Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Politics and religion

Worship or service

Of late I have been following closely the debate over politics and religion among the readers of Herald in its letters column. There was widespread criticism of the writer who expressed that the Church should restrict itself to purely worship and not get involved in politics. The vast majority of the readers rightly were of the view that politics and religion go hand in hand and cannot be divorced from our lives as Christians.

Politics is defined as “the activities of the government, members of law-making organizations or people who try to influence the way a country is governed” and religion is “the belief in and worship of God or any such system of belief and worship”.

As Christians we believe that Jesus is the son of God and whatever he taught was the absolute truth. As he was God himself there were no flaws whatsoever in his teachings which remains relevant throughout the ages. As man he led an exemplary life for all of us to see, indicating what we should and should not do during our life on earth.

Jesus taught us many things through his preaching, parables and most importantly by his examples. His teachings were very simple to be comprehended by all but we had made them so complex to become beyond the comprehension of many even highly educated people. Today we have to spend many precious years to try to understand what Jesus really taught us.

All his teachings can be simplified into his 2 great commandments: Firstly, love God with all your heart and mind and secondly, love your neighbor as yourself.

There is an emerging trend today, among followers of all faiths including Christians, to indulge themselves in prayer, fasting, pilgrimages and all forms of rituals to please God but failing to recognize the plight of those around us. They seem to be just interested in worship but not service. It is people like these who would say that the Church must be exclusively involved in worship not service.

As the followers of Christ we should not only love God but love our neighbor as well. Jesus had made it absolutely clear that we cannot love God if we do not love our fellow men. How can we say we love our neighbor when we do nothing when they are persecuted and ignore their cries for help? Wouldn’t we want others to sympathesize and come to our aid when we are in such a situation?

If we truly love fellow men then it is equally important to ensure that our system of governance is also tailored to impart that love to the people. It is our duty as lovers of God to ensure that the government we help to form exhibit that love for fellow men, by catering for their basic needs, alleviating their impoverished states and granting them justice and freedom.

Discrimination in the any form, racial, religious, social or political is unjust, so is denial of basic human rights and freedom, and these must be resisted peacefully at all costs. The abuse of the Internal Security Act (ISA) is just one of those injustices in our country. If we really love God then we are duty-bound to defend not just ours but the rights of our fellow men as well. But as Christians this resistance and protest must be absolutely peaceful and with the expression of love, not hatred, for the “enemy” that perpetrates the injustice.

Politics and religion are inter-twined and cannot be divorced from each other. If we do so we would be separating worship from service that is contrary to the teaching of Jesus. The good moral values propagated by religion should be used as the basis for good governance that includes accountability, morality, compassion and love in serving the people.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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