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Monday, August 09, 2010

Politics and religion

When I was a young man my father advised me of two subjects to steer clear of when out socialising- namely politics and religion.
One of my favourite blogs of the last couple of years has been Archbishop Cranmer's.
He wrote on his blogsite
"Archbishop Cranmer takes as his inspiration the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby: ‘It’s interesting,’ he observes, ‘that nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics.’"
He's been silent for a couple of months and I hope he's ok.

Whatever my dad advised, it's certain that politics and religion hold a central position in the world today. We may have no interest in them per se, but they shape world events on a daily basis.

For those who don't know me, for many years I swore to god that I was an atheist. I'd been brought up in a christian environment and I even attended Sunday school as a child. School assemblies were Christian. I attended Scouts and Cubs, both of which were christian based organisations. Christianity is natural to me, so when I was confronted with the decision to believe or not, I had to make a choice.
People have said that Jesus was either mad, sad or bad.
I chose to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and died for my sins.
Does that make me mad, bad or sad? Who knows and who cares?

I have no problems accepting the reality of Jesus in my life. However, almost twenty years of being a believer have convinced me that religion should be a private matter and that religion and politics don't mix. Ever.

Look at the evidence. Bliar, Clinton and George Dubya all claimed to be evangelical Christians. Jesus famously wrote "by their fruits shall you know them" (Matt 7 v16)
and it's true that there is very little fruit to be seen from their labours.

For the uninitiated, the fruits that Jesus refers to are what Paul calls the Fruits of the Spirit, namely-
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The leaders who bombed Iraq back into the stone age can hardly be said to have demonstrated any of the above. And yet the US would claim to be a God fearing Christian country.

As I said, politics and religion don't and can't mix.
The early Christian Church was doing OK until it was adopted as the official state religion by Constantine. OK it was marginalised and persecuted and only found favour among the slave class, but it was working.
Once it came up from the catacombs and found favour the rot set in, and has continued unabated. Now what counted was power, not in heaven but here on earth. I won't bore you with any of the details but it's depressing reading.

I was involved in church life for about fifteen years. I observed everything. True, I saw miracles. I saw lives transformed. I experienced incredible spiritual highs. I saw the presence of God as described in I Kings 8:10-11, "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD."
I've been brought to my knees in the presence of something so awesome, so powerful, so holy. I believe.

I've seen all that. But I've also seen the other side. The lust for power, the worship of money and privilege; the manipulation of congregations, the power games, the politics- the politics.

Ah yes, the politics. When politicians start doing things for spiritual or religious reasons a line has been crossed.
Just because I went somewhere and had a religious experience it does not automatically follow that if you do the same then the same thing will happen to you.
Just because a leader speaks from a deep personal conviction he should never assume that he speaks for all of us. Why?

Because faith is a personal matter. And politics should never be about one person's interests above everyone else's, should it?

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