Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Politics and Religion

In our country it has always been important to maintain the separation of church and state.  It is important to Americans that the government does not interfere with our freedom to practice our religion.  It is also important to us that any one religion not have the power to control our government.  I have never heard an American say that they want a government based religion.  I think the idea of separation of church and state is a value upheld by those of faith and those who deny a spiritual belief.

As it turns out, though, such an ideal is not always that easy to clarify.  I'll use an extreme example to more quickly get to my point.  What if a religious group believes in human sacrifice?  Clearly, our government would step in to uphold the laws of our nation.  I don't think many would disagree with that.  A more modern example would be rules and regulations regarding fire safety.  Another pastor's wife was recently telling me that their little congregation, having purchased an older church building, found they were required to spend $30,000 on a new sprinkler system in order to be allowed to worship in that building.  They may have preferred to spend that money to help a missionary or to buy new pews or something.  They did not have that choice.  They did not get to choose if they were willing to worship in a building without a working sprinkler system.  They were mandated to have a sprinkler system.  You see, church and state boundaries do cross.

Another example of the blurring of the lines between church and state regards marriage.  In our country's history we've seen the government step in to tell those of the Mormon religion that they can not practice polygamy, even though that was part of their religious belief.  Native Americans' beliefs regarding bald eagles conflicted with our government's protection of bald eagles.  Do you see what I mean?

Yesterday, I was asked if I believed that people should maintain separation of church and state when they vote.  The person went on to say that it was wrong for an individual to use their religious beliefs as the premise for how they place their vote.  I was kind of surprised by the question.  I was also in a hurry as I had patients waiting for me.  I don't really think it is always wise to discuss politics as work but I didn't want to just rudely blow her off.  My answer to her wasn't very well thought out but what I told her was that it is impossible for me to separate my beliefs from my vote.  How a person votes is totally based on their beliefs, religious or otherwise.

I thought about that quick little conversation off and on all day, and still this morning.  Separation of church and state is a very complicated and imperfect ideal.  I think it is an important ideal for our nation.  I think that in order to protect the rights of everyone, it is an ideal we must keep working to maintain.  I also think we need to realize there will be a blurring of those lines as well, such as the implementation of building codes, etc.

However, I don't think that it means we should not be allowed to draw upon our individual beliefs as we make our decision on how we vote.  That would be impossible!  Every day of our lives we are getting input from many sources such as family, co-workers, religious teachings and even the media.  All of that input can influence our values and beliefs.  To ask me to set aside my spiritual beliefs when I vote would be to ask me to go to the polls with no thoughts in my head.  I can't do it.  I am a whole person and I can't separate from myself.  Does that make sense?

Today, Americans have a chance to vote.  We have the right to vote as we wish on any candidate and any issue.  What goes on in our head, how we come to any decisions regarding our vote, is our own business.  With all the imperfections, with all the mess of democracy, with all the blurred lines, I am still grateful for the right to vote and the right to make my own decisions regarding that vote.


Allen said...

The existing system must have been in terrible shape. I'm suprised they did't have the system checked before they bought it. The laws do not require a church to have handicap acessable bathrooms or entrances, they just recomend it and most churches do.

Sarah Purdy said...

I'm thankful to the strong women who came before me who made it possible for me to vote today.

elizabeth said...

in my mind, the separation comes in so that government can't mandate a religion, a "church"

i am not only a body and a mind, i am a spirit. the choices i make in ALL aspects of my life stem from all three parts of me.

that's part of our freedom in this country. i can vote based on my beliefs - and that is my right and my freedom.

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