Religion and politics have more in common than many may consider.
Self-identification is an important cornerstone of what we interact with. Modern culture dictates that we often align ourselves with groups that share our same views and opinions. Political parties have become a succinct demonstration of this phenomenon. According to an article by Stanford’s news website, political affiliations are stronger identifiers in the United States than race, gender and religion.
However, religion is an apt comparison to political parties.
Religious institutions operate on the basis of three main pillars: tenets, the individual beliefs and practices; hierarchy, the way the coalition is organized; and superiority, the unanimous opinion that one’s group is more correct than another. These three tenets are exactly what we see in political organizations, such as the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC).
Candidates and political platforms are deified. We worship politicians running for office on belief structures similar to our own while rejecting the doctrine of other organizations. This is fundamentally the political equivalent of piety.
This is a practice we should aim to change.
It is far too easy to get caught up in the pseudo-religious dogma of our personal political affiliations. We owe it to ourselves, and to those around us, to critically analyze and contemplate our beliefs outside the spectrum of party platforms and candidates. If we do not, we are vulnerable to reverting back to the old fashioned practices of dissent — violence.
The federal system of governance that the U.S. uses is built on the foundation of peaceful dissent. The willingness to join a group for the purposes of outweighing another faction is standard practice, but it often leads to political zealotry, which means fanatically following an idea or a group.
Dissent within our own political factions seems trivial and constructive. However, speaking with someone of a rival faction is seen as shameful and grounds for isolation from your own party. This practice leads to polarization.
We should aspire to be better.
Candidates from any party must stand on their own beliefs and policies, rather than the support and backing of their respective organizations. The same goes for institutions built on the concept called identity politics, which is the practice of forming alliances with individuals of similar race, gender and background. Candidates should be forced to compare and contrast their ideas freely without bias from or fear of the organizations that they represent.
For example, the DNC is currently conducting its nationwide primary to nominate its candidate for the 2020 presidential election. For many, the primary is a speed bump on the way to their ultimate goal, which is the ousting of President Donald Trump.
I have heard on numerous occasions that people will vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination. The majority of support for the election of a Democrat over the reelection of Trump is a common staple in many political debates throughout campus.
I ask this: Who will you vote for?
Many, I presume, would say they would vote for the DNC nominee. For a few, they would speak of voting third party, either in support or in protest. Another faction would align with the RNC and Trump. I would be surprised, as I’m sure many of us would, to hear someone say they don’t know.
Many voters don’t look at policies. If they do, they are willing to compromise with radical differences to their own standards if it means their party would be victorious.
Policy and ideas are what should guide our vote throughout any election, not blind adherence to a party platform.
In religion, we are susceptible to the marginalization of others. Loyalty over morality, and consistency over contemplation. The same goes for political affiliations, where we often treat people of differing opinions as opponents or enemies.
We are not enemies. The vast majority of humans want similar luxuries: peace, prosperity and friendship. We have different solutions to achieving these goals, but we ultimately have similar desired outcomes. It is paramount that we provide ourselves the ability to disagree with our own party and work toward changing the current political climate.
This election season, I challenge everyone to debate with someone from the opposite viewpoint. Make a friend from another party. Change the standard you live.
The only way to change the world around us is to change with it.