(I’m not trying to favor or bash any particular political candidates, and although this opinion piece may appear to gang up on Sarah Palin, it does so only to make the point that all politicians should strive for fair-mindedness and avoid a “pit-bull mentality.” I’m just using her as an example. Democrats can also act like pit-bulls in their own way, too.)
A reader of Pentacostal blogger Ken Gurley questioned his 8/06/08 article, “Palin's Pentecostal Roots Under Attack,”which discussed media scrutiny into U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s non-mainstream Pentacostal religious background. Gurley’s blog included a YouTube video of Palin speaking in her church in Alaska. Among Palin’s points were that the members of her congregation should pray for the success of an oil or gas pipeline in Alaska that she favored politically, and she opined that God was in favor of the U.S. attack on Iraq.
The reader cautioned, “People say, ‘Why did the Republicans get tied in with those wacky fundamentalists?’ The real question is, ‘Why did those good Christians get tied in with a group of war-mongers and empire-builders whose goal it is to make the rich richer, at the expense of the poor?’
While we may or may not agree with these comments, they underscore a long-standing reticence many people feel when religion and state—ie., politics—become too closely intertwined. Is it possible that the views of a Christian politician in America, a tough ‘hockey mom’ who has hunted and killed wild moose and compared herself to a pit-bull dog with lipstick, could become as dangerous to world peace as the Taliban’s or Osama Bin Laden's religio-political extremism?
While only a few of Gurley’s readers feared such a prospect, in the past it’s true that the younger President George Bush’s clumsy references to Western attacks against Islamic terrorism as “crusades” did alarm some in America and abroad as to the potential inflammatory effect that extreme or sectarian religious views, or even volatile language, can have upon the world.
Despite this danger, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem if a strongly religious person holds high political office. It would only be a problem if such an individual holds narrow-minded, sectarian or fanatical beliefs. Unfortunately, a significant number of people of faith around the world, while probably not the majority, do fall into this later category. In fact, in response to such fanatical religionists, my father, who was an agnostic, felt that misapplied religion had led to far more problems in the world than it had helped. While I don’t agree with his one-sided conclusion in this regard, part of what he said is true.
As a breath of fresh air, I’d like to share two valuable points from the Vedic culture of India which may serve as useful principles or guidelines regarding a healthier relationship between religion and politics. Traditionally in India, the religious priests—known as Brahmins—would stay out of politics altogether so that their spiritual advice would be more impartial. The Brahmins, in fact, weren’t supposed to assume salaried positions. Being on nobody’s payroll, their opinions were less likely to be bought or sold.
Secondly, those who were politicians or military persons—known as Ksatriyas—were encouraged to embrace religious values, but at the same time they were expected to be impartial and even-minded in their dealings, never extremists or fanatics.
An interesting example of this was a king named Prithu, whose term of office is described in the ancient history, the Bhagavata Purana. One of the most outstanding features of King Prithu was that he was above petty favoritism which often plagues Republicans and Democrats, Serbs and Croats, Catholics and Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc., as the Bhagavata Purana reported “If the son of King Prithu’s enemy was not deserving of punishment, he was not punished, and if the King’s own son was punishable, then king would immediately punish him.”
It would be great if today’s politicians would take a little time to study how an exemplary political leader should act instead of learning how to ridicule or "bad-mouth" their opponents. Otherwise, what will happen if more “pit-bull politicians” knock heads on the world stage over petty national self-interests? Do we really believe that this pit-bull mentality—fighting over scraps of meat, oil-rich countries, or what have you—can ever bring peace and fair-mindedness to the world? Can humanity really afford to ignore inspiring examples of spiritually minded political leaders such as King Prithu, or has it gone to the dogs?[ culture ] [ politics ]