Friday, August 17, 2012

Church and State -- Both Necessary

Email to the National Post, August 4, 2012, in reply to an earlier letter. Unpublished.

Roy Haina writes "it really bothers me" when the church talks politics (Would you like some church with your state? Aug.3).  He seems unaware that Christianity existed long before any state in the world today, and Judaism long before that.

It was the Christian church that got western civilization through the turmoil following the collapse of the Roman Empire by creating universities, libraries, hospitals, and much more. It was Judeo-Christian teaching that created the rights we enjoy today. Until relatively recently, education was the exclusive domain of religious institutions, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic. Would Mr. Haina oppose putting that experience in education and government to profitable use?

Every great civilization in history has religion at its base. Compared to religion, the state today is shallow and lacks moral depth.

Mr. Haina should know that those who believe in nothing will believe in anything. Those with no religious belief today follow every ephemeral cult that pops up, inevitably to great frustration. The current popularity of cult films and certain television programs and best-seller books tells us that those with no belief are searching for a spiritual anchor. Unfortunately, they are groping in the dark.

Mr. Haina describes the expression of church opinion as sticking "its nose into politics". Thou shall not kill was a Jewish injunction long before the existence of any state. Similarly, thou shall not steal, or bear false witness. Emerging states realized the benefit of these and other religious commands, and turned them into crimes. There remains much the state, any state, could learn from religion.

From Catholic Canon Law, our courts have adopted or adapted such rules as: You must not condemn an absent person who may possess lawful means of proving innocence; the judge cannot be a witness; a single disposition, no matter from whom, is not sufficient for a conviction.

The state should welcome religious comment on state affairs, as it welcomes comment from secular sources. It's the message that counts, not the messenger.

The absence of a religious basis explains the disintegration, unrest and longing for something better that pervades our world today. The remedy is at hand. Everyone, including Mr. Haina should explore it.

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