Saturday, June 22, 2024

Church and Politics

There is a belief that the Church has no business to involve herself in politics. The argument is influenced by the long history of the United Kingdom and numerous wars thereof, fought for separation of State and Church (Vatican). But this separation of State and Church at that time was based more on economic grounds and one individual’s desire to marry more than once. That it paid handsome political dividends in the political landscape, as power was finally wrested from the Church and the King in the struggle to situate in the people the ultimate power to govern themselves is now history. So, whether in the presidential or parliamentary or in a blend of both systems, it is believed that power lies in the hands of the people. But the Church couldn’t be completely kept out of power equations because while theologically the Church is believed to be the Body of Christ, temporally, she is made up of people, in whom lies the sovereign power to decide who will govern us ~ and who are not immune to ideological and political affinities, beliefs and influences, as much as who are affected by political, economic, social and cultural constructs in any given society. Moreover, it has always been the church, the temple and the mosque that have determined the political history of civilizations, states and nations across the globe throughout the ages. So, today for anyone to believe that the Church has no business to be involved in politics is sheer naivety. Consider the history of Prohibition in Nagaland since 1989 ~ if the Church had no say in the political landscape our State Government at that time would have never allowed itself to be pressurized to impose Prohibition in the first place. But no Government, no political party and leader will rub the Church the wrong way if they hope to gain and retain political power. While some may attribute the Church, the NBCC, of being instrumental in the defeat of the NDPP candidate to the 18th Lok Sabha elections ~ and there may be some credence to this attribution ~ it would be giving too much credit to the Church. If so, how then can we explain why the electorate here voted the NDPP, which is an ally of the BJP, to power for two terms; how can we explain that 12 BJP MLAs were elected in two Assembly elections and to boot, they have been and ate in the ruling dispensation in both terms? The Church may have given a gentle nudge to the congregation this parliamentary election ~ not that she didn’t in earlier elections ~ but the recent election’s outcomes had varied and various factors and forces at play and the sooner the non-Congress parties in Nagaland acknowledge that, the better for them and the State. At the same time, it would be a major mistake on the part of the Congress Party here to believe that it has the unconditional and perpetual support of the Church. In this parliamentary election, the very soul of India was both the battle and battle ground ~ one would like to believe that Nagaland’s electorate, however small, understood that perfectly so it is difficult to say that it was the Church that made the electorate here understand that ~ after all, it wasn’t only Christians that voted for the Congress candidate; besides, thousands voted for the NDPP candidate too. The Church has always been larger-than-life and has played active roles in one way or the other in all elections right from the first Assembly election in Nagaland. Why else would political parties always seek to be in the right side of the Church? Why else the humongous donations? Let us not pretend that the Church has no place in politics. Maybe it actually has no place but it does find a place ~ not only in Nagaland but across the globe because religions and politics are intrinsically linked, as the objective of both are human beings. There is also a difference between politics and governance ~ so definitely it would be an over-reach on the Church’s part to interfere in governance. Really, there is so much in our historical, political, economic, social, cultural and religious dynamics that need to be dissected and analyzed to understand, at least party, about our society and State’s underbelly.