Every so often, I’d hear a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger mention that the Church (The Catholic Church) shouldn’t meddle in politics, and cite the separation of state and religion in our constitution. To me, it sounds like the same complaint of an employee frustrated at office politics. As much as we don’t want it, it’s still there. Part of the reason is perhaps their expectation of the church’s role. They want religion to be simply just that—religion and not politics. However, what a lot of people fail to realize that religion, for better or for worse, is really a political force, albeit under a different name.
Honestly speaking, while the various religions in the world claims it has good intentions, it does not erase the fact that they are political entities. In an extreme view is Marx, who claimed that religion is the opium of the masses. I won’t go that far, but it is true that religion have certain ideologies, and they do govern people in one way or another through these ideologies. It could be something as a holiday. While a holiday might not seem big to most people, holidays are still days when citizens do not work and stop being productive in society (in terms of being utilitarian, of course, as citizens become productive in other ways too). And sometimes, the religion of a nation wields so much influence that the holiday is enforced by the government as well.
One merely needs to look at history to find further proof. Islam and Christianity have commanded kings and rulers, dictated policies and gained concessions, and last of all, declared wars. People might say I’m merely focusing on these two religions, but the thing with other religions is that they aren’t as popular to wield much influence, or in the case of Buddhism, their doctrine doesn’t encourage them to meddle in the affairs of others (salvation is from within, not from without). Buddhism actually wields much political power, it simply doesn’t choose to exert it. It can suggest actions to its conclave, but it can never command, at least if they want to remain faithful to their beliefs. Now most people’s reaction might be why can’t those two other popular religions be like Buddhism? That they shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of the world? The honest-to-good-answer is that they can’t. Because they’d be hypocrites if they were (although some would claim they’re already hypocrites, most don’t intend to be so).
Christianity, for example, has this pro-active stance of salvation. It means converting the non-believers, preaching (their) God’s word, and more importantly, acting in a way good Christians should act. And while some people would argue that the worst atrocities stem from the best intentions, good intentions are the stepping stones of a virtuous life. And for better or for worse, Christianity isn’t an isolationist religion. In order to be a good Christian, one needs to be aware of other people’s needs, to be aware of what’s happening with your neighbor, to be aware of what’s happening in the world around you. As my pastor would say, there is no undercover Christian. Unfortunately for some people, this also means meddling in the government’s affairs. Because how else can you affect the world around you? One simply can’t stand in one place and expert the world to change. If you want religion to stop meddling in government affairs, don’t change government law, change church doctrine.
That’s not to say I’m condemning or supporting church participation in government. I’m merely here to show the state of things. It’ll help people understand their religion’s actions, and their motivations for doing so (and why you can’t easily dissuade them). That’s also not to say that a church-state would be an abhorrent thing. Speculative fiction writers like Frank Herbert (Dune) and Isaac Asimov (Foundation) have postulated religion-state universes. In a way, such a system is much more inefficient: crimes are heresy as well, so whereas your family won’t turn you in if you committed a crime, they will when you commit sacrilege. And in a church-state, there really is no distinction between the two. For another, there’s less schizophrenia on what actions one should take. There won’t be situations where the government says one thing and your religion says another thing (because honestly, some people do factor in religion when making decisions). On the other hand, paranoiacs and conspiracy-theorists will have a field day as political power is all lumped in one source. And a church-state is just as prone to corruption and deceit as any other political institution.
I think what many people fail to realize is that political power does not reside solely on the government. There are also other sources of political power: its citizens (otherwise the EDSA Revolution wouldn’t be as successful, or the fact that we bothered with EDSA 2 and 3), the media (as a dictator, Marcos had wisdom in silencing the media), the aristocracy, the merchants (or in this case, the wealthy businessmen and entrepreneurs), other state leaders, and of course, the church.