Saturday, July 5, 2014

Making Religion a Private Matter

Religion, its place in society is a topic we hear a lot about, but not always with clarity. Not a few think that our religious beliefs are a private matter and not open to public discussion. However, a professor writing on the opinion page of the Catholic Times gives us a different understanding of the issue.

He uses the example of the recent nominee for prime minister who resigned after questions were raised about his  fitness for the job. For a few days, the public sector was  noisy. In a talk to his church, some years ago, he  described the Japanese colonial rule as  "God's will." The talk became known to the public, which generated a negative response that led to the resignation.

The professor considers the talk about friendliness to Japan a minor issue. A more serious problem is the way his religion sees God working in the world. He has asked some theologians and priests he knows, and the answers he received were what he has always believed. God does not cause  pain for those he created. He does not wish pain for us. The pain that we meet and experience in life is not God's wish for us. It is something that we have to undergo; it is a given in life. There is much we need to patiently accept, God allows it to happen, but he gives us the strength and hope to overcome it. Of course, God also will draw good from all that we suffer but the pain is not of God's willing. 

The issue that the media took as the main issue was his pro-Japanese stand. A lot of bad reporting and distortion of the news was involved, but this the  professor says, is only a minor issue. The bigger issue is the understanding of religion.This misunderstanding of religion is a greater danger in one who is to be a public servant.

There are those who will say a person's private beliefs have nothing to do with a public office.That was actually the issue on a panel TV show recently: what a person believes should not be an issue in his public life. The professor stresses those who speak this way do not understand religion. When one states that religion is only  a private matter and  has little to do with our public life, we have a misunderstanding of religion. What one believes, and this is not only true for the religious person but is true for all those with convictions and without convictions, they can  influence every facet of his or her life.

Many are those with  great passion and sacrifice in their religious life but do not have a correct understanding of religion. A person with blind religious beliefs is open to making wrong judgements and performing acts that will cause harm to those with whom he relates. A person in a public office should have concern for what he believes.

The professor is saying something, which is not easily digested, but is something with a little thought is rather obvious, for what we hold to be true and believe, is going to affect what we say, think and do.

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