Religion and Politics Essay
Religion and Politics
In the world today, there are several pillars of trivial issues that hold it together in spite of the several challenges. Issues like humanitarianism, peacekeeping, politics, religion, international negotiations or even conflict resolution have been on the frontline of such important tenets. However, the ever growing influence of politics and religion since time immemorial has made it one of the most outspoken subjects of all time with much spotlight being continuously placed on these two “twin” issues. Epley (40-48) articulates that the advancements in both religion and politics have astoundingly shot sky high over the recent times. This has led to an increased interest of scholars and researchers in issues to deal with religion and politics. As of today, a wide range of researches have been conducted to this effect and several volumes of academic material written so as to clearly define the relationship between the two aforementioned precepts.
In a different study, Lerman supports Epley’s sentiments by saying that most of these researches tend to focus on the relationship between religion and politics with much emphasis being made on how the two can concurrently run together. He however goes ahead and opines that in as much as such studies have been quite informative, very little has been done by these researchers to fundamentally outline the elementary issue of whether the two should be interrelated and viewed together in the first place—as most scholars have done in the previous studies. It is therefore from this concern by Lerman that this study is going to not only focus on vigilantly highlighting whether both religion and politics should interchangeably influence each other-as they have been doing- but also on projecting on how such a study could be conducted if funds are made available. Theme for the study As partly glimpsed by the above writings, the theme for this proposed study is going to be Religion and Politics. From the several research materials used in this study, most scholars amass that religion has had a great influence on politics just in the same way that politics also affects religion.
To begin with, Cox (2) says that “Religion has influenced politics in America from the very beginning, religion continues to influence politics, and religion will continue in one way or another to influence politics for as long as we can anticipate.” Delcore adds that both religion and politics have greatly impacted one another. This has however come with the main challenge of pluralism since America is a pluralist state that allows freedom of worship, freedom of association and freedom to choose what to believe in (Murrin). In addition, there has been constant struggle between forceful religions like Christianity and Islam on who is the most domineering. As per the United States’ constitution, democracy fundamentally functions to protect both the minority and majority.
However, it is common knowledge that the majority normally gets more decisions going their way based on numbers. And based on the alleged 55% Christian population in America, other religions have been silently complaining that most decisions seemingly favor them (Lormel). This problem is however not just faced in America; many other countries attest to challenges regarding religion and politics. The constant struggles between the Sunni and Shiite in Iraq or the religion versus politics conflict in Sudan are just but a few examples of such. Several other examples exist in many other areas around the world.
It is therefore with great urgency that this subject is addressed; and that is the main purpose of our theme. In spite of the many achievements by law (whether religious or civil), a balance needs to be established so as to ensure that this dual partnership gives ultimate output (Murrin). Similarly, there have been numerous concerns raised on the use of religion to exert control over others. This is exhibited by the allegation of the wide involvement of the church in various campaigns both in the U.S and other countries (Simon). Based on the many positive issues associated with the religion-political relationship, Zeleny documents that Senator Barrack Obama, in his bid to woe voters, expanded George Bush’s program of investing federal money in religious institutions. This money was targeted at the low income earners and to help in alleviating the high levels of poverty by performing community aid work. This move greatly paid off as later indicated by the huge support Barrack Obama received from the religious background thus propelling him into power as President.
On the other hand, it is important to note that it has not been a smooth ride for the relationship between politics and religion. According to Mella, most of the religious people who claim to be ardent followers of particular religions do not even have confidence in their religions. From the most elementary level of perception, this lack of confidence in one’s religion primarily discredits the church’s role in politics as being false. Again, there has been an escalating accusation of governmental institutions using their collaboration with various religions as a cover-up for their hidden agendas. For example, Zeleny documents that Obama’s involvement with the Christian community was considered as a fraudulent way of obtaining votes since his background clearly state that he is a Muslim.
2. Analytical question: Should religion influence politics or should the two facets be viewed independently Several questions can be raised from the theme. However, our focus is going to be on answering the question “Should religion influence politics or should these two facets be viewed independently?” in answering this, it is important to get a background knowledge on the relationship between religion and politics; then from there on we can focus on getting the appropriate answers. Preliminarily, Religion is an abstract concept and thus cannot be viewed as an entity on its own (Lerman). In order to ardently define religion, it is vital that we circumspectly view the context of definition, which people we are making reference to, among many other considerations. According to Connelly, the most representative definition of religion is: A mysterious manifestation of power and presence that is experienced as both primordial and transformative, inspiring awe and rapt attention.
This is usually an event that represents a break or discontinuity from the ordinary, forcing a re-establishment or recalibration of perspective on the part of the experience. Connelly further adds that religion can be something done in an ordinary way but astoundingly leads to a large following of believers. In most cases, some mystique kind of perception is felt by the members who are then propelled into belief. On the other hand, Politics according to BrainyQuote.com is: The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace, and prosperity, the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals. In relations to the question, different views are advanced by different scholars in trying to give a way forward.
First, there are those of the opinion that religion and politics should both relate and help one another like they have been doing in the other past. Second, there are those who totally oppose this relationship and advocate for separation of the state politics and religion. Third and lastly, there is a group of scholars who are somehow in the middle and advocate for a balance between the two facets. We are therefore going to view all these arguments one by one. Starting with the group that propionate influence of religion to politics and vice versa; Lerman says that religious people have the right to offer their genuine opinion on politics. In U.S for example, freedom of speech and religion is protected and legalized under the constitution.
This, however, should be done in a cautious way to avoid conflicting with other groups. With respect to this, a religious group like Buddhism, should behave in a way tantamount to their group, but still not be in conflict with either the constitution or openly condemn other religions. In addition, neither of the religious groups should use the authority and freedom bestowed to them to impose their rule on others. The scenario of imposing one’s authority is allegedly common with Islam states as well as Christian states. An example is the domineering influence of Catholic influence in the Roman Empire which has been alleged to overstep its boundaries just in the same way Islam is said to impose-through jihad- its religious fundamentals to people in the Middle East (Cox 6-8). Cox (3) further advances that there should be an increased influence of religion on politics since politics-by itself- cannot adequately stamp moral authority which is very essential for a country’s growth.
This, he exhibits with the various cases like that of Martin Luther junior who-in spite of not directly routing for a particular political figure- greatly cultivated morality in politics through his numerous inspirational speeches (4-5). In making his contribution to this debate, Lormel asserts that the democracy in United States stipulates freedom of religion and this should not be deterred by any political authority-or individual for that matter- since it is a constitutional right. However, it is not clearly stipulated on whether religion should or should not affect politics; and in his interpretation, Lormel sees this as a go-ahead for the influence of religion on politics (3). Additionally, religion’s influence on politics is a moral obligation of keeping the politicians in check. It also serves a voice for the voiceless in the society who-more often than not- are always at the mercy of superior political classes and thus get frequently downtrodden on.
Cox (7) strongly supports this idea by saying that: There is a larger moral purpose to public policy which goes far beyond brokerage and has to do with seeking a justice which is measured by how this society deals with those who are most vulnerable, its weakest members, and how they are dealt with. This is why it is not only the right but the responsibility of religious leaders, and of lay people in religious communities for whom this tradition is the basis of their lives, to remind those in power of this vision and to do so in such a way that the pretentiousness which is often present in kings and emperors and in public policy makers is punctured. The important role played by religion in various elections-like in the aforementioned case of President Barrack Obama’s catapult to office- is seen as very fundamental by many scholars and thus greatly encouraged by them Montanaro. To such political scientist, religion plays a fundamental role in vesting of power and should therefore this role should not be stemmed out by alienating politics from religion.
Lormel (4) says that religion provides platform for building a morally upright political environment just in the same way politics present a forum for instituting laws governing a country. This dual partnership is very healthy and essential for a country and therefore, doing away with this bond through separation of powers can be very detrimental not just to a country as an entity but even to the globe as a whole. In highlighting the views of those opposed to the relationship between politics and religion, Lormel (1-3) articulates that in spite of being religious, the founding fathers of America-who were responsible for creation of constitution- saw the need for separation of religion and politics no wander they ensured that the constitution allowed for pluralism. This, they did, despite the fact that most of them were religious.
Again, to the proponents of separation of politics from religion, this independence ensures that both of these key aspects of the state run autonomously and thus ensuring maximum output from them (Shattuck 16-30). Epley (44-55) explicates that the separation also creates an ample environment for growth by the separate units since they themselves know how to handle their problems. In other words, religious organizations best know how to solve their problems just in the same way that political organizations know how to ardently solve their challenges or problems. Moreover, Simon reiterates that “There are many countries whose governments see religious resurgence posing a serious challenge to the future shape of their societies.” As a point of caution therefore, separation of religion and politics would consequently inhibit the threat for this alleged challenge. Shattuck says that the issue of separation of the church from politics is not a new thing.
Based on his circumspective studies that involved various subjects, Shattuck documents that issues like the state funding religious organizations has been greatly objected as it is viewed as inhibiting liberty and encouraging favoritism. Simon goes ahead and exemplifies this alleged favoritism by saying that in spite of George Bush’s funding of religious groups was said to be fair, most of it was-indeed- fraudulent since there is surmountable evidences that the policy greatly favored some particular people who were allied to the president—George bush. Lastly, there is the group of scholars who tend to believe that striking a professional balance between religion and politics is the ultimate solution. Proponents of this idea propose two ways of making this happen. First, they opine that there should be a balance in the intrinsic relationship between the various religious movements. For example, there should be a balance in the way Hindus treat Christians and similarly, Muslims should also treat atheists with the same kind of respect they would treat their Muslim brothers.
By ensuring a balance between the various religious affiliations, the perilous competition between them will be toned down and thus making them able to speak in one voice when addressing the political arena. History abounds with several examples where people of different religious backgrounds have come together and thus resulting in a unified resounding voice from them which has many times led to positive change in politics. Generally speaking, the church (whether Pentecostal or catholic) have always come out strongly in United States to oppose the implementation of laws like gay marriages which is an abomination in most religions. Lauritzen exemplifies this mutual relationship between different religions by citing the Evangelicals and Catholics merger-commonly abbreviated as ECT-in the fight against the institution of the volatile law on abortion.
In spite of the political class shortchanging the religious organizations in the fight against legalization of abortion, it can be duly noted that-for once-, a clear and unified stand was taken by the pious world. Secondly, the balance between religion and politics is proposed to take shape inform of a mutual relationship between the two facets. So while religion will be charged with the responsibility of offering moral guidance in the political word, politics will on the other hand function to ensure freedom of religious organizations while encouraging unity between them. This should be done in a fair way rather than discriminating against a particular religious group or imposing a religion just because of the relative dominance it enjoys in a region. This type of imposition-as cited earlier-is very characteristic of Christian and Islamic states. In effect, the very essence of democracy and freedom of worship or choice gets corroded away by such actions.
If the abovementioned guidelines are observed, there will be positive output from both ends without necessarily getting into each others’ way but rather complimenting the growth of one another (Shattuck 12-14). In summary, most scholars and researchers that I studied tend to support the continuity in the relationship between politics and religion. A good percentage of this proponents advocate for balance, while the rest believe that there has been a relatively good relationship between the two facets in the past and this should just continue in the same way. Of course there is the group that opposes the mutual relationship between politics and religion through the separation of roles between the two. In as much as this proposition has not landed on deaf years or has not been greatly opposed by their counterparts; the alleged positive results associated with continuity of the mutual effect of religion and politics tends to outweigh the positives associated with separation of powers thus making the latter option less popular.
3. Importance of the research This research not only offers immense insights into politics and religion, it pans further into highlighting several other essential issues which-in effect makes it very important. A number of the significances of this research have been in-part mentioned or addressed above. Some other significance includes: Fundamentally, this study mentions and offers insights key issues like abortion, gay (same sex) marriages, terrorism, religiously branded killings e.g. Jihad among other essential subjects which are in great contention in the current world and have been threatening to tear the victims-like America-apart (Shattuck17-18).
This is far much better than just burying our heads in the sand-like the proverbial Ostrich-hoping that the problems will fade away instead of wisely dealing with them head-on! In fact, it is by highlighting such challenges that it becomes easy to find a way of getting forward. According to the Manila Bulletin, issues to do with religion and politics were swept below the carpet by most people and thus making it difficult for a way forward to be found. But based on the ever increasing urgency and prolificacy of these two facets with regards to other current fundamental issues; it is the duty of everybody to contribute towards fostering a better world—be it by separation of the two or their continuity. With that in mind, this study addresses this issue of politics and religion in an in-depth way thus laying a platform for others to follow suit.
In addition, Simon documents that “The end of the cold war left the world without an overarching narrative of good and evil and created a free market in ideas in which any group that is sufficiently assertive and has access to media can communicate its prescriptions for the common good.” As a result, some religious and political organizations have been enjoying unchecked freedom. This research therefore highlights methods in which this regulation can be done—with a balance between the two facets being the most proposed solution. This study therefore does not stop at showing where the problem is but goes further into proposing a solution thus making the research inherently vital. Finally, this research is richly endowed with authoritative facts, examples and even opinions which lay a foundation for future studies to be conducted by other people. Education is a continuous process and based on this proposed study, someone else might just decide to pick up on a particular area and continue with researching thus fostering an academic empowerment.
4. How does the research connect to the literature? A wide variety of literature was used in this research. Different styles are employed in each piece of literature that is used. Some tend to take a laid-back position by talking on a general way about the concerned theme. Others however go ahead and opine of what should or should be done based on evidences which they present. Yet still, some literatures are purely factual and the writers base their arguments on attested concepts. In order to exemplify the ultimate connection between the study and the literature, it is inherent to note that most of the materials used here either emanated from political scientists or religious circles.
As a result, most of the writers tend to support what they subjectively view as ideal to them and only a handful of them circumspectly address the theme of politics and religion. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that modernism has paved way for paradigm shifts; with more complex paradigms replacing the simple ones that were previously held. This shift has also had an effect on the literature with most of the current writings being more informative, incorporative and taking a certain pattern. Gabler tries to aptly represent this alleged change by noting that: Perhaps the single most profound change in our political culture over the last 30 years has been the transformation of conservatism from a political movement, with all the limitations, hedges and forbearances of politics, into a kind of fundamentalist religious movement, with the absolute certainty of religious belief.
In exemplifying those who take a laid-back position, Shattuck (9) says that people should not worry about the mutual relationship between religion and politics since everything done by both of the facets have to be passed through the constitutional sieve which rarely goes wrong. Mella (2008) also softly contributes to the issue of religious influence in politics and social issues by saying that “There is a wide range of views on this, but our take is that the application of precepts such as sacred Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church to our politics and society is healthy to the degree it isn’t manipulated or distorted in service to a political end.” To the second category of those offering their opinion, Senator Danforth is quoted by Shattuck (8) saying “I don’t think people who have deep religious faith are expected to check their faith at the door when they leave their church or mosque or synagogue.
Religion is something that infuses all of our lives, hopefully our personal lives, our family lives, our business lives, and our political lives.” The third group that represents the factual scholars is the most the trusted source of information. This is because facts are normally from authoritative sources thus giving more credibility and accuracy to the information. An example of factual material analyzed and used in this research is the verity that a good balance between religion and politics leads to an overall goodwill in the society (Orens 20-23). Shattuck (56) also taps into the use of facts by authoritatively stating that Martin Luther King greatly changed America in spite of never endorsing any politician from the various pulpits he was in.
5. How I would conduct the research Coffey denotes that religion and politics is a fundamental pair not just in America but also in other parts of the world. It is therefore not just enough to highlight the problems associated with politics and religion but also look at the prospects of making the dream of making both percepts fully actualized. If I had funds, time and opportunity to meet the sources relevant to my study, this is how I would conduct the research: My studies would mainly be focused on circumspectly highlighting the theme in question from a worldwide perspective. I would therefore select at least 5 countries from each continent and do an in-depth analysis of the various religious and political systems in place. In addition, I would ensure that amongst the five countries, there is a good representation of developed and developing countries.
This is very important in knowing what roles religion and politics have played in such countries. Yet still, I would make sure that the countries selected are polytheists or have several religious groups so as to ardently get accurate, informative and representative results. In Africa for example, I would select South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. With the exception of Zimbabwe, all these countries are still developing with South Africa being the most developed. The choice of a country like Nigeria is based on the many religious factions that are present in the country and the constant debates that have been allegedly going there in the recent past so as to either join or separate religion and politics. The political system of governance in such countries is also very important for the studies i.e. whether dictatorial, authoritarian or autocratic.
In Zimbabwe for instance, the political leadership of Mugabe has been greatly criticized for negatively impacting social and religious aspects of the country; the choice of such a country for this study would therefore provide a very interesting analytical angle for the research. There are various data collection methods that are normally used in various studies. However, since this research is highly prolific and requires substantial answers, it is very important that the methods used for data collection are highly inclusive. Primarily, I would conduct a survey on the countries in question so as to get adequate knowledge and information that will help me in the study. These interviews would be focused on religious and political leaders as well as historians who are viable and credible sources of information. The reason for the preference of interviews and questionnaires during the survey is because they allow for easy referencing and sufficient future analysis (Cano).
Of course the nature of questions used in data collection will be simple so as to elicit lucid answers from the interviewees. Secondarily, I would use library materials-books, articles, journals-, online resources, governmental and non-governmental archives among many others. In order to ensure that the research gives as much information as possible to readers, I would make certain that neutrality and objectivity is ardently observed throughout the study duration. This is because any minor lapse in concentration can interfere with whole process thus jeopardizing the success of the study. Conclusion In my opinion, both politics and religion play important roles to each other and thus delinking them would rather destroy rather than build countries. Of course the collaboration between the two also has some relative negative effects (Simon).
This should however not stand in the way of the immense benefits that the mutual relationship between the two precepts. In addition, despite the norm in life that the majority always gets things done their way, a balance should exist between the various religious factions just in the same way a balance should exist between the dealings of politics and religion. If this is done, there will be ultimate respect between all he involved parties thus fostering an environment for growth in each country.