Religious people who keep quiet about politics are called quietists. But now we really need quietist to speak up!
Religion takes in all manner of personalities and burnishes what it receives. A mean person, adopting religion, becomes meaner. A kind person becomes kinder. And a political person can become loudly political, as is the case with American evangelical politics.
Political religion has much to lament. Politics interlaced with religious fervor invented many techniques for oppression (and not a few of the instruments of torture). The government of Gods was tried over and over again and it failed over and over again, and so our Founding Fathers founded the North American experiment separating religion from state.
All evangelical politicos say they draw their politics from the bible, but they do so selectively and with a good measure of interpretive subterfuge. It’s not the case that a bible text determines your political stance. Rather, your prior political stance determines your choice of text and also your interpretation of the text.
Jesus, having said “You cannot serve God and money,” was no more a capitalist than George Bernard Shaw. But in the evangelical-politico’s hands, even that passage can be made to conform to Wall Street.
We Americans are confronted daily with this outrageous spectacle: When evangelicals speak for God, they are mere ventriloquists in a soliloquy reducing the deity to the intemperate chatter of a backroom political hack.
But there is another way.
For centuries there have been religious people who are not political. They are called Quietists, who calmly accept things as they are.
For Quietist, the character of a national government is neither a barrier nor a boon to spirituality. A Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, a Zoroastrian, and the rest, may all be devout under any form of governance, no matter which way the wind blows.
Quietists are all around us but unfortunately, they are not well known. One of the displeasures of American religion is that the least admirable practitioners make all the noise and get all the attention.
And so it’s time to beg.
Please, Quietists, arrest your taciturnity. Ascend pulpits and platforms and the pinnacles of public media to announce that you have a better way to realize the relation between religion and politics. You may begin with these words: “Hush, hush, all you noisy religo-politicos.”