Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Kevin Little on Separation of Church and State

I think deeper questions are at stake: Should politics and religion mix? Or should religion be relegated to the realm of the merely personal, where the individual soul, concerned only with the inner life of human beings in their personal relationship to God, like a spare tire in the trunk where we don't think about it until we need it?

Is the church to be judged by how useful it is as a supporting institution and do clergy belong to professions where we help people along in daily living — but do not upset the status quo?
(full text here)

Full Disclosure: Kevin Little is a friend of mine and I worked on his campaign when he ran for the federal Liberals in Halifax during the 2000 election.

He raises some good questions. Should religion and politics mix? Desmond Tutu once noted that those who say that religion and politics shouldn’t mix haven’t read the bible very closely.

The bible oozes politics. But not in the way being advocated by some. Jesus wasn’t partisan. He didn’t campaign for the Zealots or raise fund for the Scribes. But he did support a public faith. To Jesus, faith was something you DID, not just something you believed. Being a follower of Jesus meant getting your hands dirty, not just praying in darkened cathedrals by the glow of candles, and breathing in incense. Faith is personal, but never private.

But Jesus wasn’t about Hard Power. He didn’t believe that the kingdom of God could be legislated. Jesus didn’t think that God’s realm would magically arrive if enough Christian politicians were elected.

Jesus’ politics were about compassion, forgiveness, and self-giving love. Jesus’ politics was about looking after those who could not look after themselves; welcoming those who couldn’t participate in mainstream society; forgiving those who, by any definition, were beyond rehabilitation.

By any standard, Jesus’ politics were pretty screwed up. He shunned worldly power. He revealed God’s power by dying on the cross and rising again three days later, showing the world that God is first and foremost committed to Life.

Maybe that’s where our politics should begin.

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