Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Religion and Politics

The founders of the United States were wise in creating the separation of church and state. They were far from being anti-religion for nearly all attended church services from time to time. Church attendance and religious discussions in public were common practices. This did not mean that like today people of different faith backgrounds readily accepted one another as friends, co-workers and married across denomination backgrounds, and spoke well of denominations that were outside their own stream.

The culture in the 1770s and 1780s was vastly different than our cultural of broad acceptance of people of other Christian denominations. Marrying outside one’s denomination was far from being widely accepted. A Baptist marrying a Roman Catholic created a family scandal. Baptists viewed Methodists with suspicion. People tended to live, work and socialize within their faith tradition.

It was from this cultural milieu that those who signed the Declaration of Independence and shaped the American Constitution came. Coming from a diverse array of faiths, and some non-practicing any faith, they cautioned against the mixing of politics and religion. While they recognized that value faith played in the daily lives of themselves, family, friends and neighbors, they were also well aware of the problems that are created when one’s personal faith is a highly dominating factor in determining public policies. They were unlike the French revolutionaries who, in reacting against the abuses of the dominant religion of their culture, were anti-religion and created national policy that was strikingly anti-religion.

In shaping the national documents and in setting forth public policy the founders set aside their own religion’s doctrinal positions. Admittedly their religious believes shaped their thinking and moved their hearts to be more passionate on some issues than another, but they did not seek to entrench specific and narrow religious dogma or statements into public policy. For example, while all were of the Christian faith in background, and most in practice, they did not enshrine into the founding documents or in early documents that Sunday was to be a non-work day or speak in any manner to compel people to attend church, or that Christian values should be taught by the state to its citizens. They knew from oberservation and experience that when religion battles to be a dominate voice in shaping public policy in general that the consequences for the community, nation and citizenry as a whole has detrimental consequences.

Instead, these Christian men, many with strong religious convictions, established a religious neutral nation, a nation where people of different faiths can and should participate in public discussion and the shaping of public policy without any one faith stream dominating another. In an era when there is much pandering by various politicians to those of a particular religious persuasion, it is worth recalling the significance of the United States being founded as to be a nation that is religiously neutral and tolerant.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Common and Secular Time, Common and Secular Space for Salvationists

The following is offered as food to thought.

Grounded in it Wesleyan roots Salvation Army’s mission and purpose is to minister with passion and compassion to all humanity, to provide hope to and assistance to all without discrimination. We do not see anyone, regardless of what they may have done or how long they may be entrapped in a destructive lifestyle, as being beyond hope or transformation.

Life and the world are divine creations. All activity is an expression of worship and an expression of love for God. As such Salvationists make no distinction between common space and worship space, between worship time and ordinary time. The street, the office, the home are part of the worship space as the whole world is a sanctuary, a place for worship and ministry activities. Hence, for Salvationists all daily activities from office paperwork to scrubbing the floors at home, from providing a meal to the hungry to competing on the sports field, and from listening to a neighbor to driving a car to the store are as much an act of worship as praying and singing hymn in the sanctuary.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Virginia Primary and Newt Gingrich

For the Republican Virginia primaries there will be only two candidates on the ballet, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Santorum, Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich did not qualify by the mid December deadline. The rules are that each candidate must have 10,000 signatures of registered voters, with a minimum of 400 from each county in the Commonwealth.

Gingrich has called the qualification standards as archaic and inappropriate. Rick Perry and his team have suggested the same. Their key supporters also blame the holiday season that the cause for their failure to garner the necessary support. Yes the deadline was during the holiday season, but that means that there are more people out in the malls in greater mass than during any other time of the year. Further, the candidates do not have a narrow window to gather the signatures, they had nearly 6 months to gather then necessary signatures.

The candidates, who are running to be the chief executive of the US government, fell short because they give attention to organizing a simple team to focus on gathering the necessary number. The failure points to the candidate’s lack of attention to detail, planning and organization. For a person who is claiming to have the skills to be President, how hard is it to have a few people assigned to gather at least 500 signatures from each County?

I suspect that another factor is at play for some of those who fell short. They simply did not believe that they would be in the race that long. If this was part of Santorum’s thinking, he no doubt is regretting that decision.

Gingrich entered the race he knew he would not win the nomination as he has too much baggage. Is it possible that he entered the race as a way to market his books, movies and himself as a “consultant”, commentator and conference speaker? Over the years Gingrich has made millions of dollars from these activities but if his profile in the wider community was starting to wane, which may well have been doing, what better way than to raise your profile than to run a token campaign for ten to twelve months.

Is it also possible that he entered the race to position himself to be the ambassador to the Court of St. James or Rome? There are some who have known him well for years who see his candidacy in this light.