Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mixing Politics & Religion

They say that talking about politics and religion is a great way to lose friends; and yet here I am again bringing up the subject for no other reason than that something is beginning to stick in my craw. I feel that there is a lot of confusion out there between these two things, and everyone seems to be too afraid or too sanctimonious to talk about it. 

While everyone is talking about what's going on in the Middle East, quite frankly I'm concerned that there's far too much self-righteousness and religion in politics in this country these days. Doubt or discount me if your will, but before you completely write this idea off, consider the following. 

Forget if you can, the furor over the preacher and church that the current President attended for many years. Imagine instead a candidate for President running in 2012 that announced that he not only didn't attend church, mosque, or temple regularly, he didn't attend one at all. Can you conceive of the uproar that would follow? Can you comprehend the way that such a candidate would be assailed from media, the religious right, and those who believe themselves to be no more than simple "God-fearing Americans". Can you picture the cloud that would gather over what would no doubt be the remaining hours of that failed campaign. 

Yet why should regular attendance at any house of God serve as a qualification for elective office in this country. Does Ford pick their CEO based on his religious attendance? Do investors consider Donald Trump's church (if he even has one) before investing in his projects? Does the market price of Apple stock fluctuate based on Steve Jobs regular attendance at services? Why this should this nation pick its leader based on the regular attendance at religious services? Don't get me wrong. 

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't question a political candidates beliefs. There is in fact an absolute need to know the principles that guide a such a person when they make decisions. Those beliefs however, do not necessarily need to be founded in a particular religious belief, or any at all; let alone their regular attendance at religious services. If recent history has shown us anything, it is that some of those who profess the most public of such beliefs or in fact lead those services have been proven to be the most flawed of human beings. 

Caught up in their personal 'divine revelation', they assume a self-granted mantle of infallibility. With divine authority on their side, they allow those beliefs to dictate that they should work their will on those who they lead, often on some misguided mission to create a world in which only their beliefs reign supreme. Little thought is given to those who believe otherwise, except to add them to the list of those that must be converted. Isn't this in fact what we object to in the theocracies of the Middle East? Isn't this our objection to radical Islam? Isn't this confusion of political and religious mandate what makes us so fearful of their potential for destruction? Isn't the fact that political dissension in these countries becomes blasphemy the concept that makes these nations so out of control and so dangerous. 

Quite frankly I would prefer a political leader who told me that what they believed in was the Constitution, the rule of law, and their personal responsibility to serve the public trust to one who told me that they attended church regularly and believed in this or that Supreme Being. Belief after all, is not something that is subject to the democratic process or to the will of the majority in this country. 

The United States is not a nation where we vote on our favorite religion, making it the path that all must follow. Yes I know that many of the founding documents were written based on Christian principles. I have also done enough reading to discover that many of those Founding Fathers were closet Deists, who like their modern counterparts, wore a public face of regular church attendance in order to advance their professional and political careers. Like those founding documents however, it is the principles that are important, not the place that they came from. 

The world currently looks upon the 'Arab Spring' with mixture of joy and trepidation. We celebrate it when people seek freedom in Northern Africa and the Middle East. We likewise fear what will become of their future as Islamic extremists who see no separation of church and state seek political power in the vacuum created by these uprisings. But are we not likewise guilty in this country of insisting upon a certain level of religious adherence in our leaders? Are we not also guilty of mixing politics and religion?


Roland Hansen said...

Heck, Tim, you know me well enough to know I would never ever let people know how I truly feel about anything controversial or about anything for that matter. All because I am a quiet reserved man who wants to be politically correct and go along to get along and not upset anyone and play nice in the sandbox.
Actually, I think most Americans are nothing but hypocrites. I guess that same opinion holds true in my assessment of the entire human race. Sad,I know, but so is the state of human affairs.

Timothy W Higgins said...


I do in fact know you to be the soul of decorum, never wanting to stir up life's situation for the purposes of enlightenment ... or just for fun.

I simply find myself increasingly aggravated with the hypocritical stance that politicians are forced to play to get elected. A pretense of religious practice is required by the electorate to run for office in this country, but any attempt to mix politics with religion in any other nations is heaped with scorn and fear.

Is no one capable of stepping outside the madness to see what utter nonsense simultaneously holding these diametrically opposed positions is?