“Compassion is not weakness and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
A politician spoke those words growing out of the teaching of his Christian faith. Hubert Humphrey, vice president of the United States, candidate for president in 1968, had no hesitance about mixing religion and politics then, and no pastor, priest or rabbi of the 350,000 congregations in the United States should today. It is a moral imperative.
Humphrey grew up with a churchgoing mother filled with the Social Gospel of good works and a politically active father filled with democratic ideas of how to make a better life possible for everyone. It was a good marriage, a fusion of secular and spiritual, of compassion and concern.
Contrary to the contemporary bromide of not mixing religion and politics, church and state, they and millions more did. The result is a better nation reflecting the true greatness of America, not again, but still.
Their inspiration flowed in part from their South Dakota small town Methodist pastor and friend. He didn’t tell them how to vote, but to him, the Ten Commandments were of this world and our precious earthly lives.
The Decalogue was not a prescription for angels in heaven, but for sinners and the holy here. A preacher, of any religion, should, in fact, mix religion and politics. To remain silent is to make the heavenly city on earth into a slum.
Humphrey, Eleanor Roosevelt (Protestants) and Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers (a Catholic), David Dubinsky, (president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers) (Jewish) worked with Reinhold Niebuhr, the leading Protestant theologian of his time to create the Americans for Democratic Action. For Niebuhr, it was simply an extension of his faith. For them all, it was an enthusiastic concern for all God’s children and governmental compassion where that was needed.
At least 20 percent of Americans go to church each Sunday, in blue states and red states, and they can make a difference. Devout doesn’t mean voting Democratic every time. It does this year.
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Voting for Donald Trump is not only a secular mistake, it is voting for a man who has never found a Commandment he wouldn’t break, including adultery, stealing, coveting beyond his neighborhood. He speaks ill of anyone who does not bow. He brags of grabbing women in a way that is hardly a Christian act.
With one sermon to go, religious leaders can take their message beyond the pulpit into the lives of all of us. Let us pray.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and wrote a memoir, “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”