Religion and Politics

Religion and Politics November 2, 2010

What is it about religion and politics? Why do we feel compelled to marry the two? I see other faith traditions become mired in it and occasionally see other Pagans dig hip deep into it, not merely as people but as Pagans. I confess I have a hard time understanding this.

For me, if it wasn’t for politicians cropping up who feel a need to attack my faith, I don’t think I’d ever mix the two. Certainly my faith informs my values and my values inform my political opinion but that goes for every human being. Even atheists have the same flow although their faith is pure reason and science. There’s a difference though, between  your political values being informed by your faith and expressing your faith through politics.

I can’t think of anything worse than having a Pagan government or a Democratic coven. I have no desire to mix things up. My Gods demand authenticity from me, not active membership in a political party. Nothing pleases me more than when the priest declaims “Here now the words of the Great Goddess” the priestess does NOT stump for a political candidate.

I’m not saying I’m not a political person. I have issues I feel very strongly about and I try to follow the main stories in the news. I just don’t want to be a “Political Pagan” unless I have to, and then I feel a little dirty the next time I pray. My faith is too precious to me to be used for politics.

Today, I will go out to vote. I already know who I’m voting for and which way I lean on each of the bills on the ballot. Yet, I’m not walking in there to deliver the “Pagan Vote”.  I’m not even going to cast my votes towards some ivory tower idealism. I’m just going to vote for the issues as my conscience and experience dictates, and vote for candidates not based on faith but on which of the awesomely horrible human beings will best be able to direct this huge ship in the right general direction. I’m voting as a human, as a citizen. I think that’s as it should be.

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  • Kauko

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that the Gods of my ancestors really care what political party I belong to (although, I am in fact unaffiliated;) or what candidate I vote for. It is 100% up to me to decide for myself these things.

  • Peter

    Well said Star. Hope the idea spreads.

  • Sonya

    I think that until you have people who openly profess they are Pagan in the government then you will still have to fight for every little privilege you get.

    It is naive to think that you can separate your beliefs from your vote…and if you know how the rules are, and how it works, then you have to play by those rules…to get to play the game. BTW, most covens are democratically run, and Wiccan churches are not, the more and more people of Paganism refuse to “be part of the system” or no “play with the rules” the more and more you are denying the truth you live in.

    Where would we be if Selena Fox, and Starhawk thought like this? I know in our community without Pat Tobias or Terry Riley, there would be no “out” Pagans…because your government wants you to stay hidden, and to have no voice. In the words of Howard Zinn…”you cannot stay neutral on a moving train” you either join the train, or let it pass you by.

  • Sonya, I never said anything against Pagan activism. I am a huge fan of Selena Fox and the Lady Liberty League. My very tradition fought seminal cases for Pagan rights.

    Yet that doesn’t mean I have to be a political Pagan. It doesn’t mean I have to model myself after Christian Evangelicals. It doesn’t mean I have to use my religion as a political weapon or make my religion about politics.

    I also never advocated being politically neutral. I think you have mis-read my post.

    For the record, I have never met a democratically run coven. Ever.

  • Kerry W.

    I read the same way that Sonya read, though I think I can now see the distinction you’re making. I think _political_ is usually used more broadly than you are using it, though it’s not uncommon to hear _political_ referring mainly to electoral politics.

    Same with _democratic_. Small _d_ means simply “run by the people,” which is a basic principle of Reclaiming, though I think they usually go for the more stringent principle of consensus. Big _D_ is a whole other ballgame.

    For what it’s worth, the impulse to mix religion and politics is a lot older than the impulse to separate them, which pretty much started 240 years ago, and was pretty radical then. Before that, nation and God and king, and even the king’s very body, were all equated. I think the instinct to see things that go wrong in a nation/society/culture as something done wrong in the eyes of God is still pretty strong. Likewise, I think the instinct to see religion as an individual matter is quite new as well. And, though polytheism is hardly new, it doesn’t quite figure to most people in our culture, for whom there’s only one God; ipso facto, it better be theirs or they’re toast. Fear can warp a lot of things and be a powerful motivator.

    Mind, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do; but I do think there’s either some deep sociological tick at the base of it or some VERY deep cultural and historical programming to shake off.