The Religious Right, the Religious Left (New York Times, "Room for Debate"

In recent history, the right has dominated public use of religious language, and mostly applied it to social issues, so that only hot-button topics like abortion or same-sex marriage tend to be viewed as clearly decided by religious beliefs. On such issues, Christianity and “conservative” positions often end up conflated. But neither the “pro-life” position nor opposition to gay marriage is the only viewpoint that follows from a Christian perspective. On issues like gay marriage, a Christian perspective could lead voters to conservative or liberal stances.

Christians who believe that the state should be bound to a literal reading of certain biblical passages might vote for a candidate who seems to agree. Yet there are also Christians who, for example, find in the scripture good news of a God who affirms all humanity, regardless of sexual orientation. These Christians might be more inclined to vote for a candidate who has supported legislation that seeks to protect the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. Such diverging positions are apparent on even most polarizing issues, and this holds for religious communities across lines of race and ethnicity. And there are a range of Christian perspectives on issues, including education, military and economic policies.

With the Occupy Wall Street movement looming large, more people are raising concerns about the growing divide between the rich and poor. Christians active in these protests might be taking cues from the biblical tenet that one’s faith is measured by how we treat “the least of these.” In this view, there is a religious responsibility to hold government accountable — on everything from federal budgets to corporate bailouts.

Ultimately, there is no simple or singular formula for applying Christianity such that a clear candidate emerges.

Read the entire conversation at "Room for Debate" on the New York Times website.