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Religion’s Role in Politics

Religion and politics are often thought to be like oil and water. Anytime the two inevitably intertwined there will be calls for separation of church and state or rallying cries to bring religion and morality back into the public discourse. So do politics and religion really belong together?

Even from the days of the founding fathers, Jefferson advocated for a separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the Constitution advocated for a separation of church and state, but that is somewhat of a one way street. It requires the government not to interfere with the practice of religion, but doesn’t really tackle religious institutions staying out of government affairs. The vast majority of presidents have claimed a religious affiliation in some way or another and many of the invocations and ceremonies have some sort of religious component. The swearing in of presidents, starting of congressional sessions and even the pledge of allegiance and the money we spend all have some sort of religious attachment. So religion and politics are intertwined on many levels.

A modern day example of religions and politics is the Catholic priest Father Rutler. Rutler is the pastor for Church of St. Michael the Archangel. He graduated from Dartmouth and at the age of 26 became the youngest rector in the United States. He would later complete advanced degrees at John Hopkins and studies at seminary. While he started in the Episcopal church, he would convert to Catholicism, which is where he finds himself today. Not only is Rutler familiar with the church side of life, but he is well aware and comfortable in the political realm as well. He has often spoken out as the voice of social conservatism, has defended Mother Theresa publicly, counts George W Bush as a friend and spoke at Henry Kissinger’s funeral. All of this from a parish priest who runs a church in Manhattan.

Father George Rutler has written over 30 books commenting on Christianity, society and politics. He has written on presidential candidates, spoken homilies on the state of America and even has podcasts that can be downloaded. He has not shied away from criticizing the Pope, the Vatican, the president and American culture itself. 

Rutler is a modern pastor that has befriended political figures throughout his life and used his influence to comment on the world at large. While some may argue that politics and religion can’t or shouldn’t coexist, Rutler has balanced the two for several decades. And the pastor doesn’t just write about the world, but actively participates in it. He ran 3 miles to get to the 9/11 tragedy and listened to confessions at the site. He has kept his parish open during the COVID 19 pandemic and continues to speak out against injustices that he sees in the world.