American Civic Life

God, Country and the Golden Rule: A Conversation with Paul D. Miller

November 11, 2022

(Photo: Hleb Usovich/Getty Images)

Paul D. Miller is a professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the author of “The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism.” For our “Vote is Sacred” series, Miller sat down with Interfaith America’s Mary Ellen Giess for an Election Day conversation about democracy, his Christian faith, and what might bring our nation closer together.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity and length.

Mary Ellen Giess: For Interfaith America, the idea of Interfaith America only exists within the context of a strong democracy, which allows everyone to bring their full selves to that democracy. Tell me about your own commitment to democracy and how your own religious commitments that inspire you to support the strength of our democracy? 

Paul D. Miller: I keep coming back to the Golden Rule, which is a religious principle in the New Testament, the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But most religious traditions have a version of the Golden Rule.  If you think about the political application of that – I treat you as an equal citizen, you treat me as an equal citizen, I respect your rights and freedoms, you respect my rights and freedoms. There’s a basic fairness, an intuitive fairness at the heart of this ethic of reciprocal altruism. Democracy is the political embodiment of the Golden Rule. If we live this idea out politically, we all treat each other as equal citizens, ruler and ruled, citizen to citizen, regardless of religion, race, class, gender.  As a Christian, I believe in that idea of the Golden Rule because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve equal dignity in His sight.

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Paul D. Miller is a professor at Georgetown University. His most recent book, “The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong With Christian Nationalism,” was published  in July by InterVarsity Press.