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Can We Really Separate Religion And Politics?


GeorgeW
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Now that election season is fully underway in the U.S., it might be appropriate to ask, can we really separate religion and politics?

 

I would argue no. I think that politics is one important way in which we express our values. If religion has anything to do with morality or values, then I don't think one could neatly separate this from politics. Can one really embrace Jesus' message of caring for the "least of these" and then vote for politicians who support policies that harm "the least of these?"

 

I do oppose (I think) churches, as tax exempt organizations, formally endorsing and promoting candidates. But, I don't think churches should abstain from addressing basic political issues such as social programs, militarism, social issues such as abortion, gay rights, etc.

 

What sayeth PCs?

 

George

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George,

 

i would propose that both religion and politics can be firebombs that separate. And while it may be true that they cannot be neatly separated, It seems to me it would be wise to bring neither to the voting booth. Rather It seems to me more beneficial to focus on our values and caring for others stripped of all labels of religion and politics and vote our conscience for who we think is the best one to lead and propagate the values we cherish most . It seems to me also wise to do this without any animosity for the those who may differ.

 

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

It seems to me that we bring one set of values to both our religion and politics, so how can we keep these separate? Can we truly care for others in our religious activities and be uncaring in our political activities?

 

Mark Shields, a journalist and commentator on the PBS News Hour commented about Mitt Romney being a very caring person with respect to people he knows, but doesn't have the same concern for people he has never met (i.e. millions of American citizens). I thought that was an interesting observation. So, WWJD?

 

George

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Joseph,

 

It seems to me that we bring one set of values to both our religion and politics, so how can we keep these separate? Can we truly care for others in our religious activities and be uncaring in our political activities?

George

 

I thing the problem may be we take our values from our religion which are sometimes dangerously flawed in their interpretation and the cause of much separation and strife between those of other religious and political beliefs. Perhaps we should (as you said) bring values TO both our religion and politics rather than taking them FROM religion and politics.

 

Joseph

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Is it morally correct to define what people ought to do irrespective of their capacity to meet that defintion?

 

It seems not to me but i don't know that it is or is not morally correct but i do know that society in general certainly has and takes that responsibility or right to define regardless of whether one such as i, deems it morally correct or not.

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The problem is that people don't really understand what the separation of church and state means. The separation of church and state doesn't mean that you can't turn to religion for guidance when voting. It is perfectly acceptable to vote for a candidate who's values match up with your own but you can't pass a law that requires the president of the United States to be a Christian and I would argue it's unconstitutional to force a president to swear on a bible in order to become president. I'm not saying this is what you're doing GeorgeW but when most Christians say you can't separate your religious values from their politics, what they really mean most of the time is that they want to use the government to discriminate against non-Christians and ban non-Christians from being able to run from office or to justify forcing their religious beliefs on non-Christians.

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It seems not to me but i don't know that it is or is not morally correct but i do know that society in general certainly has and takes that responsibility or right to define regardless of whether one such as i, deems it morally correct or not.

 

I have friends and family in mainland China and Vietnam. While they pay lip service to the government, they freely state that they have no affinity whatsover with the policies of the government. In private, they crack jokes about 'party elites' running around looking like fools. They know that outward conformance and inward conformance are NOT the same thing.

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can we really separate religion and politics?

 

I think it is difficult to do so, but probably easier for those on the progressive side, since most atheists tend toward progressive ideologies and, thus see no need of conjuring up deities to justify their positions. Conservatives, in my experience, seem to blend a fundamentalist religious worldview with conservative politics (for example; abortion, same-sex marriage, welfare). They appear to posit the theory that G-d prefers capitalism over communism, hetero over gay, pro-life over women's rights, and rugged individualism over charity.

 

I tend to be more progressive in my political beliefs, and non-theistic in my religious beliefs, so I fit this generalization.

 

Can one really embrace Jesus' message of caring for the "least of these" and then vote for politicians who support policies that harm "the least of these?"

 

I guess that would depend on whom you consider "the least of these." My conservative friends tell me that the least of these are fellow Christians (the righteous). I've always understood the Biblical passage as referring to the poor and dispossessed.

 

I do oppose (I think) churches, as tax exempt organizations, formally endorsing and promoting candidates. But, I don't think churches should abstain from addressing basic political issues such as social programs, militarism, social issues such as abortion, gay rights, etc.

 

I've always thought that churches ought to pay property taxes like everyone else. They could earn tax credits based on how much they contribute to the community.

 

It's only the beginning of September, and I am already weary of the constant barrage of campaigning. My daughter and I are the only progressives in the family, and have come to dread this time of year. The political discourse is not conducive to productive debate.

 

I wish that we could go back to a time when cable "news" television didn't exist.

 

NORM

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In the OP, I asked, "Can one really embrace Jesus' message of caring for the "least of these" and then vote for politicians who support policies that harm "the least of these?"

 

I am reading a book now about Ayn Rand ("Goddess of the Market, Ayn Rand and the American Right"), the intellectual mentor, of the Tea Party and Paul Ryan. She answers my question quite directly. She says, "Christianity is the best kindergarten of communism possible." She was a fervent atheist and anti-communist. So, she saw a clear link between Jesus' message and socialism as a economic system.

 

George

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I'm a little iffy about the question of religion and/or politics. For me, personally, I utterly thoroughly completely (!!) dislike politics. I know I have to be informed enough to make an intelligent reasoned choice when it comes time to vote. Otherwise, I'm not so sure politics and religion make very good bedfollows. As far as churches having or not having tax-exempt status, I would ask, does that mean there should be no exemptions for nonprofits? If so, well and good; if not, how does nonprofit get defined? I think a lot of liberals would shout rather loudly if their pet projects were taxed. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone, and like I said, I've not strong opinions on it, but I don't think its as simple as churches should (or not) be taxed.

 

i have to say I too think Jesus' message and the example of the earliest Christian lives links with socialism. (I just heard my entire conservative family and community gasp.)

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In the OP, I asked, "Can one really embrace Jesus' message of caring for the "least of these" and then vote for politicians who support policies that harm "the least of these?"

 

I am reading a book now about Ayn Rand ("Goddess of the Market, Ayn Rand and the American Right"), the intellectual mentor, of the Tea Party and Paul Ryan. She answers my question quite directly. She says, "Christianity is the best kindergarten of communism possible." She was a fervent atheist and anti-communist. So, she saw a clear link between Jesus' message and socialism as a economic system.

 

George

Both Paul Ryan and Joe Biden claim to be devout Catholics and they both claim their Catholic faith inspires their political views yet both Biden and Ryan have radically different worldviews on everything from gay marriage to contraception. If your economic policies should be based solely on your religious faith, who gets to decide which version of Christianity that American economic policies should be based on? Whoever's the most popular? Whatever religious belief the president happens to have? Can Muslims let shariah law dictate American politics or is it only Christianity that can?
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If your economic policies should be based solely on your religious faith, who gets to decide which version of Christianity that American economic policies should be based on?

 

It is clear that Christianity today accommodates a wide variety of worldviews. But, what I find interesting is the inconsistency between Jesus' message of caring for each other and the economic positions of 'Christians' who follow Ayn Rand, like Paul Ryan. With Rand, there was no inconsistency, she rejected Christianity partly on grounds of altruism for which she had contempt. In fact, she described altruism as "evil." But, what about Paul Ryan who claims to be both a follower of Jesus and a follower of Rand?

 

George

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But, what about Paul Ryan who claims to be both a follower of Jesus and a follower of Rand?

 

I'm not one for quoting scripture, but since Mr. Ryan seems to regard the Bible as WOG, ...

 

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Matt 6:24

 

I'm sure there's a good explanation for the seeming contradiction.

 

NORM

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For me, personally, I utterly thoroughly completely (!!) dislike politics.

 

This is an impossible position for the citizen of a State:

 

Politics: from Greek politikos "of, for, or relating to citizens"

 

I think that you mean to say; you dislike the extreme polarization we are experiencing in our political discourse.

 

 

As far as churches having or not having tax-exempt status, I would ask, does that mean there should be no exemptions for nonprofits? If so, well and good; if not, how does nonprofit get defined?

 

I would make a distinction between those who exist as a "club," and those who have a positive impact on the community in a material way. I've suggested tax credits for community service. I would impose similar restrictions on nonprofits. There are far too many such entities that merely exist to stroke the egos of their members.

 

 

I think a lot of liberals would shout rather loudly if their pet projects were taxed.

 

I agree. If an organization is NOT helping - tax 'em!!!

 

i have to say I too think Jesus' message and the example of the earliest Christian lives links with socialism. (I just heard my entire conservative family and community gasp.)

 

I don't see how one could view it any other way. If the Bible is our lamp, then it seems to me that the spotlight is on a socialistic worldview; i.e., sharing all in common, no hierarchies, no amassing great fortunes (as has the current Conservative presidential candidate). I would like to see someone explain to me - using scripture alone - how Conservative politics aligns with a Biblical worldview.

 

NORM

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Considering the research that suggests inherited brain functioning predicts political and religious leanings I think it is difficult for each of us to find that place where we are actually free to exercise a choice.

 

We can't avoid interjecting our values into the religious and political dialog and we can't separate them. We can try to avoid using one as a weapon against the other.

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Considering the research that suggests inherited brain functioning predicts political and religious leanings I think it is difficult for each of us to find that place where we are actually free to exercise a choice.

 

Dutch,

 

I generally agree except that culture and personal experience also have a powerful effect on our worldview. (Of course, these are also generally outside our ability to determine.)

 

What continues to amaze me are the people who are devout Christians but hold a worldview contrary to that of Jesus. They can embrace personal greed and denigrate altruism while professing Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. I would love to hear a reasoned and reasonable reconciliation.

 

PC's have an easier road to differ with the reported words of Jesus. We can explain that he didn't actually say it, it was mistranslated, or we can metaphor-ize it, or contextualize it. But, if one believes every word in the Bible is the literal word of God and Jesus actually said everything reported as it is written, the reconciliation would, it seems to me, be much harder.

 

George

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Norm,

 

You are correct, I didn't mean politics as you defined it. What I mean is (in the US anyway) the jockeying for position and power, the lies and half-truths, and the fact people like me cannot hope to understand all the garbage that muddies the water during election year. I do not like the current system of delegates and electoral votes. I do not like the way candidates hijack religion to appeal to a certain demographic. So in this sense, I think there needs to be a trifle bit more separation between "church and state". When we have become a country in which a Muslim can swear on the Koran when being sworn in, I'll feel a little better about it.

 

And you were right about socialism, too. The earliest Christians were eglatarian, they shared everything and took care of one another. They didn't need tax breaks, they just did it. They were "in the empire" but not "of the empire" You know? I think Christians everywhere need to adopt that attitude. Yes, I live in the U.S., I have a certain amount of healthy patriotism; but, no I do not have to let the government tell me what to believe or how to act in moral and ethical situations calling for a high degree of compassion, empathy, and social responsibility.

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This article has its problems but it does list many instances in which other sacred texts (or none) were used for oath taking. Notice that many went unnoticed in kinder and gentler times.

http://en.wikipedia....States_Congress

 

Keith Ellison took his ceremonial reenactment oath on Jefferson Koran. Really.

http://www.washingto...7010300075.html

 

Sacred play can be so meaningful and fun. I do not mean this as sarcastic. By allowing Ellison to be who he is and then looking for ways to connect with the rich history of our country we have a significant moment.

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What continues to amaze me are the people who are devout Christians but hold a worldview contrary to that of Jesus. They can embrace personal greed and denigrate altruism while professing Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. I would love to hear a reasoned and reasonable reconciliation.

 

 

George

The explanation I've always heard conservative Christians give is that they believe in the importance of giving to the poor but they think it's better to give to the poor through churches and charities than through the government. But I'm curious to know what organized Christianity's plan is for lowering the price of health care or how they're going to heal people who were turned away from insurance companies for having a per-existing condition? But I've also heard that countries which have a strong social safety net like Sweden tend to be less religious than countries with a poor safety net like the U.S.
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The explanation I've always heard conservative Christians give is that they believe in the importance of giving to the poor but they think it's better to give to the poor through churches and charities than through the government.

 

That is a nice thought, but we tried it and it left millions of people without access to health care. Churches cannot prevent insurance companies from terminating coverage, denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, etc,

 

George

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I think it's *possible* to separate religion and politics, to answer your initial question, George - not everyone gets their morals and values from a religious institution. To say that everyone must is to deny the many, many athiests out there who have what most would consider "good" morals and values: not stealing, lying, murdering, raping; looking after others; helping each other; being a positive member of society, and so on.

 

I think it's interesting (and strange) how big a role religion plays in American politics. It seems like something so private to me. It seems negative, I think; these candidates use their religious beliefs to attack the religious beliefs their opponents, which seems to be the opposite of what God would intend. Mud-slinging isn't very Christian, and everyone is guilty of it.

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