Are Politics and Religion
+ - + - + - + - + - +
Mutually Exclusive ?
[  http://ChurchvState.org ]
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When faith and reason collide,
can both survive the crash?

Has anyone else noticed how both Liberals and Conservatives complain loudly about "mixing of politics and religion", but only when that mixing benefits the other side?  Attribute this behavior to dishonesty if you will, but as often as not, it may simply be a result of honest confusion over issues that are – by their nature after all – extremely confusing?  Is there anyone who can deny that "religion", on the one hand, is a very complicated matter; and that, on the other hand, "politics" is no less complicated?  Just imagine not only trying to hold onto these two complexities in each of your hands, but then trying to juggle them, along with all the other concerns of life!  Tough, isn't it?  Now add to the situation that you are doing all of this in competition with opponents who are trying to make you fail at the endeavor! 
        We Liberals Like Christ believe we have some valuable insights to offer on this matter, both from the civic and from the religious perspective:

Click HERE for
the CIVIC reasons

why – despite "the wall of Separation between Church and State," religion cannot and should not be separated from politics.
Click HERE, for
the RELIGIOUS reasons

why the claim made by many pious Christians that "religion has no business getting mixed up with politics" is contrary to what both the bible and US history teach us.

The CIVIC Perspective

Most well-informed Americans agree that our two century experiment with the "separation of Church and State has proven rather conclusively that it is best for both when our civil governments and our churches have virtually no control over each other.
       But, that does not mean that "faith" and "politics" – as opposed to "Church" and "State" – can and should be assigned their separate areas of concern and be required to "mind their own business".
        Whose business would it be, for example, to give people guidance on the morality of matters like war, justice, crime, the treatment and punishment of convicts, gambling, sexism, child labor, homelessness, immigration, pornography, prostitution, poverty, marriage, spousal abuse, child abuse, adultery, abortion, discrimination against minorities, ethics, drug addiction, unfair marketing practices or marketing of unsafe products, social contracts, labor practices, unemployment, consumer issues, building codes, banking practices, environmental degradation, human rights, vast inequalities of wealth, private vs. public property?
        Only those who confuse "religion" with "church", and "politics" with "state", can try to prevent the inevitable overlapping of religion and politics.  While there are relatively few issues where the overlap isn't obvious ( as in building codes and traffic matters, perhaps ),  most issues clearly are a matter of both religious and political concern. Long after I wrote the above, Howard Fineman published a book, in 2008. in which he wrote "If you cover politics, as I do, or write a book about political history, as I’ve just done ("The Thirteen American Arguments," Random House), you know that we separate church and state, but not faith and politics." I can't help but wonder if he came across this web site.
        Einstein said something of physical science that may be true of political science, namely , "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." ('Science, Philosophy and Religion' 1941.)

founding fathers

The realm of
the Religious

( "Spiritual"
Supernatural"
or "Eternal" )

The realm of
the Secular

("Material"
"Natural" or
"Temporal")

 

At the Personal level
the ethical, spiritual, and
spiritual values that motivate
people as individuals,
whether they be rulers or
voters cannot be separated
from one another :

while Values cannot be separated

One's
"Politics"

One's
"Beliefs"

 

At the public level,
the many institutions
designed to pursue various
secular and / or religious
values must be prevented
from interfering
with one another :

Institutions must be kept separate.

States

Churches

Is not "politics," in its original meaning, simply the way in which the public life of the people ("polis" in Greek) is organized?  A community's "politics" may be determined by the people themselves ( in the various types of democracies ), or imposed on it by other persons or groups ( in the various types of "dictatorships" – benevolent or otherwise ).
        Although the word "religion" can be restricted to those whose world view includes supernatural entities, the word can also be extended to include whatever view a person has of his or her place relative to the rest of mankind and the rest of the world.  Even if one's "world view" has no room for any supernatural entity, that world view serves the function of one's "religion".  Mario Cuomo points out that this is the view of the Supreme Court, "Most non-lawyers, maybe even most lawyers, would assume that the word religion necessarily implies a belief in a god, perhaps even monotheism.  Not so.The word religion has been defined by the Supreme Court quite clearly to include belief systems like secular humanism, Buddhism, ethical culture — belief systems, which, by and large, reject the notion of God." { in Religion on the Stump: Politics and Faith in America, Oct., 2002).
        The point of contention is when people organize themselves into various religious groups, just as they organize themselves into various political entities, .  As we all know, all that effort to embody religion has resulted in a great variety of institutions called "churches", "mosques", "temples" and the like, just as there are a variety of states.  Rivalries and competition naturally arise between these various religious institutions, just as there are rivalries and competition among political institutions, at all of their various levels.  Mankind has gradually learned the hard way that it is best for people not to let these various individual religious institutions forcibly dominate other religious institutions, not to let the various states forcibly dominate other states, and not to let the various religious institutions or political institutions dominate each other.
        So long as they don't try to get political servants to take sides in the competition among religious institutions, there is nothing wrong with citizens promoting their particular religious values.  Neither is there anything wrong with politicians paying attention to the religious sentiments of voters, so long as they don't do anything to either favor or oppose any particular religious institution over others.
        The principles are the same for all "special interests", not just religious interests.  Public officials shouldn't show preference for private groups on the basis of age, ethnicity, gender or class, either.  But where no one would suggest that politicians should even attempt to ignore age, gender, class or ethnicity, there are many who mistakenly believe that politicians should ignore the religious opinions and sentiments of voters.  For a significant number of voters, "religion" may be even more important than "politics".  Political candidates (or party activists) who don't take into account the religious convictions and passions of their constituents are as sure to loose elections against opponents who do, as politicians would be if they were rash enough to ignore the occupation, the gender, the ethnicity or the social class of voters!


While private morality is none of the government's business, because it has to do only with the individuals in question, public morality is pretty much what government is all about.  Think about it, isn't the justification for government getting involved with any activity the fact that the activity in question impacts the public?  Abraham Lincoln said that the government is the organization of people to do for one another collectively what they could not do as well or at all individually and privately.  The Judicial branch of government deals with public immorality after the fact, investigating public wrong-doing, arresting the "perps", passing judgement, and punishing appropriately.  The Legislative branch of government, on the other hand, deals with public immorality before the fact, trying to prevent public wrong-doing, by defining it and establishing penalties to either deter wrong-doing or punish it.


       
The Religious Demographics of American Politics
shows why Liberal Democrats have the most to gain
from the participation of true Christians in America's politics.

See the fantastic "Bushflash video" on
the Republican Party's disdain for
the Separation of Church and State

"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics
do not know what religion is. " – Gandhi

The Bible

The Religious Perspective :

Politics and the Bible

Many people who have the view that "religion has no business getting mixed up in politics" mistakenly believe that just because the word "politics" isn't used in the Bible, there is no place for politics in their religion and vice versa.  The word "politics" is often used these days to refer to the competition for votes, and in that sense, politics is fairly new.  In the "good old days", of course, politicians didn't need to compete for votes because it was either inheritance that determined who "lorded it over" others, or brute force.  Inheritance may have avoided the messy "politics" that we are used to in countries like America today, but history is replete with examples of plots and wars being fought either to prevent people from inheriting high office or to remove them after they were crowned.
        The truest meaning of the word politics, however, isn't the competition for positions of public service, but the exercise of public service, i.e.  governing, and in that sense, the Judeo-Christian Bible is crammed full of "politics" from cover to cover.  Open the Bible at random, and your chances of not finding references to politics in that sense on that particular page are slim.  The Hebrew Bible is mostly about the political as well as religious history of the nation of Israel.  To see how and why politics, in the best sense of the word, is so central to the Hebrew Bible (or "Old Testament"), see LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/GODvsGreed.


Some Christians think that Jesus was too lofty a person to be associated with something as earthy as "politics".  They says things like, "Christ is apolitical.  He would be neither Republican or Democrat."  or "He wouldn't be a politician."  Why not.  Was he not a man?  If he chose to be a Jew, and a Galilean 2000 years ago, why couldn't he have been a Republican or a Democrat, if he chose to return as an American in our day?  If he could get dirty hands and feet and have to relieve his bowels every day or so, why is it inconceivable that he could view one political party as much more deserving of support than others?  Most of the Gospels are devoted entirely to the three years of Jesus' "public" and political life.  (Even the infancy narrative involves political intrigue by the local King to have Jesus killed before he could threaten Herod's throne.)  When the Gospels had nothing to say about the private life of Jesus, they filled the void by concentrating instead on his cousin, John the Baptist, who went public before Jesus and suffered death at the hands of the politicians before Jesus did.  Many Christians don't recognize how much of the public life and preaching of Jesus had to do with "politics" because they fail to realize that the "scribes", the "lawyers" and the "priests" with whom Jesus did battle constantly were not just the religious rulers of his day.  They were the "political" rulers as well, at the local level.  Apart from requiring the collection taxes (by Jewish locals) and building roads and forts to use in preserving and/or extending the Roman empire, the Romans had little interest in the day-to-day management of local affairs.  All of that the Romans left to the local clergy, something not unheard of even today in less developed areas of our world. 
        Rev. Jim Wallis, of Sojourner, wrote an excellent article on this subject in late 2003.


        Another famous Gandhi quote on this subject is "My politics is my religion, my religion is my politics".

" Render unto Caesar . . ."

IMHO many who quote Jesus on this score miss the point entirely.  Many use this passage, for example, in support of the separation of Church and State.  Here is the passage and its important context, from Matthew 22: 15-22 :

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"
    But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

First of all, readers of this passage need to underestand what this "testing" was all about. The context is that the Jews were under the domination of the Romans. Nobody likes paying taxes, but having to pay taxes to support a government that worships Caesar instead of Yahweh, Oiveh! These politicians expected to use Jesus' answer to either arouse the pious Jews against Jesus or the Roman authorities against him. Jesus came up with a clever answer, one which got him out of the hot water his opponents had put him in, but what are the ramifications of these words over time? Did Jesus believe and teach his followers to believe that they should always cooperate with whoever is in charge? That may be what Paul of Tarsus taught very explicitly and unequivocally in Romans 13, but I don't think that was Jesus' intention here. My own guess is that Jesus recommended "rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's", because he anticipated the alternative, i.e. the destruction of the whole Jewish nation by Caesar, which is in fact exactly what took place just a few years later.
        So how do Jesus' words apply to our own very different times and places? Not only is Caesar dead, but we have replaced him!  In most Christian countries, it's we the people who govern through the representatives whom we elect to govern in our name. So we don't need to render our taxes and our services to some foreign "Caesar".

Conservative Christian "scholarship"
regarding Church and State in America :

In order to make the case that Christianity is entitled to preferential treatment in the United States, some so-called Christian scholars publicize arguments about American history that demonstrate that they are either uninformed, dishonest or possibly both. The following material comes from the Snopes page Snopes.com/politics/religion/capital.asp, but is presented here in a format designed by Ray Dubuque to make the contrast between falsehood and truth more obvious.
        "Although the intent of this piece is presumably to demonstrate a government endorsement of Judeo-Christian tradition through the symbols and words used in U.S. federal buildings and the writings of America's founding fathers, nearly all of the information it presents is inaccurate or — when taken in its proper context — misleading."

Regarding this section of artwork on the U.S. Supreme Court building

the Frieze
THIS column presents
the phoney scholarship
of Conservative Christians.
THIS column shows
what TRUE scholarship reveals:

Totally uninformed Conservative writers tell their followers:
    "As you walk up the steps to the Capitol Building which houses the Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view— It is Moses and the Ten Commandments! "

    "The United States Capitol does not house the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Supreme Court has met in its own building since 1935.
    The two representations of Moses which adorn the Supreme Court building both present him in a context in which he is depicted as merely one of several historical exemplars of lawgivers, not as a religious figure.
    The depiction referred to here is a sculpture entitled 'Justice the Guardian of Liberty' by Hermon(sic) A. McNeil, which appears on the eastern pediment of the Supreme Court building. (The eastern pediment is the back of the Supreme Court building, so this sculpture is not something one would see 'walking up the steps to the building which houses the Supreme Court.' The front entrance is on the western side.) The sculpture was intended to be a symbolic representation of three of the Eastern civilizations from which our laws were derived, personified by the figures of three great lawgivers: Moses, Confucius, and Solon (surrounded by several allegorical figures representing a variety of legal themes):
    McNeil described the symbolism of his work thusly: 'Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The 'Eastern Pediment' of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East. Moses, Confucius and Solon are chosen as representing three great civilizations and form the central group of this Pediment.

THIS column presents
the phoney scholarship
of Conservative Christians.
THIS column shows
what TRUE scholarship reveals:

    "As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door. "

The doors of the Supreme Court courtroom don't literally have the "Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion" — the lower portions of the two doors are engraved with a symbolic depiction, two tablets bearing only the Roman numerals I through V and VI through X. As discussed in the next item, these symbols represent something other than the Ten Commandments."

"As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall right above where the Supreme Court judges sit a display of the Ten Commandments!"

"The wall "right above where the Supreme Court judges sit" is the east wall, on which is displayed a frieze designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman. The frieze features two male figures who represent the Majesty of Law and the Power of Government, flanked on the left side by a group of figures representing Wisdom, and on the right side by a group of figures representing Justice:
    According to Weinman, the designer of this frieze, the tablet visible between the two central male figures, engraved with the Roman numerals I through X, represents not the Ten Commandments but the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, collectively known as 'the Bill of Rights'.
    The friezes which adorn the north and south walls of the courtroom in the Supreme Court building (also designed by Adolph Weinman) depict a procession of 18 great lawgivers: Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius and Octavian (south wall); Justinian, Mohammed, Charlemagne, King John, Louis IX, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, John Marshall and Napoleon (north wall):
    According to the Office of the Curator of the Supreme Court of the United States, these figures were selected as a representation of secular law:
    Note that Moses is not given any special emphasis in this depiction: his figure is not larger than the others, nor does it appear in a dominant position. Also, the writing on the tablet carried by Moses in this frieze includes portions of commandments 6 through 10 (in Hebrew), specifically chosen because they are not inherently religious. (Commandments 6 through 10 proscribe murder, adultery, theft, perjury, and covetousness.)

Uninformed preachers only get away with the claim that the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20: 1-17) are the inspiration underlying the U.S. Constitution when they are blessed with an audience of "believers" who have never read that Constitution, which has little to do with any of these Ten Commandments of the Bible:

  1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me"The name of the Lord is not mentioned in the Constitution, not even in the Oath which it requires of the president "before he enter on the Execution of his Office." in Article 2, Section 1. The First Amendment protects the free exercise of all beliefs and forbids establishing any one faith over others.
  2. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."(Not in the Constitution.)
  3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.(Not in the Constitution.)
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.(Not in the Constitution.)
  5. "Honor thy father and mother".  (Not in the Constitution.)
  6. "Thou shalt not kill".  (Not in the Constitution.)
  7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery".  (Not in the Constitution.)
  8. "Thou shalt not steal". [ Part of every legal system before as well as after biblical times.]
  9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor".  (Not in the Constitution.)
    ( What about "Thou shalt not bear false witness about these Commandments" ?)
  10. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife".  (Not in the Constitution.)
  11. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's".  (Not in the Constitution. ]

In a debate with Marvin Olasky, the militant atheist Christopher Hitchens asked the significant question: "Prior to receiving these commandments on Mt. Sinai, did the Jews think that murder, lying, stealing and cheating were OK?" (or do people naturally know right from wrong, when and where it matters?)

Frederick Douglass on Christianity in America :

Frederick Douglass was an extraordinary man, who not only managed to throw off the shackles of slavery but went far beyond the conventional wisdom of his enslavers.  In his autobiography, he contrasted the Christianity that prevailed in the southern part of America at least in his day, and the Christianity of Christ :

F.Douglas

" I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion.  To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation.
        What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest, possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.  To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.  I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.  Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.  I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.
        . . .  I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.  We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members.  The man who wields the blood-clotted cow skin (whip) during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.  The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week  meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation.  He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity.  He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me.  He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions (of slaves) of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale (moral) pollution.  The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, – sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate.  We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.
        We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!  The slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.  Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together.  The slave prison and the church stand near each other.  The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.  The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other.  The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.  Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other–devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.
        I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes – a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slave holders find the strongest protection.  Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me. . .  I hate the corrupt, slave holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land."

– Frederick Douglass (After the Escape)

Slavery has been banned in the South since that was written.  But does that mean that the Christianity in the deep South isn't what it used to be?  If so, why did David Duke, the handsome leader of the KKK who wears expensive business suits instead of bed sheets garner 60% of the white Christian vote when he ran for governor of the very Christian state of Louisiana?  To see how the so-called "Christians" of the Old South use "God's Word" to justify their white supremacy racism, see http://JesusWouldBeFurious.Org /christianconservatism.html.  Sadly the Conservative Christianity that many African Americans believe in today is a legacy left to them by ancestors who inherited it from their Christian white masters, as they demonstrate when they are as hard-hearted toward homosexuals as any Southern "red neck". They quote the bible to oppress gays, just as effectively as the masters of old used it to oppress their ancestors.

AmericanChristiansInPeril
Jon Stewart

The perfect compromise :

Regarding the conflict over religious teaching in public schools, I have a challenge for Christian Conservatives:
        Rather than argue forever with your liberal brothers and sisters as to whether Christianitty or "secular humanism" (as many of you say) should be taught in the public schools of our "Christian" country, why don't you work on your conservative allies and I'll work on my liberal allies to agree to the perfect compromise. Let's both come together to advocate that all of our public schools teach the Liberal Christian views of the http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ web site. That would make Christian Conservatives happy, as Christianity was being taught. And it would make Liberals (Christians and otherwise) happy as liberalism was being taught.


        A great column guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1028758,00.html:
        "God help America.  US law insists on the separation of church and state.  So why does religion now govern there? "

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