Religion and politics are two of the most commonly avoided subjects at the dinner table. Both have existed since the dawn of humankind and continue to serve as cornerstones for modern society. When we look at history, great and terrible movements alike have used both religion and politics to gain momentum. Movements like the Crusades, the Reformation, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Reconquista used religion to sway the affairs of the world. I would say that in recent times, we continue to use both interchangeably. While I do not think that it is inherently bad to use religious ideals to sway policymaking, when we rely on religion too much to make these decisions, we end up creating poor policies for what we interpret as the right reasons.
Take the situation of gay marriage, for example. In June 2013, the United States Supreme Court stated that gay marriage was legal in all 50 states. Immediately, Christians were enraged by the decision, arguing that gay marriage was a sin against God and goes against the core values of the family dynamic. My response to this is, “Really? And you casting judgement is not a sin?” One of my greatest frustrations, points of anger and disappointment, is with Christians claiming to be against gay marriage because the Bible told them it was bad. For me, this directly contradicts the teachings of Christ, who said “Love thy neighbor.” I believe fully that if two people are in love and willing to commit a lifetime to each other, then who am I to judge? This does put me in direct conflict with Catholic teachings, which teach against the idea of gay marriage. But in my opinion, the fact that it took so long for the Supreme Court to make a decision shows that religious influence sometimes overreaches in politics and contradicts the ideas that the religion is trying to uphold in the first place.
The same can be said for politics interfering with religion. Take the death penalty, for example. I made a statement in my previous article stating that I opposed the death penalty on grounds of it going against the sanctity of life. Furthermore, to have laws that support the death penalty go against what many religions teach. Granted, there is a difference between the two, as religion deals more with spirituality while politics deal with governing and policies, but for the sake of balance, an argument can be made that politics overstep their boundaries and do not look closely at the moral implications of the changes being made.
So where does this leave us? I must state that neither realm of thought is inherently bad or should be fully separated. But to have no sense of religion in policy making creates cold and, at times, ruthless policies, such as the Jim Crow Laws. I believe there ought to be balance between the religion and politics. I do think that what someone believes should influence how they govern the world. I also believe that those beliefs do not necessarily need to be Christian values. One of the wonderful things about this great country is the diversity we have, especially in religion. We have Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Buddhism, and so many more religions. To say that one religion is completely correct is foolhardy. In recent years, there has been a shifting focus on Christianity and Islam. Within the different religions of the United States, many ideas, including not killing and “the golden rule” (love thy neighbor) are shared amongst religions. Using these ideas as a center for morality can directly persuade policies as a way to ensure that we look toward to the betterment of humankind.