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Faith Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word

By Alexis Bohan

Editor’s Note: This is the 13th in a series of thoughts on the elections. Thanks to all those who submitted and if you want your voice heard email me at writing@noahbrier.com.

There is so much I want to say that it is hard for me to even organize it into a comprehensible mess. I can honestly say that I am heartbroken. I can’t think of anything I’ve believed in so strongly that has failed. And as we all know, belief is what it is all about in this country right now.

I am disturbed by the fact that Bush proclaims his Christianity. I am a Christian who strongly believes in the separation of church and state. His enormous arrogance in aligning himself with Christianity and becoming the poster boy for fundamentalist conservatism has turned not only foreign, but also domestic issues into a ridiculous holy war. In a holy war, you are never wrong. Everything—facts, odds, rational thinking, anything—can be against you but it doesn’t matter. It’s the scariest thing of all. It’s what makes our country so afraid of foreign religious fanatics, and what makes 51% of our country so supportive of domestic religious proponents.

I’m an optimistic person but right now it’s very difficult for me to imagine how this country will turn things around. Of course we will strategize over the next few years and try to figure out how we could possibly have lost this election, and what we can do better next time. The fact that we have a ‘next time’ is encouraging alone. But the crux of it is faith. I hate generalizations, but for the sake of figuring this out I’m going to make some. Knowing that it was “moral� issues that decided the fate of this election, I’m going to assume that for the most part, those who voted for Bush share his faith (meaning they believe he is a good Christian and is doing the right thing). By equating that belief with the Republican Party, he sealed his victory and illuminated America’s diametrically different sides. Republicans (in general) yearn to believe in something—they lead a faith-based existence. Democrats, on the other hand, by nature yearn to question things. Unity is easier through faith, more difficult through doubt. The Republican Party only has to present a few moral tenets and a lot of people who have already organized their hearts and lives around those same tenets jump on. Even more simplistically, for some people it really only takes one word—God—and they will jump on. Democrats, I think, are different (again, my apologies for generalizing). What is the overarching guiding force for the party? Civil liberties? Freedom of religion? Gay rights? I just don’t think there is one. There may be a Democratic mindset, but it’s nowhere near as strong as a religion that is 2000 years in the making.

As long as Bush aligns himself with the Christian viewpoint on the “moral� issues that decided the outcome of this election, those believers will stand by him, despite all of the things horribly wrong with his leadership. They will not waver. It’s extremely demoralizing to me, because I know some of these people very well. A lot of them are good people. And although apparently they (and Bush) believe in the same God I do, I have never felt more different from them. I desperately want to understand how we could hold the same things so dear and yet come to such a different conclusion when it comes to Bush, or politics in general.

I hate to bemoan a problem without offering an attempt at a solution. I’m not sure what we, the defeated, should do right now. I know we can’t be discouraged to the point of hopelessness. I don’t mean to suggest by all of this that the conservative Christian majority will always dominate politics with Republican policy. I’m a Christian, and not a Republican. There are other people like me in this country (yes we do exist). So obviously it doesn’t have to be an automatic association. But people think it is. How many times have people learned I was a Christian and gave me an indignant “So you like Bush?� Thankfully I could reply with an emphatic “No�, but despite my answer, the condescension and haughtiness was already present. You will never win people over like this. You will never succeed in trying to convince people that their religion is bullshit. And, if you truly do believe in the freedom of religion, you wouldn’t even try.

To me, the Democratic Party is supposed to be one of inclusion, not exclusion. This means everyone should be welcomed regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. It’s about not letting talking heads divide us through our differences. This party needs to be the living example that people who may seem extremely different from, or even polar opposites of, each other (Atheist and Christian, for example) can coexist in a mutually respectful, positive way. I honestly believe this is possible, and I hope that we as a party really do too. Beliefs aren’t just about religion. As Democrats we should never stop asking questions, but we should never be afraid to believe passionately in something either. The most powerless thing in a nation of believers is a faithless party.

Alexis Bohan maintained morals despite four years of business school and now has “tipping point” in her job title.

November 6, 2004