics?
If genuine Christianity seeks to live grace and truth from the inside out, then why (you may ask) did many Christians seem to identify with a presidential candidate so devoid of public virtue? I share this concern. But which candidate?