The Christian faith is often considered controversial for its doctrines and their political applications.
To supplement that, the Christian faith is very divided between its many denominations, which each describe its own set of beliefs. These multiple sets of beliefs, as a whole religion, encompass nearly every viewpoint available, which leads to its dispute: how can one faith have so many beliefs?
Derived from millennia of tradition, the Catholic Church has a long history based on fundamentals dotted with tribulations. Its history begins with the early Christian community following the teachings and fulfilled prophecies of Christ himself.
Since then, the church has assumed very powerful positions sprinkled with evil and corruption, but equally love and compassion.
Emperor Constantine’s decision to expand Christianity to the Roman Empire around A.D. 300 (Matthews, “Constantine I…”) catalyzed the Catholic Empowerment, which made the Pope one of the highest political officials in the world. He has held this position with much influence until the 1800s when political powers began to be reserved for national officials instead of religious sovereigns.
This power, though thought to offer a conduit to worldwide evangelization, has corrupted the church in many instances (Miller, “Power Struggles of…”). Such escapades as the Crusades, the Inquisition, tithing, and indulgences turned the Pope into a sort of political authoritarian.
The Church’s excuse for these was the name of God and His desire to convert the entire world to Catholicism—I believe such oppression is a disgrace to Christ’s ministry.
But, learning from that, the Church’s recent popes have grown its mission into one that is based on love and compassion for all. This liberalized mission of the church has attracted socially conscious millennials as well as formerly non-believing atheists (Fradd, “15 Surprising Things…”).
Beginning with Pope John Paul II’s call for social justice and continuing with radical changes under Pope Francis, Catholics all around the world are facing a new, progressive church that might just bring the Christian world together.
My personal faith-walk has left me with the Episcopal Church, which was either amazing luck or extraordinary grace from God.
I was baptized into the Episcopal faith on the day of the Epiphany, just a few months after I was born. In the Episcopal Church, Confirmation isn’t solely reserved for young adulthood so I received it when I was only twelve.
Despite this (and regretfully), I never really understood what my faith professed until my senior year of high school. Regardless, I was lucky to have it happen to me with the Episcopal Church because it almost exactly matches my political stance on a variety of issues.
Both it and I deductively apply a simple set of fundamental beliefs to all political matters.
For example, we believe in protecting and nurturing the rights and dignity of every human being on earth. This basic belief can apply to political positions such as abortion, gay marriage, and poverty.
The Episcopal Church stands for the rights of the unborn child as well as the rights of the pregnant woman. The choice side of our pro-choice stance is to choose to prevent a conception—and thus the need for abortion—with contraceptives, birth control, and simple family planning. We say that the question is not “Is abortion ok?” but rather “How do we make abortion unnecessary?”
The abortion process is permitted “in cases of rape or incest, cases in which a mother’s physical or mental health is at risk, or cases involving fetal abnormalities,” but not “as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or any reason of mere convenience,” (Pew Research, “Religious Groups’ Official…”).
We profess a blending of beliefs, because we understand one-sidedness never resolves a problem. Gay marriage and homosexuality is fully permitted in the Episcopal Church—we even have the first and only openly gay cleric of any Christian denomination. We see homosexuals as children of God, just as every other human being on the face of this earth.
Poverty is also addressed as something we must counteract with all that we can do, both socially and politically.
Now, how do these standpoints apply to civil and social rights? Firstly, we must address their political relevance.
I strongly believe that religion and its ideologies should stay out of politics. We assume a separation of church and state to avoid such dictatorships as the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East or the Catholic Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.
Corruption can run rampant in such dictatorial states due to a single ruler’s “infallibility” (Brom, “Papal Infallibility.”). His—and sparsely her—ideas and opinions can progress to unchallenged dogmas.
The political application of such corruption can be detrimental, leading an entire nation on ideology, not democratic common sense.
Despite this, I believe government officials should have some kind of moral basis on which to make decisions…
The unprecedented precedent of the Supreme Court case “Citizens United”, which allowed big money into politics, is one of the greatest atrocities of the modern age. Huge corporations—I mean people—have assumed the role of the pig “Napoleon” of Orwell’s Animal Farm being “more equal than others.”
(Now I should preface this assertion with a stance on the economy: I do not condemn big business, but I do not condone their money becoming a conduit to extreme political power. The Supreme Court case was niche to the appellant’s situation, not generally applicable to big money donors.)
This “free speech” (“Citizens United…”), though, has corrupted politicians and businessmen alike. This is the basis on which I emphasize that morals, possibly derived from religion, must be utilized in the course of politics.
In not so dissimilar of a way should politicians embody the Episcopal Church by applying a simple and structured set of fundamental beliefs to issues pertaining to our republic (note: I am not claiming the Episcopal Church to be perfect or infallible, just appropriate in this sense).
This action of implementing religious bases is not a usurpation of the political stage. The fine line between implementation and usurpation falls at passion.
Passion for one’s religion, though not always a bad thing, can spur bickering and chaos; whereas passion for one’s religious bases can actually achieve the desirable and formidable goals of civil and social rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not fight for African American rights because he was Baptist, he used his Baptist beliefs to recognize that “Negroes” were and are equal, human beings.
He did not say that Jesus Christ fought for Civil Rights, he understood that Jesus Christ fought for love of fellow man, which in King’s day included African Americans.
This, I believe, is how we can unite the world’s peacemakers, by each implementing his or her own set of beliefs to come to a unanimous solution. Regardless of race, ethnicity, stature, sex, religion, sexuality, or ideology, the solution is in coalescing as one human species to fight injustice and oppression.
As King said himself from Birmingham City Jail,
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Jan 26, 2016. <https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-205>.
Brom, Bishop Robert H. “Papal Infallibility.” Catholic.com. 10 Aug. 2004. Web. 26 Jan. 2016. <http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility>.
Fradd, Matt. “15 Surprising Things Atheists Are Saying about Pope Francis.” Matt Fradd RSS. 2016. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. <http://mattfradd.com/15-things-atheists-are-saying-about-pope-francis/>.
Matthews, J.F. “Constantine I | Roman Emperor.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 May 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. <http://www.britannica.com/biography/Constantine-I-Roman-emperor>.
Miller, Jessica Elam. “Power Struggles of the Holy Roman Empire: Popes vs. Emperors.” Study.com. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016. <http://study.com/academy/lesson/power-struggles-of-the-holy-roman-empire-popes-vs-emperors.html>.
Pew Research Center. “Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. 16 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. <http://www.pewforum.org/2013/01/16/religious-groups-official-positions-on-abortion/>.