Politics & Faith: Reflections from an AEI Conference | Julia Scoper '17

I have always shied away from politics, especially Conservative Evangelical Christian politics because I immediately would think of yelling, pointing fingers, religious agendas, and disregard for others. Therefore, politics have always intimidated me because of the intense views I heard and read on the news, whether an extreme liberal or extreme conservative, they both end in hateful bickering on the screen or paper. Fortunately, after the mere welcome address at American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) summit in DC on “Values and Capitalism,” these misconceptions of Conservative Evangelicals were slowly broken down for me.

During the first panel, “Religious Freedom and Human Flourishing: Current Challenges and Prospects,” the concept of religious freedom was explained as the limitation of the power of the state- not allowing the government to tell citizens how to live morally. Religious freedom was a concept I definitely did not understand before this conference. One of the panelists, Russell Moore, emphasized how this religious freedom extends to all religions, not just Christianity. This means allowing mosques or any other types of temples to be built wherever, whenever. It was beyond refreshing to hear this when in the past all I have heard is extremist Christians complaining and rebuking anything that’s not a church soaked in holy oil.

Christianity in politics seemed to put down people and coerce faith into being. Instead, advocating for religious freedom for all is not some sort of manipulative strategy for Christians, but it’s something that Christians should truly believe. It’s not about advocating our own privilege. Third panelist, Stephanie Summers put it best, stating, “Let’s not kill each other over the will of God... You can’t advocate religious freedom and evangelize while you’re also driving your neighbors out of town.”

During lunch, Samuel Rodriguez, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, spoke about, “Righteousness and Justice: In Pursuit of the Lamb’s Agenda.” He vibrantly preached about how we are not promoting a Christian nation, but a nation of free religion. I found myself furiously writing down every word of his one line zingers that soared straight to the heart. Some of my favorites were, “It’s not about the donkey or elephant agenda, it’s about the Lamb’s,” “Evangelical does not mean angry white male,” “Justice flows from the high to lift up the low,” and “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” He challenged us not to be afraid of politics or speaking the truth of the Bible.

My perceptions of Evangelical Conservative Christians in the political arena completely transformed. Instead of anger and self-righteousness, the panelists spoke of equality, peace, redemption, and above all else, the love of Jesus Christ. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Perhaps our job as Christians is to sift through this world of extremes and find the common ground among people while also finding our personal rock foundation in Jesus Christ. There need to be more deep and personal relationships among all different parties and beliefs if politicians want to get anywhere positive. I left this summit at AEI, refreshed, encouraged, and inspired by these influential Christians who have let Jesus lead the way in their lives and workspaces. I pray now that I can let Jesus reveal to me the broken places within my own heart and within my community and nation, and let Him sharpen my gifts and bring me to these places of need... even if that does mean Capitol Hill.