Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Research the History of Church vs. State?

I have begun my research process into the history of the relationship between religion and government.  While I have been unable to examine any sources yet due to a busy work schedule, I have been able to write a reason for research.  This is what I have thus far; more will be added especially when I am able to go through some sources.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

            There is a great deal of history that modern historians do not know about prehistoric and ancient civilizations.  Cultural characteristics such as language, social morality, economic structure, and education systems are in many cases lost to the passing of time, never to be discovered until this world ends.  However, there are two basic features of all civilizations that can be found in almost every people, tribe, and nation that modern archeologists and historians have discovered: religion and government.  Sometimes it is impossible to determine the exact practices or identities of these two cultural main-stays, but it would not be false to say that some kind of religion and some form of government are present in every civilization, great or small, significant or insignificant, that has ever existed.
            Due to this truth that every people practiced some religion and was governed by some structure of government, it would also be true that religion and government have played an extremely vital role in shaping the history of the world as we know it.  One needs only to look at the influence of the Roman Empire on the regions it conquered, or the Roman Catholic Church on the countries of Europe during the Middle Ages, or the teachings of Islam on Muslim governments both past and present.  Religion and government have affected the lives of people from the beginning of time, and since they have both been in existence for as long as human records can show, it can also be argued that there has been a relationship between the two.
            This relationship has come under close observation in the United States in recent months.  The recent legislation of the Obama administration that would require the Roman Catholic Church in America to provide contraception (a practice that the Church believes to be immoral) free of charge to its employees under their insurance plans has caused many Americans to reevaluate the true meaning of their culture’s beliefs concerning the relationship of Church and State.  In America, the official relationship is one of separation: Church cannot influence government and government cannot influence the Church.  This is not an original stance that a civilization has taken: there are many instances of (and reasons for) the separation of religion and government. 
            The question that many people today are unable to answer is to why their culture implements the relationship between religion and government that they do.  The answer, of course, is found in the pages of history.  Each individual modern country is able to decide for itself what relationship religion and government should have within its borders.  The reasons for each country’s decision are based on various historical events, philosophies, and beliefs.  Whether everyday citizens realize it or not, the current relationship between religion and various governments is a result of a long conflict that has been in existence since time began.  This conflict at times was minuscule, but at other times incredibly controversial.  It is the times in which there was intense controversy between religion and government that our modern view of what the relationship should be was brought into being.
            This is why the understanding of the history between the relationship between religion and government is so vital.  How can one be expected to truly appreciate and understand their beliefs if they do not know the origin of sad beliefs?  It is important to note also that when religion is mention, it includes more than just the Christian Church.  When the relationship between religion and government is mentioned, many automatically assume that Christianity is the religion in question.  In order to understand the full magnitude of the present, global conflict between the two entities, it is important to also analyze the relationship between government and other religions, such as Judaism and Islam.  If the Western world allows its view of the history of this conflict to be narrowed, blinded even, by its own experiences and nothing else, an incomplete understanding will be the result; and if an understanding is incomplete it might as well be entirely wrong  because nothing can truly be partially right or wrong.  It must be one or the other.

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