September 4, 2007

Separation of Religion and Morality

Posted in church, culture, philosophy, politics, religion, scripture, theology at 6:07 pm by Jerry

Lately, I’ve been spending little if any time in the blogosphere, and most of it would be in discussions with this guy. I like visiting him because him and I often have opposing views, yet for the most part, we can share the same language to discuss them. He’s been a big help for me to explore how I see the world we live in.

The last conversation I had with him led me to respond with thoughts I’ve never put to page or screen before. So, I thought I’d copy them here:

I think the “foundation for our political system” on its most basic level (democratic) requires an “ideological unanimity” and it is extreme to assume otherwise. I do agree, this probably won’t “do much to help relations in the fragile political situation,” but that never stopped political change for the better in the past.

Ryan, I don’t know if I can stress enough how much I struggle with your desire to mix church with state. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the democratic process of voting asks each individual to decide once, for themselves on whatever issue, rather than have someone else decide for them. To me, I understand this as not having person ‘A’ vote again through person ‘B’ by person ‘B’s’ obedience to person ‘A’.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the political make-up of Monotheist religions is not a democratic one. Followers are ultimately asked to obey God because God said so – no matter if God has a good reason for it or not.

I know it’ll upset you that I’m saying this, but I think it’s relevant that dictation of morality is where fundamentalist extremists believe their power comes from. And I think we’ve missed the root of the terrorist problem by saying they misrepresent their religious beliefs.

The root of the terrorist problem, I think, is allowing God to have a moral voice (I’m sure what I’ve said here will also upset you). Yes, there are places within the church where through a democratic process believers come to an agreement on God’s will, but non-believers are not welcome in this democratic process.

Democracy, by its very nature, is inclusive. The fate of our society is “For the people, by the people,” not ‘For God, by some people.’

Here’s another extreme reason God shouldn’t have a moral voice: God has a history of asking his followers, according to their scriptures, to obey him even up to the point of being faithful enough to commit to an act of murdering your own child…

Genesis 22:
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” NIV

…then in the New Testament, God continues to lead his followers in a willingness to sacrifice their children for him (if he asked for it) by being an example of it. (By the way, I saw an interesting CNN documentary called God’s Warriors where a Muslim mother declared her pride in her son’s dedication to God/Allah by being a so-called martyr through his own suicidal/murderous sacrifice of blowing himself up along with innocent bystanders.)

You may think I shouldn’t be using extreme examples and that I’m asking for the abolition of religion here, but the point of my examples is to address the political underpinnings of Monotheist religions.

And I’m not asking for the extinction of religion. Let all those who believe there is a triune Creator of the universe gather together in a loving manner, bonding in their fellowship, ritually communing together to grow in relationship and the practice of traditions – like a family. But, please, help keep the politics of morality where it belongs – in a democracy.

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2 Comments »

  1. Jadon said,

    Jerry:

    You might find this particular article useful regarding this issue:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/magazine/19Religion-t.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5088&en=0d0706fa13a2d362&ex=1345176000&adxnnl=0&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1187704822-NYnPtMWWUnev9pgmUO2SrQ

    It’s long, but it’s good. The author has written a full book about this issue too.

  2. Jerry said,

    Jadon,

    Thanks so much for that link. I think it addresses my impatience quite nicely. It is a sobering thought that…

    “We prefer speaking with the Islamic liberalizers because they share our language: they accept the intellectual presuppositions of the Great Separation and simply want maximum room given for religious and cultural expression. They do not practice political theology. But the prospects of enduring political change through renewal are probably much greater than through liberalization. By speaking from within the community of the faithful, renovators give believers compelling theological reasons for accepting new ways as authentic reinterpretations of the faith.”

    It does seem far more practical for believers to come to a realization (via biblical hermeneutic/interpretive adjustments) that God doesn’t want worldly means (politics) to interfere with or confuse the spiritual work God is already doing in the private lives of his believers, rather than be expected to listen to human secular expectations of keeping moral revelations out and away from the state.

    Oh, and this article also provides me with new meaning to the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes”.

    Jerry


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