Page 4, 16th December 1949

16th December 1949
Page 4
Page 4, 16th December 1949 — RELIGION AND ELECTIONS
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Organisations: Pagan
People: Caesar

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RELIGION AND ELECTIONS

WE have been brought up, especially in this country and America, to believe that religion should have nothing to do with politics.

This is a fallacy—or rather a half-truth, wherein the half of falsity is rapidly becoming more importapt than the half of truth.

The separation of religion from politics presupposes a conception of politics which has become largely outdated. When Our Lord distinguished between the spheres of God and of Caesar, He obviously could not have meant that God and Caesar were to be thought of as on equal planes of authority within separate spheres.. God is the God of Caesar, just as much as He is the God of religion or of the individual person. The distinction is between the authority of religion and the authority of the State within the moral law ordained by God for all men and all human institutions.

Now it is true that so long as the Christian spiritual and moral order permeated what we call civilisation, the distinction between religion and politics was valuable. In a just society religion never seeks to interfere with the responsibilities of the State. We can go further and say that even in a Pagan society, the State has the right and duty to maintain its own authority (which, even in this case, is ultimately God's) in a great many matters.

But when a society begins to deny the authority of God and to try to usurp God's authority, then we have to face a situation when the traditional distinction between religion and politics becomes little more than a cover for the underlying reality which is none other than the usurpation of religious and moral authority by the Goddenying State. Nor should we ever forget how sharp and important is the distinction between a Pagan State in the old sense and a modern post-Christian, or postGod, State. In the Pagan State much of what is due to God is observed in regard to a falselynamed God or gods. In the postChristian, or post-God, State, it is the State itself which having denied all authority beyond its own usurps the authority of God.

It is high time, then, that we faced the fact that this, by and large, is a post-God era in which the Christian, as Christian, is called upon to fight within the State for the restoration of God's authority in society. In other words, it is an era in which the Christian must fight politically, first, for the rights of religion and, second, for a just political order within which politics can again enjoy the full separate rights and authority which Our Lord indicated as properly belonging to Caesar.

THESE considerations, are highly relevant to times when in our own country fateful electoral decisions are pending and when the whole world situation is largely controlled by the aggressive policy of a Power which formally accepts all that is implied in the title " Godless."

It would of course be a wild exaggeration to pretend that in our own country we have reached the stage when the distinction between religion and politics was wholly outdated.

We still retain fronn the Christian civilisation of the past, as well as from the enduring spiritual and moral convictions of the majority of our own free people, a working agreement as to limits of State action, and consequently religion, as religion, has still no business to interfere directly with Caesar's normal authority as entrusted within our democratic procedure to elected representatives of the people.

But the situation in which we find ourselves is a very unstable one. There is a day to day working agreement about the limits of State authority, but there is no sort of guarantee about the effectiveness of that agreement, nor will that agreement stand any sort of close analysis in terms of sound spiritual and moral principle.

The vacuum caused by the practical denial of the primacy of the spiritual is by no means tilled by this pragmatic agreement, and into the empty space the authority and claims of the State are ever rushing.

Whatever party be in power, the State is demanding today the right to control so much of the person's life that his spiritual and moral convictions are counting for less and less in the shaping of his life as a human being. It follows that these convictions are proving less and less able to resist the forward march of Caesar in his aggression against man as a spiritual personality.

IN such circumstances, Christians are surely bound when they are confronted by great electoral choices, as has recently been the case in Australia and New Zealand, and will shortly be the case in Britain, to regard their duty as something specifically moral and spiritual, rather than purely political.

We still have a right to our political choices, as between the programmes of the main contending parties, but if we do not reexamine that choice in terms of much deeper spiritual and moral considerations about where our whole society is tending, we cannot complain if we discover in the end that our choice is meaningless as between party currents all tending towards further Caesarism and therefore Godlessness.

In that sense it is true to say that the character of an election May today be more important than its actual result.

To judge by much of the propaganda which appears still to determine electoral decisions, the real truth is that our whole people are in danger of making a choice for irrelevant and false reasons.

If the Christian—and within the relatively small influence which their numbers allow, the Catholic —people of the country were sufficiently Christian and discerning to consider first in their political action and choice the crying need, whether within a so-called Socialist State, a Welfare State or in any other political arrangement, for preserving to the individual that degree of effective economic and political action without which the autonomy of his personal responsibility is impugned, the whole temper of elections might well change.

In doing this, they would do far more to secure a decent order in our country in the future and a firm resistance to outside dangers than any mere party victory, whichever way the votes went.

And for Catholics, deeply disturbed as they rightly are by the position of religious education, an unrelenting demand for educational justice would in those conditions of political interest become something far more than a redress of denominational grievance as our superficial politicians contend : it would become a major issue in a great fight for an ordered and free country.




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