The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that read: “The last time we mixed politics and religion, people were burned at the stake!”
I think the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would beg to differ.
The fact that AUR discusses American political history in the context of religion might make some uncomfortable, but if we insist that religion have no moral vision for its own society and civilization, what then is the purpose of religious liberty?
The recognition that both Dr. King and his racist opponents appealed to religious principles might bring some to the conclusion that religion makes no difference, but the real lesson is that there is difference within religion. Some religion burns people at the stake, and some religion sets people free.
It is time to move beyond the bigotry and prejudice that insists (against evidence to the contrary) that “religion poisons everything,” and open our eyes to the reality that the content and character of a religion—indeed also the content and character of non-religious worldviews—makes an enormous difference that we should not simply brush aside with the willful ignorance of poorly-informed cynicism. The difference within religion is the difference between right and wrong, piety and autolatry, justice and injustice, Abolition and Inquisition.
The obsession with indictment and condemnation that leads some to reject all religious involvement in political matters is precisely the sort of biased and corrupted thought process that drove the stake-burnings of centuries past. Progressives from all worldviews, religious and otherwise, have a moral obligation to stay involved in politics to keep this sort of prejudice and bigotry from becoming the very tone and language of Civilization.