Saturday, October 15, 2011

Role of Religion in Society

The movie, The  Crucible, based on a novel of a true incident, was the recent topic of an opinion piece in the Catholic Times. It is the story of a school for the deaf and mute whose students suffer physical and sexual abuse at the hands  of their teachers. (It was the blog on this site for Sept, 12, 2009--"Whistleblower in Korea: 'The Crucible.'")
The writer of the opinion piece, after seeing the movie, was embarrassed, knowing that the hypocrisy and evil depicted in the movie occurred in a  school  affiliated with Christianity, and that what should have been a place for hope and salvation for disadvantaged children had become a crucible for disruption and evil.

Our writer now wonders whether a recently formed Christian political party, which will run a candidate for  president next year, will develop its own crucible and be found wanting. He has found the words and slogans used by the new party upsetting. They are attempting, he believes, to raise the Christian influence in society by this political effort, but similar efforts in the past have always failed. Although religion should be interested in the well-being of society, when it attempts to use earthly power to achieve its ends, it loses, he maintains, its spiritual power and often opens itself to ridicule.

Recently a Protestant minister was quoted as saying, "Religions can't take up the role of government, and the government can't take up the role of religion. Each has its own role." What the minister is saying is correct, as long as we understand that he does not mean to say that religion should not get involved with societal problems.

All believers, as members of society, have the duty to work for achieving justice in society. They also have the right to express their personal and religious views, as well as their political views, publicly.

These two domains should not be confused; each should be respected. Religion has to fight against becoming secularized, but knowing just where the dividing line exists between religion and our secular society is sometimes not easily discerned. To what extent should religion speak out against problems in society and how does she wield political influence when protesting a political decision deemed inappropriate or unjust? At all times she has to keep in mind what she would be contributing to society by intervening in the political arena, and whether these interventions are based on truth. When religion doesn't work for justice, it's like salt losing its flavor. Its very reason for being is gone.

Some say that religion has become secularized and corrupted, but we should never forget there are many--in and out of the religious sphere--who are very quietly bringing light and salt to the shadowy places. When society becomes confused, that is when the role of religion also becomes important. We should never forget that the knowledge of truth is our foundation and that the values of religion will always exceed the values of the world.

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