What you need to know:
- Over the centuries, religion and politics have come into conflict, rendering confusion and no answers as to the correct course of action.
- Our good Lord did foresee that you cannot separate man from religion and politics as the players remain the same.
- Across the globe and in recent times, we have witnessed the division caused by religious differences.
Let us ponder this for a minute. What role does religion play in politics? Or better yet, what role does the church play in the state?
Perhaps we ought to look to Jesus for the answer. He said to them: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).
Prima facie, it may appear that Jesus commissioned us to separate the matters of God from the state.
But this may not necessarily have been the intended meaning. In fact, Jesus recognised we are innate subscribers of both religion and politics, governed by the state and following the church.
It would, therefore, be hypocritical for us to deny that these two institutions are not intertwined, hence His distinction on our call to action towards both.
Indeed over the centuries, religion and politics have come into conflict, rendering confusion and no answers as to the correct course of action.
The most profound action taken by the state towards the church was in 1534. Pope Clement VII refused to grant King Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
In response, the king, through parliament, introduced the Act of Supremacy, which established the Church of England and preceding monarchs as heads of the church.
From one divorce, emerged the existing marriage of ecclesiastical and the political in the United Kingdom. Notably, the Vatican and Iran are the only other countries where the Head of State is also the head of the established religion.
The conflict aside, religion has played a vital role in social reform for those who have been oppressed by the state.
William Wilberforce, a staunch Christian, spearheaded the fight for the abolition of slave trade in the British Empire. It is worth noting that Wilberforce used his influential position of Member of Parliament to pass bills and motions that culminated in the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
In hindsight, our good Lord did foresee that you cannot separate man from religion and politics as the players remain the same.
Moreover, state actors have been appointed through elections by the people, who subscribe to their respective religion. Since religion transcends to the very heart of politics, our elected representatives should equally subscribe to the principles and virtues stemming from religion.
Once again, Jesus gave us the greatest commandment — love your neighbour as you love yourself (Luke 10:27). As an elected representative, the public has entrusted you with the sacred duty to seek their development, pursue their equitable benefits and protect their rights. In your own oath, you swore to bear true faith and allegiance to the people and the Republic of Kenya. Just like the Church is called to serve, so are you called to work in service of the people, and not self serve. Inadvertently, you have duties to both religion and politics.
But do politicians have a role to play in religion? Absolutely. Across the globe and in recent times, we have witnessed the division caused by religious differences.
The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has seen world leaders unite in their call for peace between the two states.
Closer to home, where the voice of the Church has gone unheard or appeared absent, political leaders have called for peace and unity where there is conflict. Clearly, both the Church and the State need each other.
In fact, if religion were to go unchecked, it could lead to fundamentalism, whereas if politics goes unchecked, it has and could lead to tribal clashes with no respect for religion.
Indeed, symphonia is no longer just a theory but a principle that has been in application through the Church and State complementing each other and acting in harmony.
Despite the misconstrued words of Thomas Jefferson — “building a wall of separation between the Church and State” — both institutions cannot and should not impose on each other.
Dialogue goes for both and not just political leaders with irreconcilable differences. Luckily for we the citizens of Kenya and future citizens of heaven, we have a Constitution that grants and protects our rights, in opposition of anyone seeking to infringe on our rights.
So what role does politics and religion play in our lives? Politics has given us the freedom to differ in opinion, and choose the leaders we deem fit for the role. In politics we are more different than alike. Religion has united us and given us the ultimate way, truth, and life.
The writer works with international businesses on commercial litigation. [email protected]