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Saturday, November 20, 2010

TEXAS FAITH: Why do our faiths shape some political views, but not others?

TEXAS FAITH: Why do our faiths shape some political views, but not others?
Oct 12, 2010  Dallas Morning News
William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist      

  We have heard plenty in recent years about how people of faith are getting involved in politics. From the Rev. Jim Wallis on the left to the Rev. Richard Land on the right, faith leaders are now a regular part of our political equation. What's more, the voting patterns of people who take their faith seriously are followed closely by such analysts as John Green of the University of Akron.

But here's an interesting finding by the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life, one organization that follows the political decisions of religiously-minded voters:

 In a poll last month, Pew found that while many say their religious beliefs greatly influence their views about social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, religion matters much less when it comes to their opinions about issues like immigration and the environment.

Here are some high points from the survey:

!. "Despite the fact that many religious leaders have been outspoken advocates for immigration reform, just 7% of adults who take a position on immigration say that religion is the most important influence on their views on this issue. About one-in-four churchgoers (24%) say the clergy at their places of worship have spoken out about immigration, nearly the same as in 2006. About half of those who hear about immigration in church say their clergy are favorable to immigrants and immigration, but nearly one-quarter are hearing anti-immigration messages."

2. "In contrast with the issue of immigration, 35% say religion is the top influence on their thinking about same-sex marriage, including fully 60% among those who oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. More than four-in-ten (44%) hear clergy speak out about homosexuality in church, with the overwhelming majority hearing negative messages about homosexuality. On the issue of abortion, 26% overall say religion is the most important influence on their opinion, including 45% among abortion opponents."

Of course, no one expects a religious faith to shape your views on, say, transportation issues. But this report gets into areas where it's very likely that one's faith would have an influence.

With that setup in mind, here's this week question:

Why would there be such a divide between where one's faith informs their views?

Read on to see what our panel has to say and to share your comments.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
A causal relationship exists between what one hears from the pulpit and his/her disposition towards the issues reflected in the survey. Causal relationships exist when one variable causes a change in another variable.

In the segment of survey where religion matters most, conservative positions on same sex marriage and abortion are 60% and 45% respectively, whereas their numbers go south on issues like death penalty, government assistance to poor, immigration and environment.

The survey seems to confirm one's proclivities towards declarative statements jumping out of the pulpits towards same sex marriage and abortion, whereas the numbers fall when there are no specific positions taken on issues like immigration or environment in the scriptures. If other faith traditions were included in the survey, the attitudes would have been similar.

An element of hypocrisy is embedded in what is conveyed from the pulpit. An excessive emphasis is placed on homosexuality which the scriptures do not "appear" to favor, but that is not the only item that is disfavored. An equally strong punishment is prescribed for adultery and incest which are down played by the clergy as though they don't exist.

There are severe gaps in the immigration variable, even though the clergy is speaking favorably. Since only half of those who hear the clergy mention it, there is a loss in the communication of the message or its intensity.

The liberal opposition to death penalty sticks out with 32 points in contrast with 13 points with the conservatives. Here again, liberals value life above the conservatives whose opinions are influenced by an eye for an eye, over and above the forgiveness component of the equation.

There is something amazing that jumps out of this survey. That is the treatment of life and non-life issues.

There is a positive correlation between procreation of life and opposition to homosexuality, abortion and death penalty, whereas the response on non-life topics like environment, government assistance or immigration is negative.

To build cohesive societies we need to be truthful and resist the temptations to make devils out of other people, it is in our interests to take out the imaginary conflicts and deal with the real conflicts of space, sustenance and nurturance.

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