As I write this, I am not in a cloister with people in robes or looking out the window from a high ivory tower, but comfortable at home on my couch. I am, however, looking out my window in a different way now, seeing the view, as I never have before.
Starting last month at Iliff School of Theology at the University of Denver, I am now an eager master’s student in Social Justice and Ethics. I’m not part of a certain religion looking to be ordained or lead a church. I am just another human looking at how we live ethically (or not) and how to correct our course when necessary.
Knowing it might not be popular to talk about God these days, why would a former senator and professional consultant go to seminary 30 years after college? Well, I can now name that the angst of watching people (including me) living in blind hypocrisy has become just down right painful. How can we proclaim a particular faith or doctrine and then behave in opposition of those values in our communities and government?
How can we claim to be ethical humans while ignoring, excluding, or harming other people around us? Sadly, there are individuals who consciously act with no regard for ethics. I’m not talking about them right now. I’m curious about those who claim to be “good Christians” or “good anything” who in reality hate or fear people who are different from them. And those who idolize their firearms over children’s’ lives or protect their wealth over people experiencing homelessness. With the dysfunction in the world today, shouldn’t we all be revisiting the roots of our faith and values and how we live in accordance or discord with them?
When I was in the Senate, it was said that a government’s budget is a moral document — showing our priorities as a society. Is it really our national priority to build a concrete wall (only at our southern border where the brown people live) or conduct a $3 million dollar military parade rather than help our neighbors who can’t afford health insurance? Is this truly what Jesus would do?
I thought I was doing good, ethical work in the Senate, and maybe I was. But in doing “good” in an oppressive system, was I also causing harm? In asking for votes in election season, was I fully honest with every person or just telling them what I thought they wanted to hear? I wish I could say for certain. These are the questions that bring me here to Iliff, questioning not only others’ but my own ethics as well and seeking answers, like so many today, regardless of our faith or no faith.
So I’m hoping via this column, we’ll be able to dive in together to figure out how we can — rather than avoid the conversation of politics and faith — lean into how we can create a more just and ethical society together. After all, how can we possibly have those conversations while leaving our values on the coat rack at the door?
Formerly a Colorado state senator and now a seminary student at Iliff, Linda Newell, of Littleton, is a filmmaker, writer, speaker, and consultant. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.