S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Church and State

United States - As an American Democrat - a political liberal and progressive - I am vehemently opposed to the blurring of the lines between Church and State. During recent years I have worried about federal monies being granted to religious organizations to provide so-called social services. I have had major concerns about the predominance of influence of Zionists within powerful neocon circles. I have been upset that Evangelicals in Congress focused on values and morals legislation, rather than laws that provided a social safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. I have had much about which to complain in the religious realm. But it could have been worse.

Italy - During the Middle Ages Church and State were indistinguishable. Quoting from an Institute for Medieval Studies 2002 lecture,
In the history of Western Civilization, Italy occupies a place of central importance. By virtue of geography, Italy was the crossroads of three major cultural groups: Byzantine, Islamic, and European Christian. Rome was the spiritual center of the Western world, around which the very idea of a unified 'West' gradually coalesced. The papacy at Rome moreover established a model for an efficient central government that rulers across Europe attempted to copy.
Brazil - Today the Roman Catholic church struggles to maintain religious dominance in Latin America. Evangelical Protestants are gaining converts and new members where the Catholic church mostly predominated in the past. The headline, "An 'isolated' Vatican seeks to stem a Latin exodus" of (5/10/07) is from the Financial Times. To quote from the article,
. . . Ms Silva's abandonment of her traditional Catholicism in favour of evangelical Protestantism is symptomatic of a much broader trend in the world's most Catholic region, as Pope Benedict XVI begins his first visit to Latin America since his election in 2005. Protestantism is on the march, especially in Brazil and Central America.
. . . A taboo subject not long ago, abortion is now the subject of open political debate in a number of countries. Last month, the Mexico City municipal government legalised abortion and Brazil's health minister said recently that he favoured a referendum on the issue.
If that were not enough, Pope Benedict faces an additional problem in Latin America. He has been a fierce opponent of liberation theology, a body of ideas developed in the 1960s that linked the church to grassroots movements of the left. Liberation theology has been on the wane - a fact likely to be confirmed at the Latin American bishops' conference, which the Pope will open on Sunday. But it is still popular among many clerics in the region, especially in Brazil.

United States - For the past few years Evangelicals have been growing in political influence in our own country, much to the chagrin of many political progressives and liberals. Bloggers among us have expressed little sadness at the recent passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who led much of the early evangelical political movement. The Financial Times (5/16/07) story is headlined, "Progenitor of the religious right in America." To quote,
The Reverand Jerry Falwell, whose evangelical convictions and organisational abilitiesinspired religious conservatives to greatly influence US politics, died yesterday in Lynchburg, -Virginia, of apparent heart failure at the age of 73.
. . . In 1971 he founded Liberty University, a religious-based school. These days it is an obligatory pit stop foraspiring national Republican politicians. Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had been critical of Rev Falwell, visited there last year.
Its law school's specific mission is to train Christian lawyers to fight the secularisation of the US. An untold number of its graduates now serve in the Bush administration. Regent University, set up by Rev Falwell's friend and contemporary Reverand Pat Robertson, boasts more than 150 graduates who work for the government in Washington.
But it was his role, along with two others, in setting up Moral Majority in 1979 that made him a national political figure to be reckoned with. Until then evangelicals had been apolitical on the whole but his voter registration drives and encouragement to pastors to use churches as political pulpits introduced a new force into national political life.

Russia - During the reign of Communism, Russia epitomized what was called a "Godless" state. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, the Russian Orthodox church returned to power in Russia, though it is not official State power. Consolidation of that power continues today. See this headline, "Russians repair Orthodox schism" from the BBC News of (5/17/07). Quoting from the story:
The Christ the Saviour Cathedral is a symbol of religious rebirth
A branch of the Russian Orthodox Church - whose members fled abroad to escape the Bolshevik Revolution - has reunited with the main body of the Church at a ceremony in Moscow.
The reconciliation has been strongly supported by President Vladimir Putin, who attended the televised ceremony.

United Kingdom - I am an Episcopalian, though non-practicing because of my diocese's stance against the ordination of women. Thus I am actually an Anglican. Ironically in England the Anglican Church is the official state church. I conclude this post with a bit of background from the BBC News special section (updated 5/3/06): "Religions » Christianity » Church of England - History and role: Church of England"
The Church of England is the established or state church in England. It is divided into two provinces - Canterbury in the South of England and York in the North. Each province has a head or Primate - the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
The Church of England is part of the Anglican Communion, which is a worldwide family of churches in more than 160 different countries. On any one Sunday more than a million people attend Church of England services making it the largest Christian denomination in the country.
The biggest Church-State question now, however, is that of Radical Islam. But that debate is for another day and another post. Peace.
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