Why Politics and Religion Shouldn’t Mix

Losing My Religion asks if there is a stand a Christian should take on politics:

We have this huge political race down in America and it seems to me most Christians want to vote Republican - again. Meanwhile we take a look at either sides platforms and I have to admit - you take the good with the bad on both sides - but neither of them are reflective of the gospel message and honestly, at the end of the day, they are the same one’s when in power whom we will also oppose on many an issue.

This post triggered several thoughts in my mind: We allow our politicians to lie to us, our politicians increasingly act in ways that are antithetical to the definitions of the conservative/liberal labels applied to them, politics and religion shouldn’t be mixed at all, and that Christians very rarely display any competence whatsoever at selecting leaders.

Having both agreement and disagreement on either side is to be expected; it is rare for just two individuals to agree on everything, let alone two political parties. But the point is well noted, and I think that what’s really going on is the both Democrat and Republican parties are turning into nothing other than two different piles of the same shit. They say what they think we wanna hear and they do what they wanna do, and we gleefully allow them to lie to us—as long as they continue to say the right things immediately prior to election day. And in that, there’s no difference between either party. I briefly touched on the problem of this in my “the founders warned us about GW Bush” post.

As a direct example: When the Republicans, riding high on the tide of conservative Christian votes, assumed complete control of the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court, did they actually use their mandate to actually deal with any touchstone issues for conservative Christians? All the winning candidates made a big deal during elections about their so-called “pro-life” views, but did they deliver any laws or impede abortions in any way? Conservative Christians were made a lot of promises and they elected a bunch of people who either didn’t advance the causes they championed, were actually hypocritical regarding those causes, and/or simply lined their and their crony’s pockets. Yet they still line up to blindly vote Republican.

Putting aside the major issue that our republic will fail if we continue to allow—even expect—our politicians to lie to the public they represent, we have the more recent issue that there seems to be a convergence in political ideology. This convergence isn’t necessarily represented in words, but in actions. The Republican party may have stood for small government and fiscal conservation at some point in time, but it doesn’t now. Well, they say it does, but their record gives absolutely no evidence of either. In fact, it provides volumes of evidence for the exact opposite. There’s exactly one true conservative on the current republican presidential ticket, and he’s a libertarian. As conservative Vox Day says in The Last Betrayal of George Bush:

I cannot stand George Bush, I dislike him every bit as much as the leftists who fail to understand that he’s essentially on their side and call him Chimpy Bushitler or whatever do. But I also have a deep and abiding contempt for those who call themselves conservatives and continue to support him and his fellows - Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and yes, Thompson - who will govern in exactly the same treacherous manner that Bush has. You want war? Oh, they will give you wars a plenty, both at home and abroad!

Now, the Manhattan conservatives at places like National Review, Fox News, FrontPage and Townhall* will assure you that this just isn’t so, because times have changed and that conservatism must evolve as it moves forward into the future and so forth. What they won’t tell you is that what this “conservatism” is evolving into is nothing more than the progressive all-encompassing vision of the Platonic Left.

Returning to the original blog posting, I also want to bring up a point about the mixture of Christianity and politics. In short, I believe that the only place where religious views and political views should intersect is in the heart/mind of an individual person. I don’t want politicians handing out religious viewpoints as happens in a theocracy, and I don’t want my preachers telling me who or what I have to vote for in order to “be a good Christian”.

When a member of clergy, speaking from the pulpit or a religion-themed blog, starts talking politics, I tend to take my leave. Of what use is a preacher who is so short on spiritual teachings that they spend their time on political lectures? Do they truly feel that their time is better spent discussing secular issues over spiritual issues, especially when one considers that while there are many places to learn politics, the church is the only place where the “Gospel” is taught? I turn to religious teachers to learn their philosophy, theology, and the spiritual principles they teach that one should use to guide their life. I then endeavor to live my secular life in accordance with the best of those principles. I prefer a clear delineation between religious and secular; I also don’t want secular schools teaching about God in natural science classrooms, and I don’t want the pastor of the church I’ve chosen to try to teach natural science. Pastors need to have faith that if they have well tended the vines of their congregation’s spirituality, those vines will produce good fruit. The good fruit, of course, representing spirit-led choices for elected officials and other matters in their day-to-day lives. But so many don’t tend the spiritual natures of their congregation, they simply drone on about what one must believe in both religious and secular matters.

As an aside, although this doesn’t apply to general-interest blogs where laypeople are just tossing around thoughts and opinions about a variety of things, it definitely seems to me that many of the religious-themed blogs have more posts about sports scores and politics than they do religion. That’s all well and good, but if I were interested in sports, I’d be perusing sports-themed blogs. And there’s no shortage of political blogs out there either. I myself am constantly thinking of starting a new blog simply because many of my posts are, in essence, what I’d call my religious opinions/teachings, and I believe that someone who even begins to think about calling their religious opinions “teachings” should take special care to separate those from their political and secular opinions. The situation with preachers using their blogs to talk about politics is as bad as my frequent whine about so-called science blogs which are little more than a collection of atheist screeds.

My final point here is to point out that, in hindsight, we Christians lately haven’t shown a very good record in our ability to select leaders of any kind. We evidently fail, many times spectacularly, at selecting leadership within our own churches and organizations. The indictment and conviction rates of clergy and other religious leaders is undeniable evidence. Various Christian denominations argue incessantly over trivial theological details of what it means to be Christian, but all denominations are indeed unified by one common theme: moral and legal misconduct of their leadership. This theme has existed since Christianity began, and is currently no less of an issue than when the bishops of Nicaea and the various early Popes were playing their political games and having their drunken sex parties with the prostitutes they publicly condemned. The textbook irony here is that the teachings of Christianity include clear (inerrant?) instructions on how to select good leaders.

The choices made for secular leadership by vocal Christians have been even more abysmal. Christians poured out hate and vitriol against Bill Clinton over his sexual antics, claiming it was a national crisis. In backlash, they poured out support for GW Bush, who wasted no time in showing us what a real national crisis looked like. I for one would welcome the day when the worst national crisis we could come up with was whose cum stains were on whose dress.

I leave you with a couple of quotes from one of our nation’s founders, Thomas Jefferson. First, an opinion I wish current candidates would adopt rather than wearing their religion on their sleeve. Second, a warning against theocracy.

Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.

4 Responses to “Why Politics and Religion Shouldn’t Mix”

  1. societyvs Says:

    I was raising the question because I blog with quite few other fellow Christians and I found the views were quite opposing - some very liberal and some very conservative - and in the end I thought ‘does what we stand for even look Christian - from either side?’. It’s tough to be in one rough hewn category and say Jesus represents this ‘group’ right here - when in fact Jesus mentions poltics very little in the gospels and I can’t find good reasoning to think Jesus was very Conservative or extremely liberal?

    I think the point about taking faith down to the personal level with regards to politics - agreed. I make the point that no matter who gets in most Christians will find themselves at odds with some platforms irregardless…what really gets my goat is Christians defend the wars coming from America as normal - and I always ask ‘what did Jesus teach on this?’. They usually skirt the issue with some patriotism of some sort but the fact is Jesus was anti-war and pro-peace.

    I am not sure where I stand in politics and faith - I guess I am open to what people will say on it.

  2. Yael Says:

    I’m just curious, Jason, how you interpret certain verses in light of your view that Jesus was anti-war and pro-peace.

    (Matthew 10:34) - “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

    (Luke 12:51) - “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division;

    (Luke 22:36) - “And He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.”

    It seems to me the message of these verses, and history, contradict your assertion. But, since your take on things is normally a bit different from the usual Christian fare, I’m curious to see your interpretation.

  3. societyvs Says:

    Yael, I think that is a great challenge for me to undertake - and I do not read Jesus as someone in the pro-violence movement of any sort - mostly based on teachings like ‘love your enemy’, ‘love your neighbor’, ‘treat others how you want to be treated’, and ‘turn the other cheek’. However, you do present some interesting passages about ‘the sword’ (a weapon of violence) and ideas Jesus taught about division. I will address each as I read them (interpret them).

    (1) Matthew 10:34/Luke 12:51 ‘did not come to bring peace - but a sword’

    This passage is based in the scene of Jesus sending his 12 confidants out into the land of Israel to speak a simple message ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ to the people. However, the message is obviously controversial in Israel on one level - since it seems to hearken back to a Messianic idea. When Jesus mentions the idea of ‘the sword’ here he is using it simply to symbolize the possible ‘cut/tear’ between families that might occur because of heeding the teachings of the disciples (which are in essense Jesus’ sayings).

    I think Jesus was quite aware how controversial this really was going to be - thus division will happen over it. What is odd the disciples add the passage from Micah 7:6 as backgorund to where this teaching orignates from - about a prophet giving a message and reeling from the problem of division in the land and the godliness of the people. To me it is clear this teaching has nothing to do with a literal ’sword’ - but with division that can occur when a prophetic message is spoken.

    The Luke passage is this same idea re-ittirated to another audience about the same thing - and Luke does not use ’sword’ but settles for ‘division’.

    The idea finds it’s reality even in our day in age. We see someone like Medger Evers talking about ending segregation (later carried forward by King Jr and others) and they were speaking ahead of the actual outcome - not knowing what it would be - but still telling the message as it needed to be said. I think they not only caught heat from their own families/communities for stirring up these emotions in America but also from people that opposed the idea strongly. Irregardless, for me the message was easily prophetic and was about ‘justice’ - and it truly hearkens back to the idea from Micah 7. One could read Micah 7 and think of the times of Evers, Malcolm, and King Jr., and see this total dis-regard for righteousness or justice in place and time - and I imagine how Micah felt - these same people felt from seeing those same problems.

    Luke 22:36 - ‘let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one’

    The passage from a singular scripture reads like an advocation of weapons of warfare but I think in total context it loses that meaning fairly quickly.

    (a) For some odd reason the disciples feel the absolute neccesity to show Jesus as fulfilling a prophecy - or idea from Isaiah 53:12 - ‘he will be numbered with the transgressors’ -which leads to the idea they need the 2 swords they find (at which point Jesus says ‘it is enough’ - meanwhile there were 11 others with Jesus - 9 with no swords). It seems Jesus in this passage is not building an army but is basically giving the Romans a reason to arrest him.

    (b) It is interesting by the little story in vs. 49-51 see one of those swords used to cut someone’s ear off (a slave of the High Priest). Jesus is not for that action and outright denounces it fast ‘Stop! No more of this’ - which to me shows the idea of having the swords was more for the show of it than for the actual use of them (plus they have Jesus healing the injured man). Again the swords seem like a symbol of rebellion to the state than actual items of use.

    (c) This story is re-ittirated in each gospel and it really changes very little 0 violence is never used - and in John 21 we see another line concerning this scenario “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Jesus see’s no reason for violence because he is not fighting for a kingdom, land, or practically anything - all things belong to God anyways.

    There is nothing concerning ownership within Jesus teachings when talking about this earth. I cannot see a Jesus even in this dark period of his life (prior to crucifixion) going to his lower instincts of violence since he is quite aware this fight is over nothing - and is not worthy of taking another’s life for (even when they are threatening yours). One could say Jesus is portaryed living his values of ‘love your neighbor or enemy’ as he stared down his own mortality.

    Again this is something that seems to have found it’s way into many a great movement in various time periods. The odd thing about guys like Gandhi and King Jr. is they expected their deaths to occur but were willing to make that sacrifice (their mortality) for the benefit of others (their mortalities). It’s one of the mpost noble concepts in human history - mind you it’s not popular but it is the only answer for nations that think war is the answer to societal problems.

  4. OhHolyKnight Says:

    Wait a minute, religion and politics SHOULDN’T be interrelated? That’s why every candidate who has run so far in the history of this nation has had “faith”? And that’s why gays still can’t get married? And that’s why atheists are still considered immoral, prejudiced bastard children? No, they absolutely shouldn’t be interrelated, but that won’t stop them from doing so. And it won’t stop Christianity from running this Christian nation. Even the founders of the country, who said in the first place that government and religion should be separate, knew full-well what they were doing when they established religion-based laws such as the refusal to give women suffrage. The religious zealots will always be in control and will always refuse to give in or submit to reason.

    Anyone who calls himself a Christian refuses to submit to reason. But that IS just opinion.