The politicization of religion and the "religionization'' of politics

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 8, 2020 22:46

The politicization of religion and the

By Dr. Arben Ramkaj

One of the most important challenges of the recent century's society has been the separation of religious institution from the state, also known as secularism. However, it is a fact that after the first phase of a strict distancing and separation from religious beliefs, religion has always been embedded in the center of the political scene, this time in the form of ideologies based on a "coexistence" of secular and religious principles in certain political forces.

In Europe this was synthesized in the founding of the so-called left and right parties, which have at their core or are partly inspired by the principles of the Christian faith. The political movement of Christian democracy supports some values ​​of Christian socialism, such as economic justice and social welfare.

It opposes an individualistic worldview and supports the intervention of the government in the economy in defending "human dignity." On the other hand, due to its close connection with Roman Catholicism, Christian democracy differs from Christian socialism in its emphasis on the "traditional Church and family values," rather than the protection of "private property."

On the left is the so-called Christian Social Party or theleft-wing Christians, spread over 36 countries. They focus on social policies towards the most needy and human rights, they are also pro-immigrants, pro-emancipatory social movements, and so on.

Meanwhile, Christian Democrat parties, or in other words the new right-wing Christians, belong to the right center of the political spectrum. Thus, they support conservative policies in the economy and have a more conservative vision of their society, being mainly against mass emigration, more inclined to guarantee individual freedom, less inclined in the protection of minority rights and more space for God in society.

However, this division does not exclude cooperation between them. The most successful model is noticed in Germany, in the old coalition between the German Christian Democrats CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christian-Social Party based in the state of Bavaria.

Voters in Europe and the United States are also guided by this type of division. 

Religious people have the tendency to support right-wing parties, such as in the United States where the Republican Party's main electoral base is the evangelicals, the mainstream of Protestant Christianity.

Whereas the non religious people tend to support the left wing parties. In most cases, the left wing in Europe and the United States is seen as the "guardian" of secularism, while the right wing often tends to attach itself more than the Constitution allows to a particular religion, and this is often done at the expense of other religious beliefs.

This has happened recently in an extreme way in India, where the right-wing Prime Minister Naredra Modi is following a tough nationalist approach, favoring the Hindu ethnic majority and denigrating the considerable Muslim minority.

But this phenomenon has been observed often in the West as well, where extreme right-wing politicians have attacked the Muslim faith, blaming it unfairly forthe many problems the West is facing today.

Historically, ''fragile'' relations between the state and religion have been shaken every time a leader is in a very delicate moment of his career. Such is the case with the recent heated debate in the US that has a police murder in the background for suspected racial motives. Republican President Donald Trump is in a very complicated situation.

The country's economy, whose good performance was the main "weapon" of his election campaign in the November election, has been severely damaged by restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this context, President Trump made a strong political gesture on June 2, and at the same time very debatable. He visited the Episcopal Church of St. John in Washington, also known as the "Church of the Presidents." After he came out of it, he was photographed lifting up the Bible, with the obvious aim of touching the feelings of his evangelical supporters. But this act angered many American religious leaders. "

"By keeping an open Bible up, Trump aimed to gain the support of Christians, and that of the Episcopal Church,"said the bishops of New England in their statement.
"I find it baffling and reprehensible that any religious institution would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles''said Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory.

Many analysts or theologians reminded the American President that the Bible has a long history as a symbol of protest, due to the just causes that it has defended. Therefore, it should not be used as a symbol of the impression of the citizens who are protesting for a delicate cause, such as that of racial equality.

Cases of politicization of religion have also increased in Europe. In the European Union, the politicization of religion has served leaders with clear autocratic traits, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who declared his country "entirely Christian", thus refusing to accept refugees that have landed on the continent from the Middle East and beyond. In quite a few statements, Orban has evoked the Crusades of the middle Ages, or ''ringing the imaginary alarm bells''about the danger of "Islamization of Christian Europe." Sadly, such a dangerous course, which is clearly contrary to the principle of solidarity and other principles that underlie the founding of the European Union, has been tolerated and continues to be tolerated, due to some conjunctures and balances within the EU. 

The debate over the politicization of religion is the focus of the public debate in Turkey and the Middle East. Former US secretary, Madeline Albright in her book ''The Mighty and the Almighty'' is very critical of the politicization of religion in the United States.

So the intervention of the clergy in political affairs is inevitable. But their intervention must be limited to the protection of the common good, to the limits of responsibility and the absence of covert political goals.

Pope Francis says "the gospel is a political expression," but for good order to understand the role of religion in the world does not mean party militancy.

As it always happens in our country and in the Western Balkans, whenever there are serious crises and difficult moments, the religious clergy plays an important role and is usually defined in public debate as "religionization of politics''.

And I reason that politics needs such "religiosity" in the sense of ''planting'' within political environments of absolute values ​​that must protect human dignity.

Such developments and their echoes in different parts of the world must be clearly read and interpreted by our statesmen, who must stop at any cost the politicization of religion and support the reasonable voice of what we call the "religionization of politics''.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 8, 2020 22:46