What have Rome to do with Jerusalem?
Tertullian, the second century Church Father, famously asked “What have Athens to do with Jerusalem?” where he famously decried the influence of pagan philosophy into faith. Rephrasing this quote, I wish to ask what have “Rome to do with Jerusalem?” In short, I want to ask should faith be separated from politics?
In the past few months, we have witnessed this question emerging in the public sphere with some coming out against the faithful involving their faith into the political sphere while others argued that such a divorce is not an option … if one wants to be a faithful disciple.
Coming back to the question, I take my stand with the latter. As I read the bible, I find it striking that God is very interested in politics. As a matter of fact, He was so interested that Old Testament prophets denounced the Hebrews for exploitation and injustice among others. Turning to the gospels, I found it surprising when Jesus inaugurated his ministry in a synagogue, he quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 (Luke 4:18-19) which proclaimed of the kingdom of God.
Jumping a few chapters down in Luke, Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount is not simply a personal character cultivation of an inward faith but rather a model of outward profession of faith to the larger society that seeks to bring the kingdom to being.
Turning away from scriptures and into human history, we can observe that throughout civilisation, religion have played an important role in politics. On the one hand, it had played a role in legitimising the status-quo that benefited the few. But on the other hand, religion have supplied a language and an alternative vision of society that seeks to delegitimised the present status quo (the most famous example of this legitimising/delegitimising can be found in the biblical narrative of the exodus that pitted God against the Pharaoh).
For me personally, the debate whether the faithful should engage in the political is a futile question where scriptures and church history have affirmed in the positive although more often than not in legitimising the status quo.
Much more productive, I believe is the question of how should one get involved that while affirming one’s faith but not get drawn into legitimising operations of the present political order?
This is the question which I will seek to answer in the coming postings as I find myself struggling to answer this question.