Christianity and Politics
Discuss about the Charismatic Christianity for Sociological Perspectives.
The Christian ethics can only be understood when one has a sound knowledge of the term Christian and ethics. It is known by almost all the people that those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ are known as Christians. The values and principles that are considered in the lives of Christians are Christian ethics. These are core values and teachings of Jesus, in which he taught his followers about the conduct and way of life they should lead. According to Christianity the emphasis was always on love and sacrifice. A fundamentalist Christian though puts a lot emphasis on personal salvation. Ethics are often defined as moral values or standards of conduct of human beings. Christians follow their holy book bible that acts as their moral guidance. Bible tells Christians how their conduct should be in the society and from what all things they are required to refrain themselves. Christian ethics puts a lot emphasis on sinners, people who commit sins, that is basically the unethical practices and the judgment and punishment. According to Christianity, on the day of judgment all the sinners will be punished and those who righteously led their lives will get salvation. In Christian ethics salvation is very important. It is believed by Christians that deliverance from sins is brought by having faith in Christ and following his teachings (Wadell, 2016).
As far as politics is considered in Christianity, it is very important to look back in the history. According to Christian belief church is being separated from religion but looking at it with historical perspective it can be seen that is very difficult to separate church from the politics. After the roman emperor Constantine into Christianity, the church gained Christendom, a power where it could create the king of the state and could also dethrone the king or the emperors if they do not perform their duties as per the church. All the people of the society were be considered as Christian and so the church interfered in politics. The present secular states are the result of Protestantism (Outka, 2017).
According to Christian Political Ethics that has the views of some of the famous Christian scholars from different theological and ethical frame mainly the Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist--to address fundamental questions of state and civil society, international law and relations, the part of the nation, and matters of violence and its control. It represents a unique fusion of faith-centered ethics and social science; the contributors give their different personal Christian understandings, they describe the ethics as they understand it, that is both secular ethical thought and other some religious viewpoints from Judaism, Islam, and Confucianism. They look into different Christian views of state and society--and the limitations of each. They grab tensions that are raised within Christianity over issue of patriotism, civic duty, and loyalty to one's nation, and they examine Christian responses to pluralism and relativism, globalization, and war and peace. It shows the striking pluralism that lies within Christianity itself. This leading volume shows the meanings of Christian citizenship and civic responsibility, and raises compelling new questions about civil disobedience, global justice, and Christian justifications for waging war as well as spreading world peace. It brings Christian political ethics out of the churches and seminaries to deal with the most sensitive and complex social issues of contemporary society. The source of most of Christian ethics is bible. For Christians bible has been the most appropriate to teaching, reapproving, correcting, and training Christians in righteousness (Raheb, 2014).
Christian Political Ethics
Earlier the Old testament was the guiding book for the people, the books of the old testament guides the actions of the people and their actions, a lot of rules have been mentioned in the old testament regarding marriage and how people should lead their lives. Old Testament has the Ten Commandments found in the book of Exodus that is still considered as the basis of Christian ethics (Niebuhr, 2013).
According to the New Testament, which in which the basis of morality is the Great Commandment, everyone should love and adore God with all heart, mind, might and soul, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. The teachings of Deut 6:4-9 and Lev 19:18, are reaffirmed by Jesus. Christ put together all these commands and represented himself as a model of the love required as mentioned in John 13:12, which is known also as The New Commandment. Paul is one of the most important source of Christian history because he was an Apostle in his gospels he put emphasis on "Law of Christ", which is a phrase found in gospels of Paul though its understanding and the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism remains a mystery till now. The Pauline writings are also the major source of the New Testament household code. According to The Council of Jerusalem, they said in Acts 15, which was held in Jerusalem in about 50 AD. Its decree, is widely known and accepted as the “Apostolic Decree”, it has been generally binding for several centuries and is still observed today by the Greek Orthodox (Marshall, 2014).
One of the most controversial topics of all time is Abortion, as per the Christian ethics abortion is considered as sin, the church does not allow the parents to opt for abortion. Christian opinions on abortion are difficult to understand because there is no such prohibition of the act in the historical evidences. It has nowhere in the books been referred directly in both the Old Testament and New Testament books of the Bible, which is followed by the Christians (Wells & Quash, 2017). Some Christian writers say that the beliefs of earlier Christians had been variant depending upon the situations. Others say that, although nothing has been mentioned about abortion in the New Testament, it is being condemned irrespective of the stage of pregnancy, it is considered one of the most worst sin. The condemnation was maintained even when some of cases abortion is required and is not a murder of homicide. The destruction of a fetus not yet "formed" is considered as homicide according to the Churches. The Didache, a Christian writing of mid to late 1st century, forbids abortion in its Chapter two.
The Role of Bible in Christian Ethics
As per the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, "human life must be respected and protected right from the time of conception”. Therefore, it is against the procedures that aim to destroy an embryo or fetus for any reason (even before implantation), but the church has admitted that acts, such as chemotherapy or hysterectomy of a pregnant woman who has cervical cancer, which indirectly leads to the death of the fetus, can be morally accepted. According to church holds Church that "the first right of the human person is his life" and that life begins right from the fertilization. Since the first century, the Church has declared that every act that leads to intentional abortion is a morally evil. As per the teaching that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has declared that the views "has not changed and remains unchangeable" (Hunt, Walter & Hamilton, 2016).
Since the twentieth century Protestant opinions on abortion has been changing, there Protestants can be found in both the "anti-abortion" and "abortion-rights" camps. Conservative Protestants are generally against abortion whereas "mainline" Protestants incline towards abortion-rights. African-American Protestants are more strongly taking a stand for anti-abortion than white Protestants. Even among Protestants there are people who believe that abortion should be legally accepted, also there are people who are against it and have a belief that it cannot be ethically unacceptable and hence it should remain illegal (Kreeft, 2016).
Although bible does not say much on abortion, various readings of scripture make the Christians aware about the ethical views of this topic, including Genesis 4:1; Job 31:15; Isaiah 44:24, 49:1, 5; and Jeremiah 1:5, among others (Wright, 2013). The idea behind prohibition of Abortion is that according to Christianity there Ten Commandments which they have to follow and one command of the ten commandments is that one should not kill and abortion is kill a fetus, which develops into a child in the later stages if the child had not been killed or aborted (Heltzel, 2014).
The Church of England wants people to reflect on the issue of abortion deeply and they have realized that every person is having a different opinion on the topic. However, the Church's governing body, The General Synod, has passed resolutions on the matters, which provide a strong Church of England position. The Church of England has the Roman Catholic view that abortion is 'gravely contrary to the moral law'. As the 1980 statement of the Board of Social Responsibility put forward. However, this statement does talk about those situations where abortion could be permissible. The 1983 resolution of Synod, after expressing concern about the number of abortions in recent years went on to recognize (Witherington, 2016).
Christian Views on Abortion
The Roman Catholic Church says that intentionally harming the fetus is a cruelest deed and wrong in every sense. It says that it is a doctrine of natural law and hence has been written as the word of God. The Church says that human life starts when a male sperm fertilizes the woman’s egg, and so fetus is living. From that very time a new life starts forming which is independent from the life of their biological mother and father. The characterstics that make children different from their parents like the color of our eyes, the shape of our face are all laid down in the genetic code that comes into existence gradually. Every new life that starts forming at this point is not a “potential human being but a human being with potential”. Since the sixteenth century, causing or having an abortion has led to automatic excommunication. This has been mentioned in the Code of Canon Law (1983): "A person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic excommunication" (Davies, 2017).
The Church condemned abortion in as early as the 2nd century CE: a document called the Didache, written in the 2nd century (sometime after 100 CE), states: "You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish". Pope John Paul II took a strong stance against it. He underpinned many of the pro-life groups which have been made to challenge the rules of abortion. The Church itself has played a major part in the politics of the abortion debate and has taken a very strong stance against abortion, describing it as murder (Crooks, 2015).
In 1995, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical, which is basically a teaching letter to the whole Catholic Churches, called Evangelium Vitae meaning 'The Gospel of Life'. He said that the primary position of the Church. In his letter he directly referred to abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos evil and a sin. In October 1996, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales published a document called The Common Good , which states that all human rights flow from one fundamental right: the right to life. Before that in 1980 a document in which the seven Catholic Archbishops of Great Britain England, issued a document which was called 'Abortion and the Right to Live (Simmons & Sorrells, 2016). This document focused on the Church's opposition to abortion came from recognition of the basic rights of all individuals, including the unborn, who also have their own values. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has reiterated this as well. The 1992 version quotes from the document Donum Vitae ('the gift of life') from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department that looks into the matters of faith and morals (Atkinson et al., 2013).
A few Catholics have different opinion with the Vatican line on abortion. They have given arguments against the total ban on abortion. Although the teaching of church has for a long time said that a foetus becomes a person when the egg is fertilised, distinguished theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas said this did not happen until between 40 and 80 days after conception. Other Catholics put an argument that the Church has a fixed position on the right to life of the foetus nonetheless. The Church has given affirmation to the right and the responsibility of every Catholic to follow his or her own intuition on moral subjects, even when it conflicts with Church teachings. It is often argued by people that they have their right to choose whether they want a baby and not (Brown, 2015).
Hence, it can be concluded that the church has always been strict about the matter of Abortion, it does not matter whether the church is Evangelical, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal or Methodist. All of them are opposed to the idea of Abortion and it is a grave sin. However, in the modern times there are some who strongly support Abortion, these people are known as Pr-Choice and those against Abortion are known as pro-life. Today people do not restrict themselves to the rules made by the Churches so they oppose the old rules that have been prevailing from a very long time. There are cases where there are complications in delivery and so the child has to be aborted, in those cases the church is not much strict. The church also says that it is the responsibility of every Christian to judge their actions themselves and decide what is right and what is wrong.
Atkinson, D. J., Field, D. F., Holmes, A. F., & O'Donovan, O. (Eds.). (2013). New dictionary of Christian ethics & pastoral theology. InterVarsity Press.
Brown, R. E. (2015). An introduction to the New Testament. Yale University Press.
Crooks, R. H. (2015). Introduction to Christian Ethics. Routledge.
Davies, J. G. (2017). Christians, politics and violent revolution. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Heltzel, P. (2014). Jesus and justice: Evangelicals, race, and American politics. Yale University Press.
Hunt, S. J., Walter, T., & Hamilton, M. (Eds.). (2016). Charismatic Christianity: sociological perspectives. Springer.
Kreeft, P. (2016). The Philosophy of Jesus. St. Augustine's Press.
Marshall, R. (2014). Christianity, anthropology, politics. Current Anthropology, 55(S10), S344-S356.
Niebuhr, R. (2013). Moral man and immoral society: A study in ethics and politics. Westminster John Knox Press.
Outka, G. (2017). The Ethics of Love and the Problem of Abortion. Church, Society, and the Christian Common Good: Essays in Conversation with Philip Turner, 146.
Raheb, M. (2014). Faith in the face of empire: The Bible through Palestinian eyes. Orbis Books.
Simmons, F. V., & Sorrells, B. C. (Eds.). (2016). Love and Christian Ethics: Tradition, Theory, and Society. Georgetown University Press.
Wadell, P. J. (2016). Happiness and the Christian moral life: An introduction to Christian ethics. Rowman & Littlefield.
Witherington III, B. (2016). New Testament Theology and Ethics(Vol. 2). InterVarsity Press.
Wells, S., & Quash, B. (2017). Introducing Christian Ethics. John Wiley & Sons.
Wright, C. J. (2013). Old Testament ethics for the people of God. InterVarsity Press.
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