Opinions Tue, 4 Feb 2014

NDC communicators and Rev. Bosomtwi-Ayensu

Church And Politics

Religious groups have the right to speak out on political and social issues and the Methodist is no exemption. The pretext under which persons derides and accost Pastors that speaks out must be forcefully and fearlessly defended. Those who out of ignorance take on Pastors that defend the defenseless are miscreants wanting their way only in their pursuit of political expediency.

In a society where semi-illiteracy and illiteracy hovers above 50 per cent, you cannot expect much from it. Every nation that yearns for development and prosperity must educate its people and teach them the universally agreed upon values that are cherished worldwide. To name but a few, respect of human rights, freedom of expression, civic liberties, mutual respect and civic engagement are the concepts that people need to learn in order for them to become good citizens.

Unfortunately, what we are witnessing on a daily basis is completely contrary to the aforementioned values. The chasm between what I envision and the reality is so wide that it needs many years if not generations to be bridged.

It was the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, who said: “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that ignorance is the opiate of the masses. Ignorance makes a person totally alienated in his own society, thoroughly estranged within his own socio-economic group. Ignorance turns the person sightless, blind-hearted and dumb.

Ignorance does not necessarily parallel a lack of education, yet it goes hand in hand with the lack of proper social upbringing, lack of ethics and a sense of responsibility that must had been inculcated in people since childhood.

The outlook of a true Wesleyan has its roots in the beliefs and convictions of John and Charles Wesley, and all who help shaped Methodism.

The Wesleyans or Methodists believes that the church has the moral imperative to act for the common good. For people of faith, therefore, there are no political or spiritual spheres where their participation can be denied.

The attempt to influence the formation and execution of public policy at all levels of government is often the most effective means available to churches to keep before humanity the ideal of a society in which power and order are made to serve the ends of justice and freedom for all people.

Through such social action Methodists generates new ideas, challenges certain goals and methods, and helps rearrange the emphasis on particular values in ways that facilitate the adoption and implementation of specific policies and programs that promote goals that are congruent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This task of the Church is in no way in contradiction with our commitment to a vital separation of Church and State. Wesleyans believe that the integrity of both institutions is best served when both institutions do not try to control the other. Thus, we sustain with the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom of the Constitution that:

Article 21- (1) All persons shall have the right to - (a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom; (c) freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice; (d) freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations;

We live in a pluralistic society. In such a society, churches should not seek to use the authority of government to make the whole community conform to their particular moral codes. Rather, churches should seek to enlarge and clarify the ethical grounds of public discourse and to identify and define the foreseeable consequences of available choices of public policy. That's exactly the position taken by Reverend Bosomtwi-Ayensu.

Why the Church must get involved in politics. Since the days of John Wesley, Methodists have had a strong belief in social justice, mission and outreach ministries.

Taking an active stance in society is nothing new for followers of John Wesley. He set the pace and example for the Wesleyans to combine personal and social piety. Wesleyans have been known as a denomination involved with people’s lives, with political and social struggles, having local to international mission implications. Such involvement is an expression of the personal change wesleyans experience in our baptism and conversion.

The Methodist Church believes God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So Methodists care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective, not just responding to all the other "mind-makers-up" that exist in our society.

As a Christian and someone who considers it a privilege to live in this country, I find myself being drawn into questions of politics and asking myself this very question: does faith, in general, and Christianity in particular, have any place in politics?

Honestly, I do not think I have a concrete answer. I am at the point where I am trying to understand what appears to me to be a deliberate abstinence of many Christians and churches from politics all together.

But in a political culture such as ours, which is plagued or inundated, for example, by moral failings and divisiveness, coupled with hateful rhetoric, should there be a more deliberate role for the church relative to political matters?

To be clear, I am not saying that the church is to be a political entity. Rather, I am simply asking if the church has any place in politics, and if so, what?

Personally, I hardly involve in political discourses at church, and I believe it is because there is an unspoken understanding that politics is too divisive and often gets ugly, so we won’t go there.

However, in individual conversations, I occasionally communicate how my faith in Christ does align with my conservative beliefs, but even then I try not to speak in partisan terms.

However, when I look at many of our churches, they seem to shy away from political issues altogether.

This may be out of fear of causing divisions within the church, losing whatever tax-exempt the church enjoys, a misunderstanding of separation of church and state, or something else.

Though I find it difficult to go along I can understand the reason for such concerns, it has been my understanding that while churches ought not advocate political parties and candidates, they need not avoid expressing how their faith speaks to today’s issues.

Furthermore, it is incongruous to me that a nation that was founded, in part, on religious freedom and whose churches were highly involved in past socio-political movements now seems strangely silent when it comes to key political issues of our time.

Indeed, I wonder if part of the reason we are seeing the caustic nature of our political discourse is due to the lack of engagement of our religious communities. Without such voices, we are often left with partisans and pundits who are in positions that seem less to help our society and more to advance their political self-interests.

To a greater effect, our society is subjectively defining the significance of one’s faith to being only what one does inside of a church building, rather than identifying faith as a part of who one is and how they are involve public life.

The popular culture and, regrettably, many people within our churches appear to be satisfied with allowing churches to exist as simply a separate entity that remains silent when it comes to the social and political issues of the day.

The disquiet at the heart of this silence is that pervading sense of fear, which I do not believe is consistent with Christian faith.

Let me state or make a declaration that if this trend continues, our churches will continue to struggle with remaining relevant in politics and our culture, particularly with younger generations.

Is it not a worrying development that the silence is giving credence to all manner of insinuation from people having no regards for the Church?

The earlier the Churches made its voice heard on all sphere of socio-political issues the better.

With so few churches simply speaking out to the issues of the day, is there any wonder why we are experiencing the heightened, political antagonisms that is been experiencing today?

Columnist: Akwah, Nana