Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

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Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  American Zombie on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:04 am

Introduction

Since the heyday of the Enlightenment, there have been concerted efforts in many parts of the West to get religion out of politics, presumably on the grounds that religion is bad for politics. Whatever the merits of these efforts, and to whatever extent they may be justifiable, what has not, perhaps, been so widely considered is whether or not it might also be a good idea to separate religion from politics because politics is bad for religion! I argue that politics, understood as the institution and operation of the state, is a deeply flawed project and hence that religion’s association with it is necessarily damaging to religion. The time for divorce has finally arrived.

Introductory Remarks

In liberal circles, using the term ‘liberal’ in its modern and not in its classical sense, one would find very little disagreement that the detachment of politics from religion has been a Good Thing. But one thing that never appears to be considered is whether or not it would be a good thing to detach religion from the influence of politics!

For the first three hundred years of its institutional life, Christianity was a non-establishment, oftentimes persecuted, religion. One of the reasons for its persecution was that it was believed that its adherents were atheists, that is to say, they did not worship the gods of the State and therefore were considered to be politically subversive. The Constantinian settlement, when it came in the 4th century, was undertaken as much with a view to seeing what support Christianity could bring to the Roman State as with seeing what support the Imperial state could bring to Christianity. Caesaro-Papism immediately became the new norm of Church governance, a norm that continued in the Eastern Empire until its fall in 1453. In the post-Roman West, the story was somewhat different. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the rulers of the various barbarian tribes retained their original sacral functions even when Christianised – a kind of Caesaro-Papism in miniature. With the Papal Revolution inaugurated by Gregory VII in 1075 all this changed. Over the next 400 years, the Church tried, and to a large extent succeeded, in establishing its independence of the various political orders, whether local, regional or imperial. This welcome development came to a shuddering halt with the onset of the Reformation, so-called. [1]


Leaving to one side the purely religious dimensions of the Reformation and its complicated and convoluted theological debates, one of its most significant and deleterious consequences was the re-emergence of local forms of Caesaro-Papism in the newly emerging autonomous and, more often than not, absolutist states. This regional Caesaro-Papism occurred primarily in the areas under the sway of the Reformed traditions, Lutheran or Calvinist, but was also witnessed even in areas that remained Catholic. To an extent that had not been seen since the 11th century, the Church, or rather Churches, now came under pressure to became departments in the various sovereign and independent states, a pressure to which they largely yielded. The modern state, in the form in which we have come to know it – the sole sovereign power in a defined territory, exercising a monopoly on (allegedly) legitimate violence, with the power to commandeer the resources, including the persons, of it citizen – had come into existence.

Politics and the Myth of the State

Politics can be understood as the art of living in community, either benignly, as the organisation of a voluntary and consensual system of government, or not-so-benignly as the organisation of an involuntary and non-consensual state. Government in some form or other is absolutely necessary for human flourishing. It comes into existence either naturally, as a matter of status, for example, within the family, or artificially, as a matter of contract, in voluntary associations. The modern State is entirely another matter being neither a matter of status nor of voluntary association. [2] In the remarks which follow, I shall concentrate almost entirely on the politics of the state.

Modern political theory is dominated by a myth, the myth of the necessity of the state. The state is considered necessary for the provision of many things but primarily for the provision of peace and security. Where a state is that group of people which wields a territorial monopoly of alleged legitimate force financed by a compulsory levy on the inhabitants of that territory, the myth holds that without such an entity there would be widespread disorder, violence and chaos; in a word, anarchy (as that term is commonly employed). So dominant is the myth of the state that the claim that the state as we know it today is historically contingent, morally indefensible and functionally unnecessary is typically met with a mixture of bewilderment, incredulity, derision and hostility.

Some Preliminary Reflections

Firstly, a little reflection will demonstrate that most of our relations with other people come into being outside the ambit of positive law and the state and would, for reasons of mutual benefit, if for no more elevated reasons, continue in existence and operation even if there were no state to enforce its laws.


Secondly, the state does not in fact prevent or punish most internal violence. Even with the state there is a measure, often a considerable measure, of disorder and criminality, thus the state, to that extent, fails in respect of one of its fundamental functions.

Thirdly, in the history of mankind, most killing has been done by one state or another, or by some armed group seeking to control the coercive apparatus of the state. The number of people killed in the twentieth century in state-sponsored conflicts is, at a conservative estimate, about 175,000,000; although it is impossible to say for definite, it can reasonably be judged that the number of people killed in the twentieth century by non-state sponsored criminal homicide is nowhere near that number.

Fourthly, finding its role as the preserver of civil order unrewarding, expensive and time-consuming the state intrudes coercively upon other areas into which it has no business going and in which, we may be thankful, its renowned inefficiency is manifest. In a classic strategy of distraction and displacement, the state, bored with and indifferent to those things for which, allegedly, it primarily exists, becomes ever more interested in curtailing and interfering with the lives, liberty and property of its citizens in ways that are more systematically devastating and irresistible than any danger posed by the ordinary criminal. Lovers of the grotesque must surely cherish the irony that the dubiously moral organisation known as the state, in addition to purporting to provide services that are genuinely required (albeit doing so inefficiently and expensively) should also set itself up officiously as the guardian of public morals when it itself is, more often than not, a principal offender against morals.

The Moral Status of State Action

It is important, in considering political matters, not to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. We talk of the ‘state’ as if it were a real entity of a different and higher order of reality from the mundane things we encounter in daily life. But the state is simply a name for a particular group of people acting in particular ways at particular times and places. Such being the case, the (rebuttable) presumption will have to be that such people are bound by the normal rules of conduct that apply to us all. What is good for one is good for all; what is bad for one must be bad for all. If it is presumptively wrong for me to initiate aggression against you, it must be presumptively wrong for those people calling themselves the state to do so. If someone wants to make the contrary case then the burden of proof resides with him. If someone claims that being a hitman for the Mafia and taking money for killing to order is wrong, then he is going to have to work hard to show why being a soldier and doing what appears to be the same thing (somewhat more efficiently but for considerably less money) is right. Without in any obvious way possessing a different moral status from ordinary mortals, the state does things that, if done by anyone else, would be illegal, immoral and criminal – for example, in making war, it kills; in taxing, it steals; in conscripting troops for war, it kidnaps. The task of the defenders of the state is not easy. They have to explain that it is wrong to forcibly expropriate another’s property – except when the one doing the expropriating is the state. They have to explain that it is wrong to take the life of another – except when it is the agents of the state who do the taking. Slavery and kidnapping, they will tell you, are wrong – unless it is the state that enslaves you or kidnaps you by means of conscription. [3]

Freedom


Man is free: metaphysically, inasmuch as his actions, though conditioned by factors such as heredity, environment, training, education, associations, and so on, are nevertheless not determined; practically, inasmuch as his actions are not constrained by factors outside himself. As Christians, we believe that man is created in the image and likeness of God. This likeness is most obviously manifest in our possession of intellect and will. Our capacity to grasp reality by means of our intellect is a dim reflection of God’s creative knowledge, limited intrinsically by our finite nature. Our freedom too, mirrors the Divine freedom. [4] Milton has God speak of man thus:

I form’d them free, and free they must remain,
Till they enthrall themselves: I else must change
Thir nature, and revoke the high Decree
Unchangeable, Eternal, which ordain’d
Thir freedom. …
(John Milton Paradise Lost, III. 124–128)

God has made us to know, love and serve Him in this life. We believe that God loves us with a love that is utterly disproportionate to our merits and that He wishes us to love Him in return. But that love must be a free response to his overtures. Even in the sphere of human actions love, to be love, must be free and unconstrained. However much we may want someone to love us, that love, if it is to be worth anything, must be freely given and not coerced. The burden of many fairy-tales, operas and films is that the pseudo-love produced by a magic potion (or its latter-day technological equivalent) is no love at all. The desired end, the love of the beloved, has been attained only by means of the destruction of the beloved. God, who loves us in a measure that passes all understanding, will not force us to love Him. In the end, he respects our choice, even if that choice is, mysteriously, to reject Him. If God, who manifestly has the right to do with His creation what He wills, will not coerce us, what creature can presume to take it upon himself so to do.

The State, then, is an organisation of persons which, whatever good it may incidentally do, it nevertheless does by means that are fundamentally flawed, means that involve violence against the human person (homicide, slavery, assault) and against property (theft). No organisation could survive for any length of time unless it did some good and most states will, even if only intermittently and inefficiently, protect the person and property of some of its citizens but this fact cannot be used to deny that the state is essentially a violent and coercive institution.

Christianity and the State

For Christians, the words of Scripture are normative. It is therefore a matter of some importance to us to discover if we can find some Scriptural justification for the State. I know full well how hazardous an enterprise it is to venture on the sea of Scriptural interpretation. My few comments are not meant to be the final word on any matter; however, following the tradition of sic et non inaugurated by Peter Abelard, I venture to suggest that we can find two kinds of passage in Scripture; one kind broadly dismissive of the concept of a state (to risk being anachronistic in using such a term in the context of Scripture) and the other (much smaller) kind being, it would appear, supportive. I shall take one example of each kind and subject it to some elementary analysis.

I think it fair to say that most relevant Old Testament passages (and many passages in the New Testament) are sceptical of the value of secular political rule. The Book of Judges concludes with these words: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges: 25) and there is no suggestion in the context of that book that such a state of affairs was considered to be in any way problematic. The passage I have chosen to examine in some detail, however, the one I find (as have others before me) most instructive, is a passage from the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:4-22).

Samuel

The elders of Israel asked Samuel to give them a king, saying to him “5… "Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways. Now make us a king to judge us, like all the nations.” Samuel wasn’t happy about this demand and consulted God. God told Samuel that this request indicated that the people of Israel had rejected God’s reign over them. Nevertheless, He instructed Samuel to listen to what the people said, first pointing out to them what their request involved. [5] So, Samuel told the people what to expect if they got themselves a king:

11And he said, “This will be the manner of the king who shall reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, for his chariots and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint him captains over thousands and captains over fifties, and will set them to till his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war and instruments of his chariots. 13And he will take your daughters to be confectioners and to be cooks and to be bakers. 14And he will take your fields and your vineyards and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15And he will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. 16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17He will take a tenth of your sheep; and ye shall be his servants. 18And ye shall cry out on that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”


However, Samuel’s good advice got the reception generally accorded to good advice, which is to say it was ignored.

19Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and they said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us, 20that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he recounted them in the ears of the LORD. 22And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.” [6]

The significance of this passage is worth reflecting upon. First, God clearly sees the demand of the men of Israel for a king to be a rejection of His kingship. Second, he has Samuel tell them clearly what to expect from their king when they get him – he will take their sons and daughters, confiscate their property and make them his servants. Nevertheless, if they persist in their desire for a king, God will not interfere with their freedom to choose, even if that choice is foolish and unwise. The subsequent history of the kings of Israel, from Saul, through David, Solomon and Rehoboam, followed by the division of the kingdom is very far from edifying and can be seen as the fulfilment of Samuel’s warning.

Romans

So much for a passage illustrative of the dangers and limitations of secular state rule. On the other hand, it is often claimed that Scripture explicitly endorses secular rule and enjoins obedience to such rule upon the Christian.

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. [Romans: 13 1-7]


This is one a few passages that appears to run against the general current, as exemplified by Samuel. [7] Let us look more closely at this passage. [8]

Whereas the standard English interpretation uses the word ‘governing’ in verse 1, the Greek text does not. It reads: ‘Let every soul be subject to the superior powers.’ Who or what are these superior powers? It is assumed by many commentators that in this passage St Paul was referring to the secular authorities. But why should we make this assumption? Let us place this passage in context. In the previous chapter of Romans, St Paul had just written “Do not be conformed to the world…” (Romans 12: 2); why should we think that he would almost immediately contradict himself and counsel conformity to the world? The bulk of chapter 12, and the verses of chapter 13 that occur immediately after the passage just cited, concern themselves with what is required of the Christian in living a Christian life, of the mutual duties and responsibilities among Christians. There is nothing explicit in these two chapters to support the claim that St Paul has switched his focus in the early verses of chapter 13 to discuss the Christian's relationship to civil government. In fact, the context seems to support the contrary: St Paul is dealing with spiritual authority within the Body of Christ and the individual members' relationship to that authority. The apostle tells us to submit to the higher powers, then he quotes the law of the higher powers, the love of neighbour of which the particular commandments are only particular exemplifications. What St Paul is talking about here is the Law of God – what has this got to do with the dictates of the secular authorities? We might wonder why should St Paul suddenly switch to a completely different topic, and then back again to what he was speaking of in chapter 12? It would seem much less interpretatively arbitrary to take it that St Paul is exhorting those to whom he wrote this letter to be obedient to their authorities. Why would St Paul encourage the Roman Christians to obey the secular authority that was persecuting the Church!

There is another passage in the writings of St Paul where he exhorts his readers to “obey them that have the rule over you”. It is perfectly clear, however, in this passage, that those that have the rule over you are the leaders in the Church, not the secular authorities. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)



the rest of the article is here :http://lewrockwell.com/orig10/casey-g3.1.1.html
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Re: Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  Forum Gawd on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:14 am

another step society takes away from God...

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Re: Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  American Zombie on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:19 am

Day Ryda wrote:another step society takes away from God...

or you could read it.
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Re: Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  Forum Gawd on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:19 am

RC wrote:
Day Ryda wrote:another step society takes away from God...

or you could read it.

i scanned through it thats good enough...

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Re: Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  American Zombie on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:21 am

Day Ryda wrote:
RC wrote:
Day Ryda wrote:another step society takes away from God...

or you could read it.

i scanned through it thats good enough...

cowardice
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Re: Religion and Politics: The Case for Their Divorce

Post  Forum Gawd on Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:25 am

RC wrote:
Day Ryda wrote:
RC wrote:
Day Ryda wrote:another step society takes away from God...

or you could read it.

i scanned through it thats good enough...

cowardice

More like to lazy

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