Religion and politics: a match made in heaven?

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I once heard a bishop tell a curious congregation that the cross is where religion and politics meet, conjuring up for my imagination a picture of the Pavement: Pilate and the people, religious and political leaders’ intersecting interests leading to the forced march through the city, and the planting of a cross on the hillside outside its walls.

People who filled the pavement with palm branches now filled the air with lament, with their longing for victory, with loud slogans of support for one faction or another; even with prayer. Did they crucify religion in favour of politics, or is politicking skewered by its own condemnation of an innocent man of God?

Most of us in religious leadership have at one time or another been accused of allowing politics to infect our religion, and/or of attempting to infect politics with our faith. The fact that the practice of religion, like that of politics, has to do not only with higher powers but with how we live together, with one another, makes it inevitable that the two will intersect.

Both are also prone to the pitfalls of false idols.

The one who pulls us out of the pit is, of course, Jesus Christ himself; a man not unfamiliar with politics and prayer.

Only if it is for his sake; only if it is for the sake of his love –

love that feeds the stranger and recommends the practice;

love that welcomes the children and rebukes those who would turn them away;

love that breaks open barriers of class and caste, and in the breach finds their repair;

love that heals the sick and restores those presumed dead to life;

love that calms the storm with a word of Peace;

love that carries that strange banner, the cross, through the streets of the old city, silently protesting all that organizes against the kingdom of God;

if it is for the love of Jesus that we pollute our religion with politics, and our politics with religious fervour, then that cross-pollination bear indeed bear rare and blessed fruit.

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