Steven Boyd Saum
13 Dec 2014
You see those two words on the cover—Faith, Politics—and the white-collared cleric in black, and perhaps you think to yourself: On the one hand, East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet. Or, on the other hand, the luminous core of our beliefs about what is good and what is truth in the realm of metaphysics—these exert quite the gravitational pull on the economic and civic and social here in the constellation we inhabit. And comets and stars and planets move at a mind-boggling pace.
Or you surmise: On the one hand, we’ve got a First Amendment; can’t we all just get along? Get to the inner workings of the House of Representatives, and we know there are some things on which the GOP and Dems can see eye to eye. For instance, there’s the Jesuit they selected to be chaplain of the House, right?
On the other hand, maybe you reflect on having faith in politics—you know, the mechanisms of representative democracy and so forth—and you ask yourself: Do I still believe? And if the answer is, “Yes, and I must make things better,” does that lead you, like it has for hundreds of thousands of folks across the nation of Ukraine in December, to take to the streets in the name of revolution—which, in this case, is another way of saying, in the name of wanting to be a normal country, like those to your west? Poland is one of those countries; it’s also some of the territory covered in the AfterWords essay in this edition of the magazine, a personal reflection on history and religion, compassion and forgiveness, Catholicism and communism, compromise and humility and persistence.
On a very different hand, what if you took the historical Jesus and, through your scholarship, put him back in the political context of a couple millennia ago? How would politics and faith look then? And what if somebody told you that you don’t have the right to ask those questions because of your faith?
On the other hand, where have you found the holy?
On the one hand, what if you’ve been a politician burned in effigy (first time: because of a program for the homeless that you introduced) and as mayor you began performing marriages for same-sex couples at San Francisco City Hall nine years ago, and you found yourself at the center of a firestorm, as they say—but, lately, some of the very folks who pilloried you for that have instead lionized you for ideas about changing the relationship between citizens and government in something we might call Governing 2.0?
On that note, what is the sound of one hand clapping? That, too, is a conversation worth having.
In the meantime, here’s an easier question: What’s the sound of 100,000 hands clapping? Let’s hear that now, okay? And let out a whoop and a holler because, all earnest discussion and quiet contemplation aside, just a few weeks ago the relentless and talented Santa Clara women’s soccer team capped their stellar season by winning the West Coast Conference championship and making the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tourney. They played their hearts out, and they were brilliant.
Keep the faith,
Steven Boyd Saum