Religious Studies: Power Issues
For two thousand years, Christians have formed themselves into groups that have controlled power and society through a variety of ways. Distributing food to the poor and arranging funerals for the dead provided Christians with a mission and with authority. Buildings churches in which to worship God served as a way to educate people, which in turn served as a way to control them. The relationship of pupil to teacher pupil is rooted Christian Scriptures. There have always been a plethora of Christian churches in the United States, and they have been an important part of forming the power structure of the country. Early newspapers were propagated and modern news still flourishes largely because of the power of religion. According to Quentin J. Schultze, , “ (2003, p. 10). America has always been infused with Christian institutions, the power and force of these early organizations left no room for pagan worship groups or Buddhist teachings (Watt 2002, p. 5). The power relations that stem from Christian origins in the United States therefore seem natural and right. Millions of Americans have been raised to view power relationships based on Christian teachings and foundations as normal and those based on non-Christian doctrines as false. The power of religion when placed into a global setting often unsettles people because so many wars and atrocities have occurred in the name of religion. In modern times, it is impossible to discuss the topic without referencing the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center made in the name of religion and dine as a demonstration of power. Much modern discussion of religion after this event tried to decenter moral and religious beliefs from international relations. The awkwardness over presenting religion as motive into global affairs concerns people because it often hinders rather than advances resolutions and negotiations (Hehir, Walzer, & Krauthammer, 2003). Concern about the violent history and power struggles that have occurred in religious organizations is another viable reason that people today shy away from discussions that place international relations and global politics in a context that could ( and has) led to religious warfare. Christianity in world history has been a constant source of power struggles and religious differences that have split churches apart. The doctrine that separates church and state does so because of the fact that political power struggles worldwide have been caused when governments take up arms to defend or affect religious doctrine. The idea that a war is just or a person is powerful because of direct support from God has lately given way to faith-based religious paradigms that decenter specifics about Christianity in favor of more general and less political concerns. Historical instances when disputes were settled according to local religious leaders do not work in the very large mobile and connected society today. As Michael Walzer explains, “Arab Christians and Muslims have their own family courts, conducted in their own language, whose judges rule in accordance with their own religious law” (Walzer 2015, p. 98). These types of traditions are local and are not appropriate to modern global negotiations and power struggles in which there is no one single religious authority figure to lay down the law. Faith-based debates about right and wrong are usually discussed in terms of a specific religious doctrine such as Christianity. Devout Christians are by nature biased when it comes to analyses of what is morally right according to God, which is the way they interpret what is ethical and moral in secular life as well. The personal motivation of a Christian may be his or her faith but the problem is that while two Christians may have no doubts about what is right and wrong; those two Christians may also be holding conflicting views. Christians who are blinded by their personal understanding of their faith are sure their decisions are ethical, but in the world of international relations and multiple religions, those decisions need to be compared with what others believe to be right. Even though Christians believe that their religious influence within the global community can enable them to rally many supporters; Christians need to be aware that far-reaching and extensive global powers function according to a different set of ethics. Those ethics may not be and often are not faith-based. Religious power in the global community of Christians is often tempered with an understanding that ethical standards are subject to external checks. International customs are not unvarying and power often undermines codes of conduct and ethics. Christianity and Christians cannot be described only based on intuitive and visceral notions. Christians may have faith that their belief system is right and should be the ethical system of all Americans, or all Europeans, or all Christians around the glove, but it is not. When a person, group, or groups of people become so determined that others share their religious viewpoints and decisions that they seek to manipulate the affairs of others then religion ceases to be benevolent and becomes dangerous.
Hehir, Bryan, Walzer, Michael, and Krauthammer, Charles. (2003). Liberty and Power :
A Dialogue on Religion and U. S. Foreign Policy in an Unjust World. Washington, DC, USA: Brookings Institution Press.Schultze, Quentin J. (2003). Rhetoric and Public Affairs : Christianity and the Mass Media in America : Toward a Democratic Accommodation. East Lansing, MI, USA: Michigan State University Press. Walzer, Michael. (2015). The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions. Yale University Press.Watt, David Harrington. (2002). Bible-Carrying Christians : Conservative Protestants and Social Power. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press.