Marrying Religion with Politics

Religion and politics have been strange bed-fellows on many occasions, fast online payday loans no credit check in spite of the fact that one claims to care for the soul and nether-life, and the other for the body and this life. History—recent and distant, and even the present, are replete with instances of religious dignitaries opting to wield political clout through political patronage when political leaders buttressed their power and position with religious patronage. This was the Heord, Pilate, Caiaphas Axis that crucified Christ.


There is an imbalance that comes into the equation when religious dignitaries decide to spearhead opinion-making on a technical and professional issue that has political connotations. The public would like to be informed on either Kandalama or Iranawila by competent and politically non-partisan professionals. Assuredly politically non-partisan professionals are not easy to come by. The present notion that politicians are utterly unreliable and hence someone else should don the mantle of decision-making and public opinion-making, can have disastrous consequences. Less qualified and more imbalanced persons can have a field-day of whipping up factionalism and division. Politically non-partisan journalists too are hard to find.

When religious figures are involved in a technical issue, their opinions may influence the masses merely because of their religious stature. Religious figures are used to being obeyed implicitly on matters of religion. The masses can oppose a development venture because of religious fervour rather than on the basis of well-analysed technical considerations. This is the danger of religious figures getting involved in political protest movements. Seemingly social, economic, moral, political and ecological issues in which religious dignitaries think they ought to involve themselves are daily multiplying.


In making a protest it is almost impossible to appear politically non-partisan. If a government pursues a vigorous development policy funded by the World Bank, those who oppose a project of that nature will look socialist and hence antigovernment. Though this is not necessarily a fair judgement. Similarly, if a government nationalizes an estate and many devotees are affected and a religious figure spearheads the protest, he will be castigated as capitalist.

The average man will also like to know whether the leaders of the protest weighted all the technical data at hand (be it Kandalama or Iranawila) and arrived at a professional decision. Could religious bodies who wish to opine on matters of national or regional interest appoint from their membership qualified professionals to advise them? Should the protest be based on such technical expertise or on the ability to muster support on the basis of religious sentiment?

Social concern activities may be divided into relief, rehabilitation, development and social action. The first three methods of the Church’s social personal loans under 600 credit score involvement have come under criticism on the basis of alleged unethical conversion. A weekend newspaper carried a reply to a religious dignitary’s plea for priests to mind spiritual matters more. The reply quoted the famous words of Christ, “I was hungry you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, I was naked you clothed me, I was sick you looked after me, I was in prison you visited me” thus emphasizing the compelling mandate of the Founder of Christianity for Christians to be involved in social welfare. The church faces a dilemma on this issue.

Social Action

Many church officials have voiced concern about the church getting involved in social and political issues. There is an accusation levelled against the church that activities of social concern are being used as a bait for conversion. The church would be quick to point out that it has been historically involved in social welfare measures viz. homes for the aged, orphanages, hospitals, education, labour reform, abolition of slavery, temperance work, rehabilitation of social undesirables.

How correct is the church official when he said, “Christ fled away from earthly issues?” How did Christ expect His disciples to be the salt and light of the society? One view is that some must choose the priest’s vocation and others in their relevant fields ought to uphold righteous standards. So, ethically concerned doctors and lawyers, environmentalists etc. should practise and fight for right values. The issues of social justice, environment etc. should be handled by experts in those fields. Such activity would come under social action. Do the clergy of any religion have a mandate to spearhead such opinions, agitate and mobilise the masses? Or are these secular matters to be taken up by ethically concerned professional bodies?

Social Transformation

Christ certainly did some things that could have appeared to be political. He cracked a whip at the money lenders in the temple who exploited the religious devotion of the masses for economic profit. This was done in a theocracy where priests ruled. In a sense Christ was putting His house in order. A modern democracy is a far cry from the theocracy Israel was in Christ’s day. Christ of course called Herod a fox.

Obviously Christ’s method of social change was through the transformation of the individual. Zacchaeus, the tax gatherer, stopped extortion, not because Christ organized a placard-carrying campaign but because Zacchaeus’ heart was changed. Christ did not agitate for the hard-pressed fisher-labourer class of Galilee but transformed the heart of some of the big time payday loans dallas tx fisher-merchants viz Peter, John and James. Rather than condemn the rich outright, Christ became a bridge between the rich and the poor. Of course when He was denouncing rich pharisees, who were the rulers of the day, He was addressing His parish. Simon, once a revolutionary zealot, sat to eat with Matthew, formerly a reactionary taxgatherer for the Roman Empire , together with Christ, only because they both had a heart transformation. When one loses sight of the potential of the spiritual message of Christ, one could look for liberation on earth through political activism.

Conflict of interests

There are many oppressive situations in today’s Sri Lanka and elsewhere. While the clergy (of any religion) attempt to transform the hearts of the oppressor by a spiritual message, the competent laity ought to agitate for the rights of the oppressed. The clergy will have to spiritually comfort the oppressed too. When clergy assume the role of politicians whipping up masses with many antipathic propositions, don’t they forsake their vocation and use the devotion given to the garb and the priestly role, for an alien cause? When clergy play politics, do they automatically become better politicians? Religious zeal ought to be confined to the promotion of man’s spiritual well being. Religious zeal out of its bounds is a deadly monster.

At the other end of the spectrum is the situation when religious heads wish to manipulate political and state power to gain leverage for their point of view. One could make a distinction between political power that comes from orchestration of mass opinion, and state power which ought not to be used by the state to adversely affect any sector of society. If law is majority opinion, then a sorry state would come over the democracies. “Truth”, said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Judge of the U.S. Supreme Court, “is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others”. Might is right! What erudition! while all the third world countries would oppose this view, how have the majority of such countries behaved towards the minorities? If Holmes is wrong in the area of international Law, surely that holds for internal conflict.

Will we ever learn from history? No zeal is more powerful and determined than religious zeal. When religious zeal becomes the battering ram to achieve political ends, disastrous consequences will follow. Religions must prove their worth and validity in the area they are meant for—man’s spiritual salvation. Any nation that bends its politics to serve religious ends, will blow up in factions.

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