Faith Tabernacle,Otta Nigeria
The concept of separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state. Writing to the Danbury Baptist Association,in 1802,Thomas Jefferson,one of the founding fathers of the United States of America,declared, “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.“TThat wall of separation envisaged by Jefferson,was based on the idea that both the state and the church would better retain their purity and integrity,if separate.
Recently,calls have gone out for Nigerian clerics to become more politically active.Based on the philosophy that there is no contradiction between personal salvation and political conscientization,these calls have urged them to see their privileged positions as bully pulpits,from which to task the authorities,on governance and corruption.While,on the face of it,this sounds like a good idea,on closer inspection it does not look so great.The idea of the church or any organized religion,as a body,becoming entangled in partisan politics could prove disastrous.Three main reasons stand out.
First,if the church were to become closely identified with the state,then if the government proves to be incompetent or corrupt,then by association,the church also would be tainted,leading to loss of it’s moral authority.Second,once the church gets involved in partisan politics,the potential for religious conflict,which is already high,would be even higher.In a multi-confessional society,the moment the church becomes partisan,you can expect an equivalent degree of political radicalization of the other faiths,giving further impetus to “boko-haramization”.(The Boko Haram is a sect with islamist ambitions, which,allegedly,claims inspiration from radical islam).With these groups opposed to each other,we would be only a step away from having armed religious militias.Adding religious conflagration to our many problems could prove fatal.Recent events in the city of Jos should be cautionary.Third,social,cultural and religious minorities already under the cush of majoritarian bullying,would become endangered species,if organized religion were to be allowed even more say than it already enjoys.
As a born-again christian,i sometimes wonder what life would be like in certain non-christian theocracies,where christianity is heavily circumscribed.Imagine being subject to life-style restrictions based on another person’s revelation:what you can eat,drink,wear and confess,being prescribed people of different religious or social orientation.?This is the fate of social and religious minorities wherever the state is under the thumb of organised religioun.Religious leaders,just like their followers,as individual citizens have very right to participate in partisan politics.When they do,however,they have a duty to pursue their goals,using demonstrably and manifestly secular vehicles and methodologies.Partisan use of God’s name has been grievous for mankind.Think Ireland,Yugoslavia,suicide bombings,What do you think.?