Monday, May 3, 2010

Politics of the 21st Century...religion?

In a review of Karen Armstrong's book, The Case for God, the United Church Observer, in the current edition, writes these words, while declaring Armstrong's book to be one of the most important books to appear so far this century,"The politics of the twenty-first century is religion."
Unpacking such a declaration has to include the reviewer's perception that all politics is now based on religion, on religious affiliation, on religious perceptions and beliefs and on religious principles. Without exaggerating these words, one has to come to the position that religion has become so important to the life of the twenty-first century that it has, or at least will, subsume the political debate.
There are real dangers to such a view, stated as speculations, without in any way attempting to denigrate the judgement.
First, we all know the dangers of countries that have become theocracies.
Second, we also know that there are religious attributes, attitudes and beliefs attached to each and every political leader in each and every country, yet never before have these been so scrutinized, unless we recall the furor around the elections of the first Roman Catholic to the Presidency of the U.S.
Third, if politics is (or will) become religion, then this (Observer) writer must be hoping and expecting a vibrant dialogue about God, as one of the central questions within all political debates.
How does God, for example, fit into the debate over budget allocations, including allocations for military purchases, including foreign aid and whether or not such funding can be used for all options for maternal health, including allocations for taxes to curb greenhouse gases and thereby begin to control global warming, including allocations for border control to address the immigration "problem" not only in Arizona, but in each country?
What does a religious perspective say to questions of nuclear weaponization of Iran, North Korea, and the somewhat lame reductions in the arsenals of Russia and the U.S.?
If the Muslim faith, according to its jihadists, considers the U.S. to be, or be equal to Satan, how does a conservative Christian country respond to such an allegation?
If politics is religion, how do the countries reconcile the different religious beliefs operating within their borders, and learn about those various religious positions, when dealing with the leadership in other countries?
If politics is religion, then there is the potential of an assumption that political leaders might consider they are, in fact, working for and in the name of their particular God, and that would conceivably enhance their commitment to follow the dictates of their God, as they believe them to be.
And yet I would suspect there is not a single political science course offered in a single North American university entitled, "Politics as Religion" or "Religion as Politics"....is that to come?
Is the Observer reviewer doing some wishful speculating, or some fearful demonizing or something else?

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