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Religion and politics

Religion and politics
Religion is a set of beliefs and practices that are determined by one’s view of reality and the supernatural. Politics is the process by which groups make decisions. Because one’s view of reality has a powerful effect on decision-making, the two realms are tightly intertwined in a number of ways. Some of these ways include: 1. the political processes that occur within religious organizations, known as the organization’s internal politics; 2. the effects of various religious beliefs and practices on civic processes, or the organization’s external politics; 3. the effects of various secular political actions on religious organizations and people; 4. formal relationships between politics and religion, such as in the case of state religions or theocracies. The injection of politics into almost any other realm automatically creates a general sense of conflict because politics is, at its basest level, a power struggle. All four aspects of this interaction can cause difficulty for religious groups that prefer to present themselves in an inclusive, rather than divisive, way. Conflict is, however, almost unavoidable. A religious group’s internal politics will involve factions with different perspectives regarding policies, and when people of faith take an active interest in external politics, those who adhere to other faiths (or to no faith at all) often take offense at their actions. Political actions in the general population will often oppose the beliefs of various religions and will create conflict between the religion and society as a whole. And when a particular religion controls a government, anyone who does not agree with the tenets of the faith will have conflict not only with the religion but also with the government that it administers. system of leadership and management. The politics are the ways in which that administrative hierarchy allocates authority and accountability, and it is the framework for organizing and controlling all individual and group leadership. Because its form is ultimately dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the principles of the religion, different religions have vastly different systems.

Bahá’í administration
The administration of the Bahá’í faith is divided into elected positions and appointed positions. Having no ordained, professional clergy, Bahá’ís operate through a type of nonpartisan democratic self-government. The traditional functions of community leadership and moral leadership are vested in an institutional framework of councils with two main branches. Bahá’í administration exempts its members from any responsibility to those whom they represent, and from the obligation to conform to their views, convictions or sentiments. The highest elected body is the Universal House of Justice, which possesses "the exclusive right to legislate on matters not explicitly revealed in the Most Holy Book." Bahá’í elections use a three-stage councilor-republic system, which varies in terms of who is an eligible member and who is an elector depending on the scope of the election. At all levels, only residents within the jurisdiction of the body being elected are eligible for membership, and all elections are won by plurality. In general, adult Bahá’ís in good standing who are resident in the jurisdiction comprise both the electorate (either directly or through delegation) and the pool of potential members of the body being elected. Shoghi Effendi strongly deprecated partisan politics and other practices current in western democracies, such as campaigning and nomination. He established the following rules in order to preserve the full rights and prerogatives of the electors and to guard them against manipulation:

Internal politics of religious organizations
A religion will experience internal politics only to the extent that is has an organized


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• Nominations and campaigning are prohibited. Bahá’ís are not to seek to advance themselves above their neighbors. • Voters are urged not to consult with each other about the suitability of individuals. • Voters are strongly encouraged to study and discuss, in abstract, the five qualities named by Shoghi Effendi as being necessary in those elected to serve, without reference to individuals. • Individuals should be selected only on the basis of the five mentioned qualities, without reference to material means or other characteristics, except insofar as they provide insight into the five qualities. • Those elected are expected to serve, though in cases of extreme personal difficulty, members may request that the body to which they are elected relieve them.

Religion and politics

Congregationalist polity
Each local church controls its own affairs in a Congregationalist model. Each church is governed by the decisions of its own membership. Denominational organizations in this form of governance are simply a loose confederation of member churches.

Episcopal polity
This governance style typified by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches, among others. Each church is overseen by a bishop, who is then responsible to an upper hierarchy, usually archbishops and cardinals, with one mortal leader, such as the pope or patriarch.

Mormon polity
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, also known as Mormon) maintains that God withdrew the "priesthood authority" to act in His name from the earth with the deaths of the apostles of the primitive Christian Church, only to be re-established on earth through Joseph Smith. The early Mormon church, first under Smith and then under Brigham Young, established theocratic institutions in their anticipation of Christ’s imminent return to take leadership of a cleansed world during the Millennium. Although the early theocratic ideals are no longer in place in any significant form, the general organization of the church remains roughly the same. Today’s LDS organization is administered by a fairly complex hierarchy consisting primarily of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Quorums of the Seventy.

Buddhist administration
In 544 BC, three months after the Buddha died, King Ajatasattu sponsored the First Council in the Sattaparnaguha Cave outside of Rajagaha. The meeting was prompted by Elder Mahakassapa , who called five hundred Arahant monks to council after gaining the approval of the Sangha (an assembly of monks and nuns). The First Council approved closing the chapter on the minor and lesser rules, and granted approval for their observance. In the years since the First Council, several others have followed, the most recent being the Sixth Buddhist Council held in 1954 by the Theravada school. Today, Buddhism is separated into several different schools with varying forms of leadership. The schools are united by organizations such as the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the World Buddhist Sangha Council, both of which administer and organize various aspects of Buddhist leadership.

Presbyterian polity
This form of leadership is most commonly seen in Presbyterianism, but is not unique to it. Presbyterian governance is a form of Representative democracy, in which boards elected by church membership, known as Presbyters, retain control over individual churches. These boards may or may not also operate within a larger hierarchy of authority.

Christian administration
Because there are many denominations within Christianity there is no universal Christian administration. While many denominations have some hierarchy of ministers or priests above the general membership of the church, others are simply a loose association of independent local churches.

Jewish administration
Orthodox Judaism believes that when the Moshiach comes he will become a king, and all Jews will be united in Israel to be ruled by him. Jewish law, or halacha, provides many guidelines to the reign, the central theme of


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which is that God is above the king. Until then, Orthodox Jews are advised to be on good terms with the government but not participate in it too directly. Reform Judaism, on the other hand, believes in integration with the society in which they live, including its political structure. Throughout its history Judaism has had a number of different leadership structures, and today the leadership of the various denominations is significantly diverse in form and in function. Most, however, do fall under the leadership of rabbis (though the groups may define that position differently) and other synagogue officials and workers. Some sects, notably Orthodox and Haredi Jews, recognize a hierarchy of rabbinical levels culminating in one or more chief rabbis.

Religion and politics

External politics of religious organizations
The external politics of a religion are the ways it reacts to the culture and society around it, and the ways that it influences its members with regard to their interactions with that social order. Examples include boycotts or attempted censorship of entities that the religion feels are opposed to its idea of "right", attempts to influence legislators with regard to passage of various laws, and provision of support for the campaigns of political candidates that the religion considers to be sympathetic to its beliefs. These activities can create significant tension between people associated with the politically active religion and society at large. The ways in which clergy and theologians interpret the political domain, and the ways that they encourage people to behave within it, vary widely. Some urge their followers to withdraw completely from the outside world; others say politics should stay out of religion entirely. (When this latter view is taken to an extreme it is known as quietism.) Some religious groups may undertake political action in an attempt to cause social change and create a culture of social justice, a philosophy sometimes called liberation theology. Others attempt to find a point of peaceful coexistence (but not necessarily integration or even cooperation), a line of thought exemplified by Jesus’ command to his disciples to "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s". See also Religious rejection of politics and Religion and power

Muslim administration
Like other major religions, Islam has many divisions, sects, and schools, and they each follow a different form of administration or authority, but all recognize (to varying degrees) the two most important positions: the caliph and the imam. After Muhammad’s death, Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad’s lieutenant, Abū Bakr, was chosen by the community to be Muhammad’s successor as head of the religion and also to be the first caliph. They believe that this was the proper procedure and that a caliph is ideally chosen by election or community consensus. Shi’a Muslims believe that Muhammad had chosen ˤAlī ibn Abī Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, as his successor. They say that Abū Bakr seized power by force and trickery and that all caliphs other than ˤAlī were usurpers. ˤAlī and his descendents are believed to have been the only proper Muslim leaders, or imams. A third branch of Islam, the Ibadi, believes that the caliphate rightly belongs to the greatest spiritual leader among Muslims, regardless of his lineage. The Ibadi are currently an extremely small group, found mainly in Oman. The official title of "caliph" was abolished in 1924, but it is still an important consideration due to the controversy described above. Actual leadership, however, is in the hands of imams and other clergy, officials, and workers, the titles and responsibilities of which vary from one sect to another.

Effects of secular politics on religion
At times, religious organizations and people of faith may be affected in specific ways by the political climate of the society that surrounds them. For instance, governments may pass laws that affect (or threaten to affect) the ways in which the traditions of a given faith may be observed, or endorsing cultural stances that are offensive to the adherents of a particular belief system. Like instances in which religious expression influences political activity, these situations create tension


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between the religion and the society surrounding it.

Religion and politics
western world is the Church of England, which was established in the sixth century and remains today as the official Christian church in England with the monarch empowered as its "Supreme Governor". Other examples include the Roman Catholic Church’s status as the official religion of several countries in Europe and Latin America and the official status of Islam in many countries around the world. Contemporary efforts to impose sharia law in various places around the world (outside of pre-existing Islamic states) also fit this description.

Integration of church and state
In addition to the relatively informal interactions above, religion and government may also establish a formal relationship. In this case the religion’s teachings and administration will have practical effects on members of the society whether they are members of the religion or not (and in extreme cases those who are not members may be rejected as members of the society). There are, of course, varying degrees of interaction between the two realms, ranging from a government’s endorsement of a specific religion without requiring that it be observed to complete domination of the religion in all government policy and action.

This term theocracy describes a state in which religious and government leaders either are identical or form a strongly interlocked and virtually inseparable group. A number of states in the ancient world could be so described, and examples in more recent times include the Vatican, Tibet under the Dalai Lama, and Iran and other Islamic republics. Mount Athos, although not formally independent, could also be described as a theocracy.

Religious states and state religions
Despite efforts by early thinkers like Marsilio Ficino to keep religion and politics separate, history offers many occasions when the two have often been very closely intertwined. Sometimes a religion endorses or supports a particular leader or system. One example is the idea of the Divine Right of Kings, in which royal power is believed to be derived directly from God and therefore must be obeyed. Also, Niccolò Machiavelli advocated that rulers use the power of the church to establish and maintain their reigns, believing that this would maintains stability in the society. In a related way, religion has often been used as a means of defining or maintaining social class structures. Conversely, different classes have at times overwhelmingly adopted different faiths, as with the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the spread of Methodism in eighteenth-century England. On the other side of the coin, some governments have either endorsed or fully administered specific religions, sometimes to the degree that citizens have been strongly discouraged from following any other. One of the best known examples of this in the

See also
• • • • Christianity and politics Established church Interfaith Henry G. Brinton, author of Balancing Acts: Obligation, Liberation, and Contemporary Christian Conflicts

References External links
• Initiative on Religion in International Affairs at Harvard

Retrieved from "" Categories: Religion and politics, Philosophy of religion


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Religion and politics

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