Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Separation of Church and State – Some issues to consider


The debate between Church and State rears its head occasionally. Should the Church, or religion have any part to play in the affairs of the State? Should politics ever be informed by the religious community, whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, etc.?

Some bashful political Christians will say, ‘I keep my faith private.’ Their argument goes along the lines that therefore their policy decisions and choices will be irrelevant to their Christian beliefs.

Lets break this down a little. Is it possible to have a real, authentic Christian faith, and not let all of your life, decisions and choices be fundamentally based upon that belief? Jesus speaks about giving up your own life and following him. Jesus did not speak of faith as simply a personal belief system, that helps you at home when you’re feeling depressed. No. The birth of Christianity in essence was about others, and about serving others, and sharing the gospel of Jesus to the whosoever. It was an outward, exciting faith, that was meant to impact and transform both individuals, but also organisation structures and institutions. Therefore, if someone is really expressing their Christian faith authentically and passionately, I cannot see how a Christian Politician could separate his/her faith from his/her policy decisions.

The next question then is, should a religious person be in politics to start with? While I understand a little of the diversity of religious/secular views in society, I believe it is impossible to separate anybody’s worldview from their business decision making. Whether we are religious, an environmentalist, a humanist, a gay activist, a closet gambler, our decision making is so often underpinned by our fundamental belief system. Politicians are forever making policy decisions about controversial bills, from marriage to abortion, to religious freedom, to the rights of working mothers, etc. The policy decisions made will come out of that politician’s belief system. So, should we separate Church from State, and not allow Christians to be politicians? The fact is, every politician will have their own worldview that informs their decisions. Should we stop an environmentalist from being a politician because someone believes they focus too much on global warming? Should we allow an outspoken Atheist to be a politician? We vote them in, knowing full well their personal belief system will affect their political career.

There is so much more to write, but it’s after midnight, and time to say goodnight. I’m sure some of us have comment to make… :)

1 comment:

  1. Their may be a significant flaw with the premise. Perhaps Jesus was pointing out that Christians should not become politicians - the state wields a hammer not a love thy neighbour approach. Christians may believe that a system is best for their country (socilaism, capitalism etc.) but should be thinking about their community, not worried about using elected (or forceful) power to make a difference.

    Please note: 'Should we allow...?" - implies a power of enforcement over another person. Not very Jesus like...

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