Church and State

Posted to Subscribers on 29 December 2007


I've been gestating something for a long time, but am not certain I can birth it yet.

As I have been writing for some time that what happens in 2012 probably depends to some extent on what happens in 2008 . . . which, in turn, involves the events in many countries, most importantly perhaps imperial America with our elections and almost unbelievably polarized candidates. 

There are ever so many reasons for separation of church and state, not the least of which is endless struggle for control and domination of the hearts and minds of the people.  In theory, one could only win the loyalty of the heart or allegiance of the mind if first of all worthy and secondly of like mind.  Allowing people to have their own thoughts seems like a risky experiment to those who specialize in the use of power, but there are puzzles within puzzles and many dilemmas to sort out when contrasting leadership to power.  Leadership works through a visionary quality and the ability to inspire whereas power seeks to disenfranchise and control.

Power vs. Leadership

Power goes through cycles of scheming, manipulation, implementation, arrogance, euphoria, and eventually paranoia and severe psychosis.  There are countless reasons that this must be the case, chief of which is that there is a law of action and reaction so eventually the fear of reprisals has to overwhelm the psyche . . . and it does so in a manner that precludes mental health.

The risks of leadership are completely different.  There are people with destinies to create the future and those who want to preserve the past, each with massive ability to justify the positions.  In positing a future that differs from the present, the leader, true leader, is basing his or her plan on righting of wrongs so there is a tender trigger zone in which there is an inference of injustice, inequity, or at least intemperance.  The fire it takes to see ahead, envision, arouse, unify, and lead is seldom diplomatic by nature.  Thus, there is risk of antagonizing those who are satisfied with the status quo or who have yet to enjoy even a glimmer of a preview of the future.  Besides, to the extent that this zealous fire seeks to reorganize the known world, there is often fear of the unknown, of loss due to the changes, or of unrest, but history suggests that changes do occur, not always because of qualified leaders but because the now can never be preserved in a linear world in which Time itself is always advancing.

Theories and Thought

These points are actually less important than the battle for hearts and minds.  There are few examples in history of willing sacrifices of control to the masses.  There are, however, abundant instances of strange alliances between theological and academic influences and politics.  In recent years in the U.S., we have seen appalling misuses of both religion and science by the administration, something that is actually prohibited by our jeopardized Constitution.

In reality, the job of the administrative branch of the government is to administer, not dictate, tyrannize, disempower, or abrogate the responsibility to obey the laws of the land.  Questions of global warming or cooling, when life begins, how the world was created, what our children should learn in school, and what is safe in our food and medicine are best left to specialists in other disciplines who occasionally need to have their concerns addressed in a formal manner by responsible administrators, but their input cannot be influenced by ideologies or vested interests.  Alas, this is not the case, but what is more worrisome is politicians who bring strong religious convictions to their desks. 

The foundation of the concept of separation of church and state might have occurred at a time when persons of the cloth lived in monasteries with few worldly interests.  Now, however, impassioned individuals are seeking massive influence over the fate of the Planet, not of souls, but over everything from blades of grass to bees to penguins and polar bears to people, not to mention petroleum.  This is the situation the founding fathers sought to prevent through a rigorous separation of powers.

The problem is that the mantras of politicians are conjured up as mini-incantations over the psyches of easy-to-dupe individuals who tune out everything except a few words with personal appeal.  This is why aspirants to the most powerful position on the planet can give a seven-minute talk on a stump and feel they have said their piece and why commentators such as Ariana Huffington accuse people like Bush of a lack of complexity.  If all big issues are reduced to them and us or Christians and Moslems or haves and have nots, then we have black and white worlds in which some fools will sacrifice themselves for the sake one or the other ism.

Realistically, it does not matter what people think if you refuse to engage in conflict; however what is most insidious about recent developments in our political system is that the boundary between thoughts and deeds is not sharply defined.  In theory, thoughts are incapable of committing crimes so whether one is indulging in unwholesome reading or web surfing habits or political analysis, thoughts are not things and therefore not deeds and therefore not criminal.  Worse, the arguments supporting repression are as biased as the science of global warming.

If, for instance, while it may be true that those who commit acts of violence are angry, it is not necessarily true that all angry people engage in acts of violence.  We have limits on our behavior that most of us recognize so while a theologian may have cause to be concerned with what we think, a politician should limit his interest to what we do and the lines here need to be hard and fast lest persecution become the order of the day.

If you do not think these lines are being eroded, we need to look very carefully at why our reading habits, shopping patterns, telephone conversations, and so on and so forth are subjects of federal interest.  It is one thing to have a few suspects under surveillance but to be policing all citizens exceeds the concept of governance of, by, and for the people . . .  we are one step away from loss of our nation.

The Candidates

So, while I find the campaign increasingly boring, I care a great deal about the defining characteristics of each candidate.  I care whether the aspirants to high office refer to other nations in a friendly or hostile manner, whether they express a live and let live philosophy or the arrogance of prerogative and power.  I care whether they believe in Armageddon and/or the inevitability of a clash of civilizations.  I care whether they reserve the right to keep all options on the table or whether there are some deeds so dastardly that those options are not on the table.

During the Cold War, endless nuclear build up was regarded as a deterrent to the use of force rather than an escalation of tensions.  We have inherited some of the myths of that time period and put the emphasis on the nukes rather than on the fact that both super powers were so busy building up their arsenals that neither felt it had enough of an advantage to risk WWIII.  Now, I do want to know who sanctions torture, biological weapons, depleted uranium, etc., etc., etc. because these issues define whether or not an individual is first of all civilized and secondly likely to use mature judgment while in office.

Personally, I don't care what other people believe, but I care about whether or not we can agree to disagree on matters that are actually none of our business.  In the case of whether or not women should wear a bourka or veil or be subjected to female circumcision, this is a matter for human rights activists, not Marines; but to the extent that the Marines are involved, tensions are escalated and disparate viewpoints are pitted against each other.  It would be as easy for a Moslem man to attack our promiscuity as for us to take issue with what appears to be repression of women's rights, but these are in the long run domestic issues, not foreign policy issues and they should be off limits to our politicians.

Likewise, I take issue with the attempt to appeal to voters by references to one's own relationship to God or faith.  For instance, I take offense at Huckabee suggesting that whether one prays on one's knees or not matters.  Implying that the knees represent humility appeals to some whereas to others, it would translate to a petition for personal favors from a God who can be addressed in a personal manner. What if someone asked, "and then, once on your knees, should your head be bowed or lifted in reverence to the sky?"  Should you be facing a certain direction?  Does it matter whether it is day or night, what time it is, whether you are on bare ground or a rug?  Should your hands be clasped or lifted upward in receptivity to divinity.  Since he has now told us the correct position for praying, perhaps he'd like to supply the correct attitude and words? 

For me, this is scary and while I appreciate all sincere expressions of faith, I resent all attempts to elevate one's own beliefs over those of another.  If we forget this, we can sink into holy wars, inquisitions, and even holocausts so the only purpose in making religion a part of politics is to use it to further political ends or impose one's views on others and this just seems dangerous to me.

I honestly do not want to know the candidates' personal religious convictions or particular manner of expressing those convictions.  I do, however, want to know if they respect opinions and beliefs that are different from their own and what provisions they will make for preserving freedom of religion.  Moreover, I think that to have respect for differences is a sign of intellectual and moral maturity so I feel safer with such persons than those with pat aphorisms.

So, I will take a risk and suggest that the safest way to invoke help from the other dimensions is to ask for the highest good of everyone.  In these, all options, even the ones no one thought about, are open.  Moreover, many of these possibilities express the highest win-win scenario and this is what we all need as planetary citizens.

Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2007







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