Does God Care Who I Vote For: A Review of an Interfaith Discussion Posted on December 11th, 2018 by

Religion and politics, the two topics banned from dinner conversations, were finally brought to the same table on December 5th in a panel discussion sponsored by the Chaplains’ Office and Religion Department. Chaplain Siri Erickson and Professors John Cha, Sam Kessler, and Fuad Naeem sought to give insight and stimulate student reflection on the interaction of these two topics.

We began by establishing what kinds of issues tend to come up when religion and politics interact (such as abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and war). Then it was time to look inward.

If you’re reading this, you’re invited to answer these questions for yourself as we go.


The panel asked:

Which issues most upset you when religion is involved?

Some common responses included reproductive healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, and immigration.

Are there issues that you think will always need religious insight?

For example, you could argue that a sense of religious connection and duty is needed when considering conservation or human rights.

What, if any, influence do your religious values have on your voting?

What are those values?


It can be overwhelming to try upholding all that you value at any given time, but especially when voting.  

Sometimes voting involves a decision about how to distribute a scarce resource.  This requires us to think about our priorities and how selfish or selfless we can stand to be.  

Professor Naeem told us about the Islamic word, Al-Haqq. It is one of Islam’s many names of God and means “the truth” or “righteousness.” In this righteousness as Dr. Naeem sees it, everyone has a claim or right to other people and their efforts. As people and things become closer to your heart and community, that right gets stronger.  You don’t have to fix everything. Start small and close to home.

Professor Cha added a Buddhist thought to this: if you are in a position of power or privilege, your first duty is to others and not yourself.  If you are a leader, your community has a claim on you. Use your power for the good of others whenever possible.

Scarcity is not always what’s at play when voting.  It was brought up during discussion that often, voting is not about scarcity, but rights and welfare.  The values and rights you fight and vote for will not always be the same as other voters. A student attending the panel told us about a class in which most students said they preferred to be in a diverse environment.  When venturing into diversity, there will likely be some disagreement.


How then do we deal with conversation between opposing political and religious views?   

Our Chaplain says that she always strives to maintain a sense of humility, curiosity, and compassion.  Sometimes our attitude towards a dialogue makes all the difference.Another student brought to our attention that we shouldn’t see the disagreement as the issue, but rather the actions people take because of it.

Everyone agrees that this friendly dialogue must be a mutual effort, but that is not always the case. If someone is not willing to compromise or see your inherent value, Professor Kessler reminds us that it’s okay to put up boundaries.  Jewish teachings have the phrase “an argument for the sake of heaven.” If the argument is not for the greater good, then maybe it’s better not to have it. Professor Cha reminded us that Buddhism has long held a balance between being open and having the strength to defend yourself.

One thing is certain for Professor Naeem, and for all of us; education and dialogue are what’s needed to reach an understanding and build community.  The Gustavus community has the opportunity to do just that.

Moving forward, think about what your core values are and how they influence you.  Ask yourself what you want to contribute to or see in a community of diverse voices.  


You could start a conversation asking a friend what place they think religion has in politics and start from there.  The people on the panel warmly invite you to stop in to Old Main and start conversations there to learn more about religious diversity and diverse viewpoints. You can also read more on this blog.


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