Day16: My Religious/Political Views

For some reason today has been one of those very slow days for me. This blog is about to be my achievement for the day and maybe, if I manage to carry my pending tasks into the night I might be ticking off two boxes. Let’s see if my typing produces some sense.

It is the 16th day of the 21 days blogging challenge and my task today is to write about my religious or political views.

I am a Christian and my entire being is rooted here.

This stated, I want to believe that it is hard to separate religion and politics, somehow these two are intertwined. This stipulation is based on different literature and stories from history till now. Here are some questions that I might not get to answer here but are good to think about;

  1. What authority does the state retain when its principles conflict with God’s?
  2. Is the authority of the natural law ultimately grounded in divine law?

In the Abrahamic tradition, the first murder arose out of a religious act. Adam and Eve have two sons. Both brothers are rivals for God’s favor, so both bring God an offering. Cain, a farmer, offers the first fruits of the soil. Abel, a shepherd, offers the first lamb from the flock.

Two generous gifts. But in the story, God chooses Abel’s offering over Cain’s, and the elevation of the younger leads to the humiliation of the elder.

Cain is so jealous that their rivalry leads to violence and ends in death. Once this pattern is established, it’s played out in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and down through the centuries in generation after generation of conflict between Muslims and Jews, Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, so that the red thread of religiously spilled blood runs to every place where religious folk turn from compassion to competition.

Religion has a healing side; we know this. But it also has a killing side. In the words of Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, “To be furious in religion is to be furiously irreligious.”

Starting from ‘establishment’ which in this context will mean any  possible arrangement for a religion in a society’s political life.  For example;

  • A church may be supported through taxes and subject to the direction of the government (e.g, the monarch is still officially the head of the Church of England, and the Prime Minister is responsible for selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury).
  • A church may simply have a privileged role in certain public, political ceremonies (for example, inaugurations, opening of parliament, etc.).
  • Particular ecclesiastical officials may have, in virtue of their office, an established role in political institutions.

During the wake of the Protestant Reformation, European societies wrestled with determining exactly what roles church and state should play in each other’s sphere, and so the topic of establishment became especially pressing in the early modern era, although there was also substantial discussion in the Middle Ages.

The other view is civil religion as cited by Robert Bellah in which a particular church or religion does not exactly have official status, and yet the state uses religious concepts in an explicitly public way. Robert uses an example of  Abraham Lincoln’s use of Christian imagery of slavery and freedom in justifying the American Civil War.

Also, there is an argument from ‘contemporary liberals’ whose typical appeal is to fairness as a value. They claim that the state should remain neutral among religions because it is unfair—especially for a democratic government that is supposed to represent all of the people to intentionally disadvantage (or unequally favor) any group of citizens in their pursuit of the good as they understand it, religious or otherwise.

Similarly, liberals argue that fairness precludes devoting tax revenues to religious groups because doing so amounts to forcing non-believers to subsidize religions that they reject

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that their religion precludes their accepting blood transfusions, even to save their lives. It seems clearly wrong to force someone to undergo even lifesaving treatment if s/he objects to it…

Despite my thoughts above, the government represents all the people, not just those who share the faith of particular government officials, it is inappropriate for government policy to be based solely on religious doctrine. Debates over who speaks for God or who has a superior interpretation of scripture should not form the basis for policy making.

Decisions about taxing and spending reflect a community’s priorities and affect people’s lives. Laws prohibiting murder and stealing, as well as laws protecting worker safety and the environment, reflect moral judgments. Those judgments may be rooted in specific religious teaching for some people, but they are also shared broadly across religious and secular lines.

Example: Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader drew on his faith and used scriptural language in his speeches advocating for civil rights, but he also rooted his views in values contained in America’s founding documents, such as equality under the law, that could appeal to, and were accessible to, all Americans.

I would like to conclude my wandering with  T. S. Eliot’s belief deeply influenced by Aristotle that, “democratic societies reject the influence of an established church at their peril, for in doing so they cut themselves off from the kind of ethical wisdom that can come only from participation in a tradition. As a result, he argued, such a society will degenerate into tyranny and/or social and cultural fragmentation.”

I am the Sparrow.

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