Religion and Politics

My American friends know that I often find U.S. politics bewildering, especially the way in which party politics and religion seem to intertwine. In this country, I think most priests and consecrated persons are careful to observe the party neutrality the Catechism of the Catholic Church enjoins and are often perplexed by its absence among some in the States. That said, it is important that everyone should think about the moral and socio-economic issues involved in making political choices. The religiously-inlined will always look to their pastors and those they think of as having particular expertise for help in making such choices. But what is the point at which shared reflection and attempts at guidance become electioneering, i.e. urging others to vote for this person rather than that, for one party rather than another? It is a difficult line to tread, especially as I think most Americans are much more ‘definite’ in the expression of opinion than the British are.

As we pray for all those involved in the American presidential election, I suggest we should reserve a special place in our prayers for priests and consecrated persons, that what they say and do may be in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In saying that, I don’t want to open this post up to a political ding-dong. The only way I know of letting the Holy Spirit into a situation is to be quiet and listen — never easy for any of us.

Not Forgetting
Shanah Tovah to all our Jewish friends, and many thanks to all who have supported Buy a Nun a Book Day!


4 thoughts on “Religion and Politics”

  1. I sometimes think that politics can not be avoided whether Priest or Consecrated person, albeit some believe that their views should be shielded and not shared. But if as I am told, Churches need to speak truth to those in power, I find it inexplicable that we don’t really get heard in terms of social justice, inequalities, the poor and politically driven events that widen the divisions in our society. Where did this culture of not speaking out come from? Now our Bishops and Arch Bishops who have a platform in the House of Lords, seem strangely muted. And even if they do speak out, it is often not reported in the national media or, just in obscure publications like the Spectator, Observer or Financial Times, which are not exactly read daily or weekly by most of the population. And younger people get their news in sound bites via social media.

    So, I have drawn comparisons in sermons occasionally on the text and context of the Bible reading that I am preaching on, with politics or situations which arise from them. I am careful to be even handed, but at least I am doing so. But I am not a Priest or Consecrated person. Just someone who holds a licence to preach from the Bishop, and I wonder how much of what I deliver actually strikes home.

    When we look back in History to the likes of William Wilberforce and other activists or the Wesleys, I wonder where are their modern counterparts are, strangely silent or perhaps more likely, working on some sort of strategy to bring about change behind the scenes, influence and the old boy network perhaps. Change is needed urgently in so many areas, climate change, the in balances in wealth and poverty and those refugee’s being held in camps for just seeking a safer place to live and work and raise their families.

    Surely silence allows those in power or with influence to believe that they have the upperhand and they go on doing what they have always done, to suppress dissent or hide the methods that are used to keep us silent.’

    This will only change when the majority of people get their voice and vote and use it for the greater good, not along narrow, political allegiances or secraterian lines. I pray that this will be soon.

    • For the sake of other readers, I must point out that the bishops in the House of Lords to whom you refer are Anglican. Catholic bishops do not sit in the House of Lords and have no platform there. It is not engagement in politics by its clergy that the Catholic Church is hesitant about but engagement in party politics. In fact, I think that, on the whole, the Catholic Church has a good record of speaking out on matters of social justice and morality in most countries but the situation in the USA strikes me as being different. The polarisation is not helped by the way in which some clergy and religious have adopted party allegiances. But that’s just my personal view.

    • It depends on what you mean by ‘silence’. As far as I am aware, it is only when we come from the peaceful presence within, that is found in silence, that it is possible to engage with politics in a way that does no harm. Everything else looks to me like shouting egos, and creates division and discord. YMMV

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