Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Modern Society's Bass Ackward View of Government and Religion

White smoke rising from chimney in Rome,
signifying the election of a new pope.

With the recent selection of a new pope, many commentators from without and members from within discussed what type of pope the Papal Conclave would select. Would he be a progressive pope? Many of them had hoped so. Projections of eventual female priests began to take over the airwaves of public radio. A lot of those same commentators and a bunch of others pondered whether or not the new Bishop of Rome would embrace homosexuality and birth control.

Salt Lake Temple for the
Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints.
Salt Lake City, UT
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and several years prior, advocates of California's Proposition 8 - a measure relating to same sex marriage - chastised churches for standing in the way of its passage and demanded that the IRS rescind the offending churches' tax exemption status. The majority of the complainants cited the 'wall of separation between church and state' as their grounds for opposing religion's opposition to the proposition. Unfortunately, those who take this approach fail to realize this wall of theirs protects the rights of the church and the rights of the citizens from having a state-imposed religion forced upon them. Nothing else. Any other interpretation is outside the construct of the United States Constitution. When the government involves itself in the moral sphere, it is stepping on the toes of religion.

Recruitment poster for
the 7th Indiana Cavalry.
Church and government are two real and powerful entities within human society. But in order for the two institutions to benefit the individual within society, he or she must understand the role of the state and the role of the church. Within that understanding, one must also understand how and why the one occasionally operates inside the other's realm. In addition to grasping the purposes of each universe, the individual needs to grasp the concept of his or her responsibility within both the state and the church and his or her relationship with each.

Religion is a realm of faith and government is a realm of reason and deliberation. Reason and deliberation require an exchange of ideas and opinions, which also requires compromise. Faith, on the other hand is something that is accepted. In government, if something seems out of place, one can effect change within government through the apparatus that exists in that sphere--namely voting or participating in committee hearings or speaking at council meetings. If something is off in a faith-based sphere, it is supposed to be the individual who changes himself or herself to bring spiritual harmony into his or her life.

Let's explore it a bit more.

Dallas City Hall by night. Dallas, TX
What is government? It is a body that directs and oversees the business of a state. In the United States, it is a democratic republic at the top, with some variation of the same concept down through state and municipal bodies. It is made up of citizens who represent themselves and other citizens. Citizens deliberate and debate to decide which laws and regulations will govern their conduct and the conduct of their fellow citizens. In principle, the laws of a state deal with private property rights, commerce and transactions, defense and how to address grievances between citizens.

Washington Monument.
Washington, DC
Active citizens in a state use reason and/or emotion to try to persuade others to support the same legislation or policies that they themselves support. Sometimes the movement is successful, other times it is not. This is the way it is supposed to work. It is individuals putting their ideas on how to better society out there, hoping to gain the support of others.

National City Christian Church
Washington, DC
Now, lets contrast that with religion. What is religion in general? A belief system. More specifically, a religion is a specific set of beliefs to which one adheres, usually in union with a number of other people. It is based wholly on faith. Through the exercise of this faith, the adherent gains strength to better himself or herself internally by accepting guidelines that suppress some natural desires and behaviors. But regardless of the specifics from one denomination to the next, religion operates in the realm of faith.

What is happening more and more in the modern era is that people are doing exactly the opposite of what they ought to be doing. Citizens are faithfully trusting government for their sustenance and to make up for their own shortcomings, while members of churches are trying to tinker with their churches' doctrines and traditions.

Catholic Church
in Victoria, KS
If a church disagrees with contraception, but an individual member supports the use of contraceptives, he or she must accept the difference, change his/her opinion or find another church that better suits his/her set of beliefs. Of course, if that doesn't work, one could organize a new church or give up religion all together.

Regardless of your politics or religion, being able to understand the purpose of each entity will bring a better understanding to your mind, on a small scale, and a better balance with more respect in society, on a large scale.You don't put faith in government, faith belongs to the spiritual and religious realms. You don't try to use reason and debate to alter a religion. Reason and consensus-building belong in the realm of government.

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.
Washington, DC
If you want to effect change somewhere, do it in the proper place--do it in government. If you have a disagreement with your church's theology or its exercise of tradition, then change your mind or leave your church. Trying to change the structure of a church is not your role, because through your attempt to change the faith, you infringe upon the rights of other members of the congregation. If you have a problem, and it relates to a church, change your personal stance or go somewhere else. If your problem is governmentally based, get yourself out into the public sphere. Grab your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to help you. Effect the change that is appropriate to effect.

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