Keep the Faith? – Dani Wendricks

As you may or may not remember from my last blog post, I have a slight obsession with news programming. In the aftermath of the election, I was camped out on the couch, glued to the television, watching the news to ease my anxieties (though really maybe intensifying them). Simply put, that week was a sleepless and emotion-filled blur. I heard commentary on the endless counting of absentee ballots, announcements of states turning red or blue, analyses of the demographics of counties, and most relevant to this blog post, a sprinkle of Christian euphemisms and quotes.

Throughout the week, Joe Biden reminded his fellow Americans to “keep the faith.” In his Saturday night speech after being announced as the elected President, Biden shared a rendition of a popular bible verse, “to everything there is a season: a time to build, a time to reap, and a time to sow and a time to heal,” and a hymn that he associated with his deceased son, Beau: “And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand.”

I feel like I’m at a crossroads with these religious undertones within our political sphere.

I don’t consider myself very religious anymore, but like Biden, I’ve leaned on religious texts during emotionally charged times in my life. Ironically enough, it was Biden’s book, “Promise Me, Dad,” that I cherished during an especially uncertain time a few years back. It is very clear that Biden is a man of God and that his faith has been his rock as he has navigated his life.

While religious text and references to Christianity can make me feel like I’m wrapped in a hug from my grandparents, they can also stimulate a sudden cringe that causes my body to curl up. I am often bothered by the constant presence of Christianity in society. The traditions are exclusive and don’t represent or encompass the ideals of so many of my fellow Americans. Biden is looking to unify our nation, but Christianity is not something we all have in common. To many, Christianity or even the mention of God brings an overwhelming sense of division and harm, due to the history of using the religion as a weapon to control, assimilate, colonize, and oppress particular identity groups.

Unlike our often polarized news programming, I empathize and see value in both sides. While Biden exemplifies so many of the privileged identity types, it does kind of feel like a double standard to deprive him of his religious identity. That said, could he tone down the religious references? I’d say so. But also, I suppose maybe he was using Christianity to round up some conservative support? Is oppressing some folks to please other folks okay? I don’t find that morally right. Clearly, I still don’t have an insightful answer or opinion to how to negotiate identity and religion within the political sphere.

To get down to the bottom of this debate, I think we all need to hold close to heart a sentiment that President Elect Biden communicated in his acceptance speech. He said that he wants to have an America where we all “listen to each other again.” I share this dream with him. I’d like to live in a country where folks of all religious backgrounds can talk and listen and question the systems of power. Maybe once we listen to folks again, and especially folks that our system has relentlessly oppressed, we can make decisions that reflect the good of all people. 

So with that, let’s listen, share, and learn from different perspectives —How can one be loyal to faith and identity, while still keeping church and state separate? How can we expect a person to keep church and state separate if their faith is essential to their being? When faith is wrapped up into humanity, how must a politician govern?

4 thoughts on “Keep the Faith? – Dani Wendricks”

  1. You have truly hit the nail on the head with this post. I too struggle often with the distinction between separation of Church and State and having your religious values dictate your political ones. It is a hard one to balance and figure out and to be honest, I do not have answers to your questions. Since I am Jewish, I tend to have more of the cringe reaction to the reciting of Bible verses by politicians, but I also can’t help but feel the warm hug sensation when Bernie Sanders speaks of Chanukah or Yom Kippur. Obviously, we want our government to be run by people with morals, and morals typically come from religion, so the question becomes how can we allow our politicians to be religious and moral, without letting the religious scruples impact those that don’t follow the same faith… Again, I have no answers and only more questions!

  2. Thanks for proposing these interesting and important issues, Dani! It really is such a difficult balance to strike between respecting everyone’s right to have and express their faith publicly and realizing that some religions hold much more historical, political, and social privilege than others and must be exercised with this in mind. Oftentimes, people do not really like to hear and admit that, causing tension. I fully agree that openminded listening is key, especially by members of the privileged religions to those of historically oppressed religions.

  3. Hello,

    I thought your insight was great. I felt conflicted when listening to the president-elect as we are supposed to be living in a nation that has church and state separate. But again, for Biden his faith is important and that rings true for many Americans. I see that for me my faith in Islam is key and when achieving victories and unifying people I turn to my faith for answers on how to do it. So I am not 100% sure of how to keep church and state separate when faith guides so many people’s life.

  4. Hi Dani – this post expressed so well what I have not been able to in the past regarding the intersection of religion and politics! I also find it interesting that so much of our political activities have religious undertones. I respect that Biden’s faith is very important to him, and the fact that it has helped him navigate situations in his life. However, like you noted in your post, not everyone identifies with Christianity and in fact, many Americans do not. Almost of all of my friends growing up were of Christian background, and as a result, I learned a lot about Christianity. My immediate friends were always sensitive of the fact that I did not know much about Christianity as I practiced Sikhi; however, it was clear that some at school expected me to know Christian ways. For example, I remember specific instances of being ridiculed for not knowing the religious reason behind Christmas and people telling me that I should follow the teachings of Jesus. I have tremendous respect for Jesus and his teachings, but I remember feeling uncomfortable in that moment. Relating this back to the separation of the church and state, I think it’s important for Biden to recognize that he has religious privilege. I don’t cringe when I hear the Bible verses, but it almost makes me feel excluded from the discussion is how I would describe it because people who understand and know the Bible will relate far more than I can to what he is saying. All in all, I don’t really know what is the best way to keep church and state separate, and I don’t that that will ever be possible. Based off of this, I think recognition of other religions and dedicating national holidays for important days of other religions could be a step towards inclusivity.

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