TEXAS FAITH 76: Is it good or bad that God and religion have gone missing in the presidential race?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

A funny thing happened in the presidential race. God has left the stage. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is putting religious faith in the spotlight – certainly not like earlier in the GOP primary when Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich routinely invoked God and faith in framing their political views. George W.  Bush was among our most religiously expressive presidents. And four years ago, Barack Obama very publicly hired a religious-affairs director on his campaign team and, angering some liberals, promised he would keep predecessor Bush’s faith-based initiatives intact if elected president. Nothing like that is happening now. Georgetown University professor Jacques Berlinerblau says “faith and values politicking” is nearly invisible in this year’s general election.

“Ah 2008! Good times for Faith and Values politicking, be it red or blue. It seemed every candidate – from Mike Huckabee to John Edwards – was invoking God on the stump and seasoning his or her rhetoric with scriptural allusions. Yet now that we have entered the 2012 general election  F and V campaigning is at its lowest ebb since the 1996 presidential campaign,” Berlinerblau wrote recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

There are reasons: Romney’s Mormon faith is something that some in the GOP base are uncomfortable with. As for Obama, says Berlinerblau, “no bone-crushing, rain-making, coalition of religious progressives has emerged to support him.” The most active religion-talk this election is not coming from the candidates but the clergy – specifically, Catholic bishops on the issue of contraception. As the cable-news pundits remind daily, this election is about the economy. And so Faith and Values politicking isn’t front and center this year. Is that good or bad?

Is our electoral process better off without the polarizing issues of faith-based politics at center stage? Or does the absence of explicit moral and religious expression impoverish our political debate? Our Texas Faith panel weighs in:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Material energy is characterized by the quality of atrophy, and opposite to that is the spiritual energy, which is ever existent.  For example, the body is always changing – the cells that were in our body at birth are no longer in the body at 18, for the body has changed.  Despite the natural reincarnation that takes place in the body during this very life, the owner of the body is still the same individual.  That person, being made of spiritual energy is ever existent, despite the changes of the body.

Not only is the material energy subject to constant aging but even the discussions in regards to the material energy are always doomed to become stale.  Another example: Say you watch the latest popular movie and tell your friends about it.  In the beginning there may be some flavor to the discussion but eventually such a discussion becomes old and stale.  But on the other side, if someone has some significant knowledge of God and spiritual topics, such a discussion does not have an expiration date, but rather becomes more interesting and revealing as time goes on.

Therefore because the leaders are not sufficiently experienced in higher matters of the self they are then forced to speak about the same old stale topics, topics that are simply the symptoms of a greater spiritual problem.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.