Illogical policy and private religion

“Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope you all have.

“Give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.

“Moreover, if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.” (1st Peter, 3:15-18).

The New Zealand Government’s decision to limit Church services to 10 people while allowing restaurants, bars, (Thursday), schools, Kura, strip-joints bowling clubs and airlines to open is not based on strong reasoning and compelling logic.

It is religious discrimination based on deep, underlying anti-religious pragmaticism.

If five-year-olds at school, revellers in restaurants and viewers in cinemas are deemed responsible enough for their own and other people’s safety, why are people attending religious services considered less capable?

There seems to be no real answer to this beyond the Prime Ministers fear of “fellowship”.

This is a clear example of paternalistic politics that treats religious people and religious organisations as less capable than children in playgrounds.

Or is it an economic decision based on the notion that religious organisations do not contribute to the tax-base, so they should have fewer rights to gather?

While other businesses have been permitted to open, religious communities that live from the donations of members have not been able to gather and have also seen their incomes fall.

Tracking, tracing and social distancing are essential elements of public safety now.

If they were absolute values they would be adhered to everywhere.

The argument seems to be that religious organisations cannot achieve this minimum level.

Again, this is an example of paternalistic politics being used to deepen the discrimination.

Private religion

In secular liberal democracies like New Zealand, the dominant view is that religious practice and belief should remain personal and private.

The religious voice should not sully the purer political and social debate.

In this scenario, the State tolerates religious practice and belief; it does not embrace it.

Here, religious groups are accepted to the extent that they stay out of the mainstream. This, and child abuse, are the key reasons why our bishops get no airtime, except if there’s a scandal.

In New Zealand, religious believers have “learned-silence” and internalised discrimination.

We have learned to hide our belief.

Disempowered, we have learnt not to disturb the neighbours. We have internalised the discrimination to such an extent that we have lost our voice.

The challenge for believers of all faiths is to challenge the presumption that religion is a private activity then our values of life, justice and equity will continue to be ignored.

A religious worldview is a valid worldview

Too often, we are silenced by the argument that religion is the source of all the world’s problems. This gross oversimplification is used by people with limited historical knowledge who cannot distinguish between inauthentic religion and authentic religion.

Inauthentic religion is the manipulation of beliefs and people to gain power, prestige and position.

Authentic religion is the source of Caritas that changes the world through acts of mercy and forgiveness.

Lest we forget: men and women with religious worldviews have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the oppressed and rescued migrants as the outpouring of their religious faith and we continue to do so, even when the organisation of Government does not.

Authentic religion is at work “when hatred is overcome by love, vengeance gives way to forgiveness, and hatred is quenched by mercy.”

Authentic politics respects all people.

It protects all life -without exception, promotes equity and cares for the weakest. Paternalistic politics does none of these.

We cannot open our churches for public worship because of the Government’s decision; this is not our decision. We comply because we are responsible citizens.

“I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive, since it neither sees, nor knows God’s Spirit; but you know the Spirit because the Spirit is with you and in you.” Jn 14:16-17.

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