Religion and politics

WE know in our hearts that religion is fundamentally an individual, personal matter -- not something that can be ultimately determined by a group of people, even a majority; not something at all man-made. It's of God. It comes from within, not without. And it takes a collective form only as those with similar convictions voluntarily unite to worship God. That's why people instinctively suspect a church-dominated civil authority just as much as a state-determined church. The notion of imposed religion is simply not in harmony with the freedom, righteousness, and love that are at the heart of true worship. Of course, true government and true religion not only intend progress, they bring it. And they do so not through dominating each other but on the basis of their real, common source, which is God.

In Bible times God was perceived as both the one lawgiver, ``governor among the nations,'' and the most high God, the most holy, the Holy One of Israel. The Psalmist hinted at this spiritual nature and coincidence of religion and government when he wrote, ``The Holy One of Israel is our king.''1

The ideal manifestation of God's sacredness and kingship came in the person of Christ Jesus. He showed in tangible terms the godliness of real government and religion. His politics were not partisan or based on human opinion but divinely impartial. His religion was not personal or sectarian but universally spiritual. To Jesus, the roots of government and religion were not disparate but one -- for both holiness and authority are found in God alone.

Jesus brought this divine perspective into the world, honoring all that was good and right both in religious worship and in civil government. He celebrated holy days, studied the Scriptures, taught in the synagogue. He also obeyed Roman law, paid taxes, and advised disciples and detractors alike to ``render...unto C8sar the things which are C8sar's.''2 But he rebuked whatever did not accord with God's law. He routed the materialistic merchants out of the temple and offended some perceptions of religious tradition by healing on the Sabbath. When he was falsely accused and brought before the civil governor, Pilate, he responded to Pilate's challenge ``Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee?'' by declaring, ``Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.''3 His resurrection proved that it is God's rule that is supreme.

Most interesting of all, perhaps, Jesus refused to be made a king. Yet he also insisted that no one could enter the kingdom of God except through him -- ``the way, the truth, and the life.''4

Just government and true religion, Jesus indicated, would not come through destruction but through individual regeneration -- through ever purer, holier, healthier lives. The means were to be spiritual and healing -- not lawless, divisive, or humanly willful, not initiated from without but from within. And the way was to be progressive; it must happen one day at a time, individual by individual, as Jesus' own healings illustrate.

Christian Science teaches that righteous government begins with individual self-government. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says, ``Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love.''5 And pure religion is found in being right with God and thereby doing right by our neighbor -- in honoring God as creator, Father, perfect Love, infinite Spirit, the real Maker of man. It is also found in the understanding of our true nature as God-made man -- the wholly spiritual, wholly loved individual expression of God. ``The epoch approaches,'' Mrs. Eddy writes, ``when the understanding of the truth of being will be the basis of true religion.''6

We don't need to be put off by religion or politics. We need to understand them in their spiritual significance. Our individual demonstration of self-government and genuine religion will help maintain balance and order in all the ways that civil administrations and churches function and interrelate. And it will effectively aid in improving these institutions -- in whatever forms they now take -- until such time as the human frameworks are no longer necessary and God is proved to be the one real authority in all the earth.

1Psalms 89:18. 2Matthew 22:21. 3John 19:10, 11. 4John 14:6. 5Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 106. 6Ibid., pp. 67-68. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

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