Although the United States has a constitutional barrier separating church and state, the vast majority of Americans want their leaders to be religious and religion undoubtedly plays a huge role in the American political life. Americans are more than comfortable with shows of faith and respond to empassioned preaches from the pulpit. However the fundamental point of this post is should the Church and members of the clergy ever be encouraged to engage in politics? Because I certainly don’t think so.
It is my deeply held belief that politicians should be guided not by the politics of the church but by the principles of the church, morality, decency, tolerance etc. The leader of a nation and those involving in its governing should embody the virtues of morality, truth, fidelity, decency, courage and humility but ultimately should pay little heed to the advice of the church on matters of state or public policy. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a classical example, as far as I am concerned he breached the boundaries of chruch neutrality when he made his inflammatory remarks regarding Sharia Law. Naturally they were not well recieved and he undermined the reputation of the church still further. The church as far as I am concerned should not be turned in to a political platform as it arguably has been in America if it is to retain any relevance in contemporary society.
The latest controversy to emmerge regarding church politics relates to a controversial preacher in the Obama campaign. From what I understand the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a close friend of Barack Obama’s, has raised some very controversial remarks about America, 9/11, Hillary Clinton and all sorts of political issues. Wright has used his pulpit as an oppourtunity not to preach a message of faith but to preach a message of pulpit politics and intolerance. Wright has claimed “Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was” he went on to suggest “Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain’t never been called a ‘nigger!’ Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person” Some of the pastors rants can be seen here: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/14/obama.minister/index.html#cnnSTCVideo
What irritates me most about such sentiments is that they are inflammatory and inaccurate. Wright is reducing this campaign down to one thing…. race. He is making a distinction between us and them, exactly the kind of tactic that the Clinton campaign has been accused of. Should this have occured in Britain… I am sure there would be a much bigger annd much more serious reaction. Unfortunately this type of message is typical in American politics and the church annd religious figures arguably carry too much influence. Sadly I feel that the US election will be reduced to race and it is the actions of preachers such as Wright, although he is certainly not alone, that will make this possible. Ultimately the church will enter the political realm at its peril.