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The relationship between religion and government

I do not believe we can bring democracy to Iraq. Now there’s something that you never thought you’d see me write. I also believe we have won the war with Iraq. What is going on there is the stabilization of the government following the war. The “war on terror” is really a much larger picture, and it is a war that may never be completely won. The aftermath of a war always requires an ongoing commitment for many years. For instance, we still have troops in South Korea, Germany and several other countries.It seems to me that the president of the United States would do well to add a cabinet post that specializes in the relationship of the predominant religion in countries to their style of government. We Americans are so passionately dedicated to the principal of “separation of church and state,” that we feel the only legitimate government is one completely devoid of any religious influence. The predominant religion of a group of people sets the pattern for all of their relationships in society, including family, business and leadership. You cannot coerce or force a style of governance upon a people that is in opposition to their fundamental religious principles.When we make judgments as to how others should live that are based on our own sense of values and relational beliefs, we are likely to create more problems than we solve.People who completely reject the concept of an afterlife cannot conceive how passionate those who do believe in one can be. Religion is not a game. It is a life- and society-controlling concept. Some years back, I sat in Dr. Bill Hodge’s office in Hospital Lebon Samaritan in Limbe, Haiti. I got about a three-hour lecture on the sociological and political problems of third world countries. I guess I was a little defensive when he said that Americans are extremely arrogant in thinking that they can democratize any country. He stated that the only way true democracy can work is when the fundamental principles of a society are those embodied in Christianity.Let me concede that many abuses have been done in the name of Christianity, but the true basic principals that laid a bed of rich soil for democracy are a true understanding of freedom, coupled with a sense of personal and corporate responsibility and based on respect for the rights of others.One of the main tenets of Christianity is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Think of the implications if we really put that into practice.None of the rival factions in Iraq come even close to embracing that idea. Separation of “church and state” is a complete impossibility when religion is government. Some sort of representative government may eventually be developed, but I sincerely doubt it.There are, however, two obvious advantages to a presence in Iraq. First, is the fly paper principal. Terrorists from all over the world are drawn to Iraq to try to defeat or at least humiliate the “great Satan.” Better there than here, or anywhere, for that matter. Second, it puts our military within striking distance of the renegade nation of Iran. Keep in mind that when a governmental system is not working well, the leadership needs to divert attention by blaming someone. Don’t be paranoid. The mess in Iran is not really our fault. If you are full of anger and hostility, just blame me (or the president). It works for the Iranians.Of course we could just pat the terrorists on the shoulder and apologize for being so successful, and peace would sweep the world.Yeah, right!Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.


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