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There is a difference between the question of religion in politics and the issue of church and State. In case, there is a failure to make this distinction, it results in confusion. The issue of church and state is related to the institutions and the spheres of action that are considered to be appropriate for each. In this case, the concept of separation is valid. For example, the bishops and pastors for the churches are not appointed by the government. On the other hand, Churches, which means all religious organizations, do not have the authority to appoint presidents, governors and the judges. The law provides that any religion cannot be favored as compared to the others. Similarly, the government cannot support any particular religion by taxes. There is no role or authority of the state in defining the beliefs that are related with God and worship. At the same time, the law requires that the free exercise of religion above the citizens needs to be guaranteed. The state should remain neutral between different religions and allow the citizens to believe or not believe in God and to engage or not to engage in religious practice according to the dictates of their own conscience. Similarly, any religious test cannot be prescribed for holding a particular office.
In this sense, it can be said that Australia is a secular country. However there are certain complications present due to which, even the simple notion of religious neutrality becomes compound. There is a kind of 'civil religion' present in the history that has been expressed in the founding documents, coins, speeches of presidents and the pledge of allegiance.
In the same way, particularly when the elections are on the horizon, generally the Christians face to models of serious Christian engagement with the world. These can be simply described as fight or flight, or in other words, either take it over for Jesus or to withdraw and wait for the return of Jesus. The former option is faced by the evangelicals in the so-called religious right, even if it is also the posture of the most of the religious left, which includes the liberation theologies of different stripes. It'll also been mentioned in the more refined excellence of neo-Calvinism the agenda of world formation on transformation.
The involvement of Christians in politics has been a much debated subject that has remained at the center of Christian discourse for several centuries. There are a larger number of believers who have been taught that the Christians should not engage in political realm. The reason given in this regard is that "faith and politics do not mix". There is a validity regarding the caution given by many Christians. There have been some believers who have entered the political arena and became so much focused on politics that they compromise the teachings that are considered as being basic to the Christian faith. Similarly, there have been some others who committed the mistake of resting all their hopes on the politicians and the government, which compromised godly living and morality. On the other hand, the reality is that the hope for change cannot be based on the ruling class of a particular country, but ultimately on Jesus Christ.
Despite the fact that these claims may be valid, but it will be considered as a mistake if the Christians become totally isolated from the realm of politics. The reason is that when the people of God decide that they are not going to vote or to run for a particular office, it means that they have carelessly left the fate of the future generations in the hands of immoral and the wicked. When the Christians abstain from public sphere, they are compromising one of the basic teachings of Christianity, which is "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (MArk 12:31). Among the two greatest commandments of the Scriptures, to love God first and then to love their neighbors as we love ourselves, can be described as the clear mandate in favor of cultural and political engagement by the Christians. The love for neighbor is based on the love of the Christians for God. Only if a person loves his neighbor, such a person may protect the inalienable rights and freedoms of others. However, in order to understand how the political engagement of a person is related with the loud for his neighbors, the complete scope of this great Commandment needs to be understood.
In this context, Jesus had spoken regarding a "certain man" who was beaten and mugged by thieves. They left him to die. Nobody, neither the priest nor the Levite tried to help him, but a Samaritan showed real compassion and provided for the full recovery of the injured person. Then Jesus asks a question, which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the victim of thieves. In this parable, the focus is not on the victim but on the person who should be considered as the neighbor. In the present world also, there is a lot of poverty. Similarly, there are many widows and orphans. There are millions of homeless and persons who are looking for one decent meal in a day for their families. All these persons made our humanitarian help. Similarly, issues like human trafficking, tyranny, and the persecution of minorities also contribute to this great need. There is very little hope of a change if the people of God. Do not engage in all of these. In view of this reason, it can be stated that it is not possible to love our neighbors if we do not take part in culture and political process.
Under these circumstances, the need for involvement in politics by the Christians becomes obvious. However, at the same time, it is also obvious that the Christians are the ideal persons for fulfilling this role. In this regard, it has been mentioned in the Bible that only the "righteous" unable to understand the rights of the underprivileged. The people who "seek the Lord" rely on the understanding of the Bible that transcend their own social context and selfish inclinations due to which they unable to understand justice completely. Although it may be argued by some that Jesus was not involved in politics but in this regard it is worth mentioning that there was no democracy in a Rome. The present form of political involvement was not present at that time. Even if Jesus was not actively involved in politics during the time of his earthly ministry, he did not undermine this idea.
The Christians in our country are privileged to live in a democratic country. Here, people are the authority. This means that the people also have the political influence that can make a difference.
Another prominent reason due to which it becomes imperative for Christians to take an active part in politics is that the Christian worldview is related with all areas of life. Generally an objection is raised against the engagement of the Christians in politics than anything other than explicit preaching and the teaching of Bible should be treated as a distraction from the mission of the church. But this objection amounts to a limited understanding of the kingdom of God and at the same time, it is also against the examples given in the Scriptures. The Christian worldview is capable of providing a comprehensive understanding of reality. This worldview is related with all areas of life which includes involvement in politics. In fact, there is a mention of civil government in the Bible, and it also contains examples of faithful engagement. Joseph and Daniel, in the Old Testament have served in the civil government, and exerted their roles for the purpose of encouraging the nourishment of their nations. On the other hand, in New Testament, Jesus was involved in holistic ministry, which cared for the spiritual and physical needs of individuals. The outworking and the extension of the reconciliatory message given by the Gospel is to feed the hungry and to heal their diseases. Similarly, this approach was also advocated by Paul when he stated that, "As we have opportunity let us do good". Being involved in "good works" means the need for taking part in the political process, in view of the legitimate and the significant role played by the government in this regard. The government makes several decisions that have a significant impact on the lives of the people and also the way, we can interact with them. Hence, it is important that the Christian worldview includes the political theology, which recognizes the need for including each area of life in the "good works" of the believers, particularly politics as this area has significant implications in their day-to-day lives of the people.
Another reason that can be given in favor of the engagement of the Christians in politics is that politics is unavoidable. In the form of sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), it may appear tempting for the Christians to believe that the earthly governments are inconsequential, when it comes to furthering the Gospel. But if we ask a pastor working in underground church or to a missionary who is trying to access a closed country if politics are inconsequential, he knows the reality. Passports and visas and religious liberty are not unnecessary luxuries, but in many cases they are very significant for the pastors and the missionaries who are trying to preach. Therefore it can be stated in this regard that the believers are citizens of "City of God" but on this side of eternity, they also belong to the "City of Man". As a result, they should become good citizens in both the cases. There are examples presented the Bible, how the membership of the earthly city can be leveraged in order to develop the reach of the heavenly.
There are a large number of Australians who consider that religion is related with truth. Jesus was the son of God and He had died for our sins. Therefore, this faith implies for many believers, particular moral propositions, like the sinfulness of homosexual conduct, indissolubility of marriage and the wrongness of abortion. For example, if the decision made by the government to have a postal vote regarding the issue of same-sex marriage is allowed by the High Court, the Christians across Australia will have to make a choice, either vote yes or no. Most of the comments made by the Christian thinkers on this issue in the public sphere have been firmly against the legislation supporting same-sex marriage. Whereas nearly 10 years ago, it was really unthinkable, but now there are many religious leaders in Australia who are actively campaigning for a yes vote. Historically, all the faiths have opposed any relaxation of law regarding homosexuality. They have claimed it to be "intrinsically disordered' or a "sinful life choice". However, this is not the case anymore. Many religious leaders and academics are in favor of the acceptance of marriage equality as an issue related with social justice.
Under these circumstances, it becomes important for the Christians to take part in politics. The Christian witness in the public square can contribute transcendent values regarding the ethical and moral issues. On the other hand, the withdrawal by the Christians from politics will leave a moral vacuum that is susceptible to influence is due to which the government may be forced to move beyond the purview designated by God. Government is impacted by politics, and it also shapes. The society as well as it has a great influence on culture. Due to the teachings of the Bible and their inevitable impact on our culture, it is important that the Christians care regarding the politics.
Callan, Eomann, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997
Clanton, J. Caleb. Religion and Democratic Citizenship: Inquiry and Conviction in the American Public Square. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007
Dagger, Richard. Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997
Eliot, T. S. “Catholicism and International Order.” Essays, Ancient and Modern. London: Faber and Faber, 1936
Eliot, T. S. “The Idea of a Christian Society” and “Notes Toward the Definition of Culture.” Christianity and Culture. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1967
Gaus, Gerald F. “The Place of Religious Belief in Liberal Politics.” In Multiculturalism and Moral Conflict, edited by Maria Dimova-Cookson. London: Routledge, 2008
Greenawalt, Kent. Religious Convictions and Political Choice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991
Gutmann, Amy. Identity in Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003
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