Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Four hundred eighty-nine years ago today, Martin Luther posed a series of questions to his community, inviting scholarly debate on a breadth of religious concerns. He would be persecuted for asking questions, refusing to recant, and otherwise deviating from the orthodoxy of his church and the academic community. The confluence of national and religious politics, the proliferation of print, and Luther’s philosophy would become one of the formative events of the modern era.

Every year, this august observance makes me feel proud to have been raised in the tradition of Luther's theology. Each year, I also find that this event raises a host of unanswered questions. I debate theology over beer with Roman Catholic friends, and find myself increasingly concerned over the return to reactionary and exclusive doctrines practiced by believers with whom I share a common name.
This anniversary also turns the lens of scrutiny on continued (or perhaps redoubled) mingling of religion and government. Many of my friends contend that the state should be an atheist and that believers should cloister any opinion related to a religious conviction within the walls of their place of worship. I argue that the state has no more business adopting the dogma of the atheist than it does proselytizing Christianity or Islam or deism.
The attempts of political parties to infiltrate religious doctrine has become an even greater ethical hazard. If we allow politicians to back policy decisions and laws into religious philosophy, then we invite monarchy. In the days when state was coupled to church, autocrats ruled by claim of divine right, making their whims, whatever they may be, morally unassailable.
The assertion that any political entity works on behalf of and with the authority of any deity is as poisonous as it is laughable. Which party is honest? Which is not guilty of skirting (or patently breaking) the law of the land for political gain? Is there a party that has not indignantly decried its enemies for doing something its own members are guilty of? If we cannot trust these organizations to consistently attempt to uphold the secular laws and standards they seek to set, why would anyone invite them to greater authority?
Regardless of your religious convictions, today is an opportunity to question the leaders in your community, both political and religious. Read, question, reflect, act. There are important decisions only a week away.

Your politics are your own. Whatever they may be, register to vote.

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