Today’s subject was inspired by a comment to my last post (thank you Stephen!) about the lawfulness for a pastor to mix religion and politics. It’s for sure not such a new subject as the thing has been debated for centuries with many different answers given by different groups but I’d like, anyway, to give my opinion on such a difficult matter. The first answer coming to my mind in front of the question “Is it allowed to join religion and politics?” is: “absbolutely no!”. Religion attains to the spirituality of the single, while politics attains to the material world and we all know that, whenever, in the past or also in the present, the two spheres have been mixed, the results have always been troublesome. The examples in this sense are many: let’s think, just to mention some historical aspects, to the corruption of the post-Constantine church on one side or to the fanatism of any thocratical society, often reaching the point to justify any violence in the name of a presumed “love for God”.
The point is that different spheres can have different goals and the admixture of different goals risks to make one of the two spheres instrumental to the other, denaturing its sense, its methods, its objectives. In this sense, I can’t help feeling deeply in agreement with the motto “Free Church in Free State” and with many positions of my Anabaptist friends.
If this is true at official, formal level, anyway, things become much more complicated at the level of the single Christian (or, more generally, believer).
The basic question we need to ask to ourselves is: “what does it mean to be religious?” Does it mean to pray, to read the Gospel, to take part to functions, to meditate on the Word? Yes, sure, all this things. But this is just the “level zero” of religion, a just passive, contemplative attitude to spirituality and the risk is the one underlined by Jesus in Matthew 22,32, when He says: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. What does it mean? In my opinion it means that we are called not just to study our religion but “to take the cross” and to live it wholly, acting concretely, giving shape to our life on the basis of our believes. “Mary”, the contemplative attitude, and “Martha”, the active attitude, must live together and if Mary must be the root for Martha, Mary without Martha means nothing: it means to stand on the top of our ivory towers of theories, believes and pure theology without dirtying our hands in the streets, in the real life, it means to sit in the warmth of our parishes, isolating ourselves from the real world, happy of our cult without any practical side. This, to me, is not religion, this is just a theory of religion: to be religious means to me to act, to be what we preach, on daily basis, to give an answer to the wonderful act of love of God who, in a continous revelation, every single day calls as to be proactive, co-responsible people in the voluntary fulfillment of the plan of His Spirit we use to call Kingdom.
It is at this level, with this vision of religion that things, in the relation between religion and politics become messed up. We all, as humans, are not like a sort of wardrobe with many drawers we can open according to our needs: we are a unity of mind, soul, reason, feelings, wills, hopes. Politics, at least good politics, should be related to all these things, should have what we generally call ethics; religion, on its side, should also be related to all these things, should give us a vision of the world we internalize and, therefore, should give us a basic morality we adopt in ouf lives. And, well, to have an ethics disjoint from our morality or a morality disjoint from our ethics would mean or to be schizophrenic, which would be pathologic, or to have a double standard, which would be unacceptable, or, as said, to live on our ivory tower not caring about the world around us, which would be selfish, pointless and surely not Christian (or religious). This is the point: if we really want ot be truly religious, we can’t set ourselves apart from the real world, from fighting against what is unfair, to work in the vineyard of the Lord, to try to lend a helpy hand to anybody in need, in any need, in a word, to get engaged. But to get engaged means, willy-nilly, to be in politics, with all our baggage of moral/ethical ideas and positions.
So, as a human being and as a minister (and, thanking God, the two things are not in contrast) I can’t be blind, deaf and mainly dumb whenever I see the human being violated by a lack of respect, when I see the world led by distorted values, when I see violence perpetrated agains the weak and defenseless or when I see war considered the only viable solution to conflicts: if I really believe in my faith, in the morality which comes with it, in the dreams and hopes that come with it, I can’t do without intervening, without getting involved, at least expressing my opinion as human being and as Christian, always in the total tolerance of any other opinion, even opposed to mine (which is, in my opinion, another important aspect of a really religiously moral position).
And this not setting my religion aside, but rooting my action in my religion, in the morality which comes from it, in my deep creeds which give the background for my positions. Is this to be a politician mor than a pastor? I dont’ think so: to me this means to try to be a brick for the Kingdom, wherever it is possible to get engaged.