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Mixing Religion with Politics

rose-editorialIt is impossible to keep religion out of politics. Why, you ask? Because a few folks involved in politics actually know God, and others have strong religious beliefs that supersede and drive their political agenda.

Our religious beliefs may have everlasting significance. In comparison, the history of the United States spans less than three-hundred years. Our First Amendment right of religious liberty ensures that each man and woman has the right to seek the truth about the existence of God without interference from the government. Our First Amendment right of freedom of association recognizes that we join with like-minded individuals in order to ensure that our political, social, religious, and philosophical beliefs will prevail. This is the essence of politics.

My personal testimony is that God continues to interact with mankind. Surely, the living God can make Himself known to anyone He chooses. Therefore, it follows that an individual should not accept blindly the claims that others make about the nature of God, including the claims that I make here. In the political arena I rely on the idea of natural law, believing that God is the author of it. God’s law is not capricious but rather is it supremely practical and logical. Therefore, when we make political arguments in support of a particular policy, we must make rational arguments based on natural law that may reasonably be accepted by adherents of all faiths and by the atheist as well. This is our responsibility as members of a civil republic where freedom of thought and religion is acknowledged, and the rights of all are protected. Those who know the Lord God and are known by Him, have an obligation to seek, and obey His will.

We are also called to cooperate with each other. We should have pity on, rather than condemn those who have not met Him and befriend, be of service to, and pray for them. After all, aside from being the recipients of God’s grace and Christ’s mercy we are of no better character than our fellow citizens, and are frequently much worse.

Both atheists and believers can be liberal or conservative. An atheist or a believer in God may be honest and upright or a low-down skunk, as is clearly evident in both the Republican and Democratic parties. What then are citizens to do in order to ensure that their opinions and beliefs are adequately represented? They have no choice but to make it their business to know both their neighbors’ character and beliefs. To be represented they must find, associate, and cooperate with those who have similar views and work to select and elect candidates who actually represent them. They must also punish severely those candidates who do not effectively represent them when Election Day rolls around. It is not enough to merely vote, or occasionally show up at a rally. We must act now to secure our families, our neighborhoods, and county precincts, if we are to once again secure our state and the nation. In this Advent season, those who lift up the name of Christ may take up their political duties confident that God’s Kingdom will, at the last, come.

(Louis William Rose is a political philosopher and the parliamentarian of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Northeast Florida. You can contact him at www.louisrose.com)

11 Responses »

  1. Very good article Louis.

    My favorite line:

    "Therefore, when we make political arguments in support of a particular policy, we must make rational arguments based on natural law that may reasonably be accepted by adherents of all faiths and by the atheist as well."

    • Louis,

      When you say "arguments based on natural law that may reasonably be accepted by....the atheist..." it's not clear what you're referring to, since the phrase "natural law" traditionally refers to a theologically-informed system of "laws" (e.g. when John Finnis argues against homosexuality he invokes "natural law" which of course is inextricably linked with the christian deity--you do hint that this is the case when you state that you believe that "God is the author of it")

      Clearly, these kinds of arguments would be unacceptable to any atheist (and even, I suspect, to some christians as well as other types of theists--the idea that the monotheistic god is "supremely practical and logical" recalls a particular tradition within the catholic church based in the older Hellenic culture that argues for constraints of reason/logic upon the deity, constraints that may be inapplicable in strains of the later protestant tradition or other traditions where the deity is "transcendent" as implied by assertions like "the Lord works in mysterious ways" etc etc), for the same kind of reasoning that Aristotle's archaic metaphysical biology is used by groups like the catholic church and not by contemporary biologists.

      Mark

      • Mark,

        My point is that whether one believes that God is the author of the natural law, by which I am refering to those principles which may be readily deduced by an objective view of how the natural world operates, or not, it is still possible in all cases to make rational and reasonable arguments for any public policy we would think beneficial from a purely religious point of view. These arguments may be based upon an appeal to natural law, or on some other set of logical principles. But they should not, in a civil society, be based solely upon an appeal to Word of God. An atheist cannot be made to agree that stealing is wrong based on the fact that God tells us so in the Ten Commandments, even though that may the ultimate, perhaps even the sole reason that it is "wrong." There are other subsidiary arguments that can be made, practical arguments relating to general utility, and to personal safety for example, that may be used to convince those who do not rely on God for a moral compass to agree that a prohibition on stealing would be of general benefit to all, including themselves.

    • Thanks John, that's what makes this Amurica. But when I make that argument to those who may otherwise want to improperly interject religion into politics, I think it is important to identify myself as a person of faith, a believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that they may know who is making the argument in defense of reasonableness and tolerance.

  2. I'm of the opinion that faith and natural law compliment each other; rather than conflict with each other. For example: most would agree that it's "wrong" to lie, steal, practice unfaithfulness to a spouse, or murder.

    This devision of church and state doesn't support a separation of "faith and state"- the intended issue of the doctrine was to prevent scenarios such as Germanys' tithe-tax to the Luthren church, or Englands' Church of England.

    Never was the intention to encourage "the Faithful" to suspend their belief system when they entered the polling booth. To suggest otherwise would be a misrepresentation of the Constitution.

    I think when a person of faith enters a polling booth, he is responsible to draw from his perspective, and apply that perspective to the American fabric. This allows the nuances of sub-cultures to influence as they will, the American culture.

    Most Americans understand that this nation isn't a theocracy, but again, natural law and faith (especially the Judeo/Christian ethic that influenced our founding fathers) support each oher, If a person were to posture that a citizen who refferences that ethic when he votes is somehow "inferior" just doesn't understand the two are supportive of each other at best or symbiotic at worst.

    Louise: excellent article. Merry Christmas.

    • Jim,
      I agree with you! We do not suspend our faith when it comes to politics. Rather we use that foundation to determine who we support and what policies we get behind.
      However, we also do not use politics to push our faith on others. I think that Louis makes an excellent point, that we can personally use our faith to make decisions for ourselves, but that we can also use natural law, that was created by the God we believe in; and by so doing we can establish a foundation that will withstand people who share a different belief system.

      I believe this was the intent of the Founders. It is why the Constitution reads:
      When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      Merry Christmas all!

      • We should all feel free to personally practice our faith and vote our conscience; but at no point does that give us the right to expect our lawmakers to enforce our values on others. Just as we would fight Sharia Law, we should also fight any other laws that restrict people based solely on an interpretation of our personal beliefs (and even those who share the same denomination of the same religion will often times disagree on those interpretations). So, as individuals at the booth, I think people will naturally vote their own beliefs. But as public servants, you are not acting as your own person, but rather an extension of the public will, and at that time you have to respect their conscience as well.

        It's a hard line to walk, but the best statesmen are able to do it.

  3. Lou,

    "those principles which may be readily deduced by an objective view of how the natural world operates"

    2 things immediately stick out to me:

    (1) you seem to bring up the whole rationalism vs. empiricism debate and strongly side with the (what seems to be) "losing side" (i.e. rationalism)

    (2) the idea of an "objective view" of the "natural world" is completely incoherent/unworkable in the strong metaphysical sense, though maybe you want to make a weaker sociological claim, but I doubt that would get you where you want/need to go

  4. Mark,
    You are hung up on the philosophical semantics. By rational, I mean a reasonable, sensible argument based on either provable facts or a set of mutually agreed upon suppositions. The natural law which is demonstrated in both empirically measurable ways, and by an overarching consensus among humans that a certain set of phenomena seems to be the mode leads us to ask conciliatory questions beginning with words like, "Do you not think it is so that..." referring to some basic state of man, or the likely result of a set of actions. By inquiring at the most basic levels and finding mutual areas of agreement, our hope is to arrive at something approaching truth in regard to a particular situation. But it certainly seems to me that this requires that we speak and write clearly and simply.
    Even though I know that God has said this or that is the case, and therefore know it to be true, I should still be able to find and make reasonable secular arguments in favor of my position in the civil sphere. Even if the majority of the assembly happens to be in theological agreement, as legislators they have a duty to those constituents of other faiths, and to the loyal opposition, to justify any political action they take in secular terms.

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