Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Politics and the Bible


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By HH Mohrmen

In the campaign to the election for the Lok Sabha there were allegations with regards to the use or maybe the misuse of verses from the Bible in the election platform. This is a very interesting development as it opens up a debate on what do we mean by politics? And what is exactly the role of religion in the society at large? Since the debate is from one particular scripture, we will only take this particular book for reference and discuss what it really means for the believers.
The new political party which campaigns to usher in clean politics and good governance started by calling to fight against corruption and injustice in the state. The new party is putting religion as the vanguard or making it a driving force on what they are doing and since most of the leaders are Christians hence the use of verses from the Bible to justify their stand. On other hand the opponent of the VPP allege that they misuse the scriptures for their own political gain, but let us start by trying to understand the Bible.
Whose Bible is it anyway?
The Bible is believed to be a gift from God, but what one fails to realize is that unlike the Koran, the Bible was not given to human in one go. The Christian Bible has its own history and to understand it, one also has to understand the Hebrew Bible. All branches of Christianity use the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament with their own interpretation of the book which is different from that of the Jews. In Judaism the Hebrew Bible is the only text used as instruction on how to live a morally upright life, and it is also a record of God’s covenant with the Jews as the chosen people. The first part of the Bible which the Christians call the Old Testament is taken from the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible known as TANAKH. The abbreviation stands for the different books in the Hebrew scripture which is the Torah, the Nevim, and the Ketuvim. It is a collection of ancient scriptures of the Jews written in Hebrew and also in Aramaic, which they continue to use till today. In fact reading scriptures during service is one of the traditions Christians borrowed from Judaism.
However different Christian Churches include different numbers of books from the Hebrew Bible in their canon of the Old Testament. The difference can be in the order and the names of the books from the Hebrew Bible used by the different branches of Christianity in their Bible. For instance the canon of the Bible used by the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches comprises of 49 books, the Bible in the Catholic canon comprises of 46 Books and the Bible in the Protestant canon comprises of 39 books only.
One thing that all the Christian Churches have in common are the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible; these books are found in all the Old Testaments of different Christian Churches’ canons. There may be some differences in the text, but these books match with the 24 books of the TANAKH in the Hebrew Bible. The additional numbers of books in some Bibles is because several texts were split into separate books in the Christian Bibles.
The books that are part of the Christian Old Testament but not part of the canon in the Hebrew Bible are sometimes called the deuteron-canonical books which the Catholic and the Orthodox churches include in their Old Testament. Most Protestant do not include the deuterocanonical books in their Old Testament, yet some branches of Anglicans and Lutherans place the Book in a separate section which they called apocrypha.
The second part of the Christians Bible is the New Testament which are the Christian scriptures written in Koine Greek. The New Testament is all about the life and teachings of Jesus and also about the early Christians. It is believed to be the fulfillment of prophesy which is the coming of the messiah which is prophesied in the Old Testament. The two books, the Old Testament which is based on the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament or the Christian Scriptures developed in the early Christian period, together are considered as the Sacred Scripture by the Christians.
It is obvious the Bible used by the churches vary and we have not even discussed the different versions that are available. The important point to note is when we ask questions about the Bible it is also pertinent to ask which Bible we are talking about.
Religion and Politics
Not only that there is vestry or pulpit politics in every church, but church leaders are now openly hobnobbing with the powers that are. During the last election it was alleged that church elders campaigned for their candidate in their respective constituencies. In some cases it was reported that they also indulged in the distributing gifts and cash to the needy members of the church on behalf of the candidate.
Many churches and faith groups also took advantage of the election to seek financial support for their projects like schools, hospitals etc., and there were reports of churches accepting donations from politicians for construction of new church buildings in the run up to the elections. Last year at least two churches after receiving donations from politicians for constructing new church buildings, announced that publicly. In other words the church is indirectly endorsing the candidate. Obviously the church cannot avoid politics, but it can at least choose to do it in the just right way. Taking a leaf from the good book, it can exhort its member that whenever they engage in politics, they should try to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
Can anyone avoid
It was Pericles who said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, it doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Even if you are not interested in politics, politics is interested in you, but unfortunately politics has earned a bad name for itself.
It is often called a dirty game, but is it so? Politics is what we make it to be. It becomes dirty when played by dirty people who uses unfair means to attain power. It is dirty when the sole aim of being in politics is for selfish interests and to amass wealth for oneself. It is dirty when there is injustice and there is prejudice in the system especially against those who are not part of the ruling dispensation. Politics is dirty when favouritism is prevalent and those in power get undue advantage.
Clean Politics Campaign
There is a saying, “it is easier said than done.” It is indeed easy for any political dispensation to call for cleaning the system and to rid corruption from the state. It is much easier when one is in the opposition with none or very little responsibility of governing. They say the test of the pudding is in the eating, so we will know how the new political party will perform only when they are at the helm of power.
People will have to wait till the VPP attains power to see whether they are going to be a party with a difference or just an old wine in a new bottle. Or as the saying goes, ‘power corrupts’ and maybe they will one day succumb to the pressure, but everyone agrees that at least the intention is good. It is heartening to hear a call for truth, justice, honesty rather than the usual ‘ngi pynbieij man ka san snem, ki ngop ruh man ka san snem’ (we fool them every five years and they succumb every five years too), as stated by a leading politician of the state. Unlike the usual ‘ngin iatreilang bad ki ksuid ruh lada don kam’ (we are ready to work with the devil if the situation warrants), it is refreshing to hear the call to fight against the evil of corruption instead of condoning it. Unlike the usual fooling around with the crowd, there is respect for the public in the campaign. They use the Bible because it is the scripture they are familiar with, and it is the book of their faith. It is their spiritual guide or the moral compass which gives them a sense of direction in the way they live their lives. So isn’t that what the good book is meant to be?
In conclusion it is pertinent to ask, is it wrong to use the holy book in the campaign to rid off corruption and bad governance? Is the holy hook not a tool to fight against injustice? Of what use are the scriptures if not to fight for good and noble causes? What use is it, if not to lead a person on the right path?


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