Religion and Politics in America
Politics and religion are two of the most influential and powerful institution within the United States of America. The United States, being a largely Christian-dominated country, a majority of the population are strict devotees of the Catholic beliefs. And as such, people are more inclined to American politicians who are close to their religion.
In many ways, politics and religion work in distinctively intertwined characteristics. Deliberately or not, religious beliefs always leave a great impact upon political process.
At the same, political practices also create an imprint on how religion is being practiced. And in a democratic country like the United States, people are given the freedom to choose what or to whom they want to believe in.
However, as religion and politics are characteristically related, there are instances that these two institutions also clash. In a democratic and Christian society, conflicts between religion and politics can be hardly avoidable. While there will be instances wherein the church will support the government or vice versa, there can be also situations that the two institutions will differ in their principles and stands on issues.
In a number of ways, religion and politics have both sought to prove their innate influence over the people. Sometimes, religion tends to focus on imposing its influence on the voting population and on Christian politicians in order to achieve its end, or at least to have someone within the political arena to air religious beliefs. On the other hand, politics also create various ways to impose its influence on the church.
If politics and religion will remain to clash, or will be excessively interrelated to each other, then it could dangerous to the welfare of the society. As such, there are lines that should be drawn within the relationship of the two influential institutions. The separation of the state and church is one of the most important and established basis that religious beliefs and political activities must always be kept in a safe distance from the other.
The Separation of Church and State
The history of the separation of the church and state goes on a very long history. Not only in America but as well as in the most parts of the world, the breakdown of monarchs under the principles of the Divine Right Theory is one of the most important milestones in the separation of church and state. It is during this time when people have started to become conscious of the conspiracy of the monarchs, entitling them to leadership because they were chosen by Gods to rule the society.
The subsequent overthrow of the monarchs in the era and the establishment of the Social Contract Theory that believed in the principle that people have the right to choose their leaders, became a historical monument for the separation of power between religion and politics. During this era, people were able to choose their leaders, and at the same time, were allowed to dislodge a leader who failed to commit and provide the needs of the people. This development within the political and religious arena, brought down a distinct mark between religious beliefs and political decisions.
In the United States of America, the separation of the church and state became one of the most controversial issues in the United States’ history. This issue is attributed in two distinct principles: keeping a secular government and providing an arena for religious freedom. This was originally traced from Thomas Jefferson’s idea of creating a division between the church and the government, which is contained in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
This view of Jefferson made him infamous and even prodigal despite his victory in the election over John Adams. Jefferson’s statement of drawing the line between church and government prompted the people to neglect his win, and as such, this became a very embarrassing political situation in America (Moore 2005).
As such, a number of cases were filed focusing on the validity of the separation of church and state. This notion has been into a variety of contexts, most of which were focused on how to separate religious beliefs from political and government decisions. Most of religious groups questioned this idea, although at most cases, this does not entirely mean that religion must be kept away from politics.
United States, inherently and largely populated by Christians felt distinctively strong about the issue. And until now, the debate is still on. The most recent and contemporary politicians though, have also appealed on using “faith and religion” in trying to impress and convince people through their policies. Some had even used a blatant religious tone in order to gain more support from the Catholic majority (Price 2004).
In this issue, it is necessary to note and point out that the separation of church and government was not entirely used to deny the importance of religion within the society. Religion has always been innately important and influential in the society and nothing could change this fact, not even laws. However, the notion of separation and secularity was meant to provide the government a venue wherein it can function solely on the basis of reason and administer its purpose without being hindered by any other factor.
In essence though, the separation of church and government was never meant to fully direct people against religion in government proceedings. Rather, this was only meant to ensure that no other politician or government official would be under the influence of any other institution, except for the government itself. As such, this was only a precaution to save the politics from foreign influences that might decrease the level of efficiency for the government.
However, as it has always been obvious, the government was not entirely free of the influences from the church. Over history, religion has always distinctively shown its prowess and capability to affect political decisions made. From the political policies, to moral obligations and election results, religion has always been an important factor in the outcomes.
Morality, Religion, Culture and Politics
In a distinct number of ways, it can be observed how religion has played an enormous role in shaping the way people have developed, how people react to laws, and how the laws have been formulated. Religion can quickly mobilize people to call for changes or to stand up for their beliefs without deliberately or implicitly asking the public to act. As such, religion has been, and will always be a determinant factor in changing the way things are put in place for the society. From laws to political stands, religious beliefs are always being given ample attention and consideration.
As such, there have been laws and policies that were enacted that are connected and adherent to moral policies that are prescribed by the church. Some of these are laws related to abortion, same sex marriage and homosexuality, and feminism to name a few. In these fields, most of the laws that are related to these are heavily justified and influenced by religion. These are rules of morality that the church has imposed on the society, and as such, actions are being taken by the government to adhere to it.
In the issue of abortion, although the government has made steps to restrict abortion practices and to punish those who will be caught doing it, the government has never fully imposed rigid measures concerning the process. Though the government has already taken a stand on this issue, the decision totally does not lie to government officials or to politicians.
More often, abortion is seen as a religious subject, and as such, the authority lies on the church to prescribe what should be done to address it (Johansen 2003). Regardless of what the government says that is necessary to be done, the church will always have an advantage in influencing the people in discussing and dealing with a morality issue such as abortion. And as such, instead of trying to influence people better and make a more rigid ground to this issue, the government will play according to decisions set forth and suggested by the church.
On the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriage, it is without a doubt that the church has forbidden such activities. Homosexuality and same sex marriage are considered immoral by the church, and as such, the government also believes that these should not be allowed in the society. As such, there are only limited American states that allow same sex marriage and wherein homosexuals are fully appreciated in the society.
While it has not been made as a punishable offense by the government to engage in same sex marriage, nonetheless its validity is still limited and controlled. And with the influence of the church towards the government and of the majority of the people, the time has not yet come that the society will be able to fully accept the realities of same sex marriage and the popularity of homosexuals increasing in numbers across countries.
On the issue of women suffrage and equality, as the church took a stand on promoting these rights and privileges, the government has also adopted to the calls from the society. Women suffrage and gender equality have been among the most controversial and long-running issues in the world, not only in America alone but also in the majority of the world. Church support for women has meant a lot of things for the feminist fight. Women enjoy the distinct place they have in the society because the church has stood by them. And as such, even in government and politics, a certain spot is being attributed to the women population.
These improvements in the women status is seen in the equal suffrage right being given to women. Not only this, women are now also allowed to run for office, which was never been a usual scenario during the earlier times. And the victorious emergence of women in the field of politics can also be linked to the support give to them by the church.
As such, the church has always been successful in imposing its influence within the government. The policies and laws formulated in the most recent years are consistent with how the church views such issues. The government places deep respect for the church in such a way that the views and stands on the church are being highly valued and considered in making laws. In addition to this, the morality laws for the church are such important and influential to the society that pushed the government to allow these morality laws to govern the political and national laws that are being set for the society. It is only with the support of the church that the government can ensure that people will support them in turn.
Thus, it is distinctively true that the church has been successful in imposing its influence not only within the government, but as well as in the people’s culture. The people’s belief on certain things shapes the way that culture is being molded. And consequently, this set of culture is also relevant in assessing how a government will be administered in order for it to obtain the trust and approval of the people.
Election and Religion
As previously mentioned, United States is very much indeed a religious country. And as such, most of the practices that are rampant within the United States are mostly inclined on church practices and religious beliefs. Even within the political arena, the church has always been one of the determinants for power, truth, and justice. Thus, it is not peculiar to know that even in elections and political campaigns, religion has also played a hugely determining role.
Until this generation and as it has always been in the past, religion is among the crucial factors in letting the Americans choose the rightful leader that shall guide the country towards growth and development. But crucially, the role of religion has been getting larger as each generation passes. Nowadays, the influence of religion over politics, especially during elections has reached a really high point (Cline 1998).
One of the most obvious and distinct influence of religion over politics is seen in the way that people choose their leaders. Despite the secularity that has been campaigned for by the United States government, there is still a powerful attraction between religious beliefs and political choices. And as such, the political choices being made by American citizens are more often that not are religiously influenced.
As such, religion has brought a more severe political partisanship during the last few years. As it was the case during the 2004 elections, various churches have been most powerfully inclined to meddle amidst the political situation. As the candidates during this election were mostly open to discuss their religious beliefs and inclinations, people from different churches became more active in mobilizing people and influencing them based on these beliefs. Various religious groups endorsed political figures running for office based on their commitment to the religion and rather on their ability to run the nation. In addition to this, religious groups took sides on the candidates they are willing to support, and in effect, they have variably clouded the people’s ability to rationalize their choices on the basis of political stands and not on the candidate’s religious inclination.
As an effect, the people were rather oblivious of the candidate’s policy preferences and recommendation but instead were focused on the depth in their religious belief as the basis of giving out their votes. According to the 2007 Pew Research Center, a vast majority of the American voters have deemed it more important for their leaders and president to have rigid religious beliefs in order to guide a country (“Religion and Politics” 2007).
On top of these, Americans are widely comfortable with people’s display of their faith. In most occasions, Americans will not mind having an explicit form of proving one’s faith and religiousness in the public. And as such, George W. Bush’ attempt in using his religiosity in attempting to gain the trust and sympathy of the people as effective and valid throughout his campaign and even after he was elected (“Religion and Politics” 2007).
In line with this, a number of American correspondents have expressed their stands on religious beliefs alongside their political choices. And as such, a larger part of the population admitted that they would prefer religious candidates and those who are strongly connected to their religious and spiritual side (Greene 2004). And as such, only a few of the American correspondents said that they are looking for candidates with reason and a rigid standpoint. And although there are still those people who would rather elect candidates on the basis of reason rather than faith, the effect and influence of religion are still more pronounced and widespread.
This dramatic change in the voting practices and preferences of the people were viewed as rather negative. In the 2004 elections, candidates were assessed on how often they went to church or how commitment they have been in giving services to their church instead of looking at their qualifications as leaders. Nonetheless, the candidates’ qualifications, integrity, commitment and demographic characteristics were ignored because of the people’s religious inclinations.
As such, it is an undeniable fact that religion indeed has a great effect on politics. Though the United States has previously endured a tradition that was meant to draw a line between church practices and political activities, religion still has found the way to penetrate the political arena without so much trouble. All these lie in the fact that United States is strongly a nation that has been bound by religious beliefs.
Indeed, the United State’s history has shown the distinct and numerable situations wherein religion has served as the source of mobilization and social movement that were directed at fighting for the people’s rights. From the establishment of laws of morality, to political and social movements, religion has played a crucial role in determining what is proper and what is just for the society. Consequently, the government has followed suit to the calls and demands that were allowed to take place from the distinct popularity and strong influence of church figures and personalities.
During the earlier generations, the influence of religion over the American government has always been visible. Until now, religion is still being used to rationalize certain government decisions that most of time affected the nation and the rest of the world. For example, the Iraq War that has been one of most recent and controversial issue that has affected the United States and the majority of the world, religion also played a distinct role. While the Bush administration pushed the aggression against terrorism, the role of religion has also become distinct.
As such, while the war progressed, animosity between Muslims and Christians was aroused. And as a response, the Catholic Church called for the war to halt in order to stop the discrimination and religious relativism between Christians and Muslims. And although the Bush administration did not come to an immediate halt, the war ceased with the combined effort of social and civic movement and intervention from the church. In addition to this instance, President Bush also made use of his religious inclination in order to gain sympathy from the people. His public display of his religious faith also became a very useful and convincing factor in getting his means and goals done.
Unmistakably though, religion is really one of the most influential and powerful institution in the society. Although it is not entirely rational and proper to depend on religious beliefs rather than in reason and logic, religion still has found its way to commit people into fulfilling their religious inclinations.
In every society, not only in United States alone, politics is inherently under the strong influence from the church. Whether of not the separation of state and church applies, the religious commitment of an individual member of a nation or society will always influence one’s way of life, culture and rationality. As such, the influence of religion in politics is not only applied within the United States, but as well as in other countries too.
The kind religious belief – whether the nation is predominantly Muslim or Christian – does not entirely matter on how it affects a nation. The determinant factor on how religion influences the politics within a country is dependent on how strong religious foundations are. And in the case of the United States whose history and stability has been dependent on the religious grounds of the country, it is not an odd thing to discover how religion has incredibly played a huge role in society since the earlier years until the present.
And despite the fact that the manipulation and rigid influence of religion over the political arena can be at times irrational for a country, it is almost close to impossible to create and impose a distinct line between politics and religion. Indeed, politics and religion are two intertwined institutions that function in accordance with how the other plays its part in the society.
List of References
Cline, A. (1998) ‘Religion in American Politics.’ About.com. [online] Available from <http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/01/14/religion-in-american-politics-2.htm> [05 October 2008]
Greene, R.A. (2004) ‘Religion and Politics in America.’ BBC News.[online] Available from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3658172.stm> [05 October 2008]
Johansen, J. (2003) ‘Abortion: Mixing Religion and Politics.’ Pregnant Pause. [online] Available from <http://www.pregnantpause.org/politics/mixing.htm> [05 October 2008]
Moore, J. (2005) ‘A Brief History of the Separation of Church and State.’ GooGooBits. [online] Available from <http://www.googobits.com/articles/p3-171-a-brief-history-of-the-separation-of-church-and-state.html> [05 October 2008]
Price, R.G. (2004) ‘History of the Separation of Church and State in America.’ Rational Revolution. [online] Available from <http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/history_of_the_separation_of_chu.htm> [05 October 2008]
The Pew Forum. (2007) Religion and Politics. [online] Available from <http://pewforum.org/religion-america/> [05 October 2008]
Cite this Religion and Politics in America
Religion and Politics in America. (2016, Oct 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/religion-and-politics-in-america/