I've been thinking a lot lately about faith-based political activism — politics fueled by religious conviction.

I am given to seeing more than one side to an issue and like to think things over before forming an opinion. I'm leery of passionate conviction and instinctively recoil from people who are too sure they are right. It's not that I don't have any beliefs of my own; it's just that I know I often fall short of my ideals and that all human knowledge is partial and flawed.

So even if I mostly agree with you, I might argue with you if you sound too sure, self-righteous or judgmental of others who disagree.

People whose political activism is based on their religious beliefs can fall into intolerance of different views or be self-righteous about their convictions, as if no one who disagrees with them deserves credit for being sincere and concerned for the well-being of the country. Those at either end of the political and religious spectrum can be very sensitive to intolerance from the other end, and blind to their own intolerance. What is the truth? Probably we're all guilty more often than we'd like to think.

It is very good to be able to decide that differences in personal beliefs are not going to come between you and your friends or family members. But what happens when push comes to shove — when a law is proposed to effectively ban abortion and your 16-year-old niece needs one, or someone wants to make it legal not to rent to someone because they're gay or lesbian or transgender — and your gay friend is looking for a place to live. Do you side with your convictions, or with your friends and family?

This seems to me a very difficult problem to resolve if you're a person of strong convictions: Can you really tolerate unequal treatment or other harm to people you love in the name of a religious principle? I suppose it's somewhat like people whose loved ones get in trouble with the law. There's nothing they can do to save the one they love from the consequences of their actions, so they love them anyway, the best they can.

But in that case, you usually haven't pushed for passage of the law that your friend or relative broke; nor have you advocated for the punishment the law prescribes. I just don't think I could work for the passage of a law, or the election of a politician I believed would cause harm to someone I cared about. I would sooner change my beliefs than allow them to make me act against the well-being of someone I loved.

I suppose it comes down to how you define "well-being." I would not have a problem voting for a law that would increase taxes on a relative who was much better off financially than I am, or that would allow disadvantaged minority students certain advantages in applying to college over whites like my nieces and nephews.

To me, love is the highest principle there is, and it starts with wanting others to be treated as well as you want to be treated yourself. I don't believe that God sets a lot of criteria for human behavior beyond love; but that one is a doozy all by itself. (And by the way, all 10 of the Ten Commandments have love of neighbor or love of God as their basis.)

Our love isn't supposed to stop with our family or our friends or our friends' friends or even with all humankind. It is supposed to include the oceans and the trees and the birds and the bugs and the stars — all of creation. God pronounced it all very good a long time ago, and assigned us to take care of it, to tend it all as our own garden.

That is a very tall order, which none of us is able to fulfill on our own — but together, and when we invite the Creator of all that goodness into our efforts — we can really surprise ourselves. We might even forget to fight with each other.

Longtime Courier Publications staff member and columnist Sarah Reynolds is the editor of The Republican Journal.