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Religion and Politics
Some groups hold the view that faith groups and other institutions have a very significant role to play within the political arena and that they have a duty to enter the political fight and they expect the government to remain supportive of this obligation. However, the argument of this article suggest that religious / faith groups and institutions should never have the chance of forming political parties and they should never try to posses influence in the workings of government for their views as well as values by finding their way to the realm of political discourse and any attempts to elect their own politicians.
Different countries have their varying degrees of separation between government or politics and religious institutions. A number of countries have moved a head and set up explicit barriers between church and state since the 1780s. The constitution of the United States has recognized this by acknowledging the need for separation of the church and the state in the "first amendment document."(Daniel L. Dreisbach, 2006). Though many countries still believe in the strong interconnection between these two institutions.
These various variations on separation is well evident in countries with high degree of religious freedom and tolerance including strong secular political cultures which up to now still maintains state churches or financial ties with certain religious organizations. In nations such as England, they have a constitutionally established state religion but they tolerate other faiths. Supreme Governor of the Church of England is British monarch, as well as 26 bishops (Lords Spiritual) who sit in the upper house of government, the House of Lords.
Theologians view is that separation of church and state is essential for the continued vitality of the church. According to them, separation between church and state would make the state attempt to corrupt religion and find ways of controlling it. Therefore they see this separation as necessary in protecting the vibrancy of the church. Rationalists as the other group are more concerned with the impact from the state religion towards the individual freedoms. The general argument of these theorists is that religion is a private matter that concerns man and God, and that the political arena such as the government, via the church, must never force a particular belief upon man.
Aristotle describes politics as the art that directs people to the highest good achievable by action, and these highest good achievable by action tend to be life according to virtue. His argument is that religion is subordinate to politics, due to the fact that if politics is the most authoritative and architectonic art, in that case the political authorities will definitely direct the religious life of citizens (James Leon Holmes, 2003).
However, Faith group and other institutions involvement in politics will definitely be inconsistent with Democratic Values. Apart from faith groups facing problems with allowing political participation, it is also inconsistent with democratic values. Since the power of religious institutions will be increased in the society once they are involved in politics, it will cause a serious problem for our current system of governance. To some extent it may pave the way for followers or members to be overrepresented in political debates and political life. Increased power tend to give a particular group more power to press their view on the whole polity, hence such power always leads to overrepresentation of that group's particular issues. In addition, increased power may make a minority group, the one which has receive more power, end up lashing out against another minority groups. Such may take place because politicians may remain reluctant in supporting any initiatives from the other powerful group hurting large segments of society.
Even though these cases have been minimal within the United States, other countries have fallen victims of these religious parties gaining too much power. For example, in Israel, the religious parties in that nation wield significant influence depending on the fact that religious leaders are the ones to balance power in the Knesset. This means that as much as Israel is a democratic nation, religious institutions still exercise significant control over personal autonomy. This was evident way back during Ottoman Empire where Jewish religious courts were involved in handling most of the matters in regard to personal autonomy.
Other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran which are governed by theocracies encounter more serious problems. These theocracies countries are always very intolerant towards the minority religions and tend to be extremely intolerant of individuals who happen to take another direction of not practicing the state-sponsored religion. Of course democracy is strengthened when minority's rights are respected and protected as well as when the entire citizens have an open opportunity of participating in the democratic process. However, a system that tips the scale in favor of a particular group over the others poses a serious potential of challenging majority governance and to trample on the rights of minorities.
Most of the religious faiths in the United States have partially flourished as a result of religion and government occupying independent spheres. The more churches become increasingly political, the more they seriously risk the chances of becoming designated and destroyed. When a church takes a move to endorse a candidate, it will be very difficult for the same church to speak out against their chosen candidate or to be involved in preaching issues that might otherwise makes members feel discouraged and never vote in their support. Therefore, by church supporting a candidate may in-turn put pressure on the very church to change or maybe deemphasize some aspects of church doctrine. The independence of the church may be lost through this move. The church may feel constrained to speak out just on particular issues that are helpful to the candidate. This means that the church changes to be part of the candidate's campaign and move away from its independent voice. In addition, when this happens so, the credibility of the church on issues is hurt. The followers will always ask questions whether the position that the church has taken is political or theological.
Banning churches from political campaign protect churches from intimidation by political parties or powerful politicians. This is because churches involved may be put under pressure to get involved in political campaign. The pressure and intimidation to be avoided may both come locally and internationally. Giving space to this involvement, those who seek government office as well as those in power would time and again have every incentive of pressing churches to become involved in campaigns. What the churches would be facing is an uncomfortable proposition of either having to be reluctant in appointing a particular candidate or disappoint powerful politicians. Some of the religious leaders may have fear of retribution if they fail to support incumbent. Government officials may subject these religions to ostracism if they fail to support the correct candidate. The consequences of their action may make them excluded from government discussions involving religion, or never receive any government grant. To some extent they may be unofficially blacklisted by government officials.
Once a church is involved in discussions or promoting issues, it is engaged in its core moral and religious functions. There are some particular groups who may disagree with the teaching of the church or believe that the position taken by the church towards certain moral issues is not the correct one, however, churches should remains a leading example to be followed in holding any position when caught up in a discussion regarding moral and religious issues. When churches goes a head and talk about moral issues politically, it can cause deep division and discord within its members since their teaching requires them to always maintain acceptable morals in the society. Having been left free for people with similar theological beliefs to support their preferred candidate, makes the members feel comfortable as their elect candidates of their choice. However, when a religion or any institution decides to support a particular candidate, it will exclude large portions of their membership and cause deep division. Such division make religious group to have more difficulties in promoting their traditional function of preaching to the masses as well as providing spiritual comfort to its members.
Apart from law and philosophy, there are some Christians who do not believe in voting, carrying arms, or participating in civil government in any way, majorly resulting to their persecution. For example, the Anabaptists, their generation which included Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish, as well as by 20th century, various members of the Jehovah's Witnesses in different countries believed that when they are not participating in the politics they get closer to the Kingdom of God, and they have depended a lot from the answer that Jesus gave Pilate that "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were this world, then would my servants fight to defend me."
John Locke in his view based on his principle of the social contract argued that the government did not have the authority within the realm…[continue]
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