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Youth Column: Personal Faith and Politics

Monday December 14 2020

Politics student Sophia Johnston reflects on how her faith has shaped her world view.

It will be unsurprising that I, a politics student, have a lot of very strong political opinions.

My politics have been shaped by innumerable factors: my parents, growing up with the internet at my fingertips, the experience of working for minimum wage. I would certainly consider my faith to be one of the more significant of those factors.

I find the relationship between religion and politics to be fascinating – particularly in how it exists across the political spectrum. It’s arguable that religion (perhaps Christianity especially) is more commonly associated with the political right wing, but of course there are many people of faith on the left.

While I’m now (mostly) content to remark on how interesting it is to see how differently people have interpreted the Bible, I’ll admit it used to upset me quite a bit. I didn’t understand how some people could use the God and Jesus I had grown up knowing to justify cruelty and discrimination to certain people – those in the LGBT+ community in particular, as around this time I was working out that I wasn’t straight.

Even though I had always grown up in affirming churches, and my parents had both been advocating for gay people to have a place in the church since before I can remember, as a young teenager I had many moments of doubt in my faith because of this. Sadly, I’m sure it’s
a very common experience for gay kids who were raised Christian to have trouble reconciling their faith and their sexuality.

Even worse, I’m sure it’s less common for kids to do so in a Church environment which tells them that who they are is okay, the way I did. A lot of gay kids leave the Church for this reason, and it’s certainly understandable. I know I would have a
hard time telling any of those kids they were wrong. I count myself lucky to have overcome it, but when I was fourteen it did feel like Christianity itself was considered conservative –  despite my lived experience – and this was something that felt deeply hurtful to me.

A lot of critical thinking later (thanks, sociology classes…) and I still sometimes find it incredibly hard to understand how someone could read and learn about the teachings of Jesus and come out of it with right-wing politics. It may be worth taking this with a grain of salt, as this is coming from a socialist and I’m well aware that we all think our interpretations are the right one, but to me, Jesus could not more clearly epitomise the values of most modern socialists.

Socialism is founded on ideals of social equality – that all people should be treated equally and that no one is inherently better or worse than anyone else. Doesn’t this echo the biblical ‘treat others as you would have them treat you’? Countless stories in the New Testament about how Jesus helped those whom society shunned, his scepticism over those with wealth and power. There’s even a bible verse that says explicitly: “you cannot serve both God and
money” (Matthew 6:24). When I consider the evidence, I find it no surprise that the effect of my faith on my politics took me in a very left wing direction.

In this political climate, where everything feels so heightened and awfully important, I think it’s crucial to understand the values that underpin our politics. For people of faith, we should ensure that the values that stem from our religion are consistent with our politics. Even if this isn’t always as straightforward as we would perhaps like, I believe it’s still very important.

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