The Politics and Public Policy of the United States; A Religious Perspective

Introduction

            Religion in the United States has played a significant role in shaping governance, politics, social interaction, and constitutional amendments. The United States consist of people who fled from their original countries to seek, among others, the freedom in religion. Others migrated to the nation as slaves and the main people who governed the nation were religious people who recognized the Authority of God in the government. Today, the people who were slaves and those seeking religious freedom are the main administrators in the government. They have continued to engineer different laws from a religious perspective.

The governance is supplied with frequent reminders, both recent and ancient, that religion is the primary driver in the lives of the leaders and the citizens[2]. In addition, the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on Mt Sinai by God[3] to govern the Israelites are still used in the American courtrooms. These laws of Moses are not used because they have an affiliation with the Israelites and the association of God, but because they are universally accepted as the standard way of governing the people in a transparent way. The United States has a policy of leading the people in truth and justice because they believe in equality and peace. These aspects are the inner core of Christianity and other religions. 

The interface of religion and politics

Key observations

            Various debates concerning the religion have been discussed with most people indicating that there has been discrimination of some leaders on the basis of their religious background. These debates have triggered controversial observations and arguments that significant decisions made by the United States government have been based on a single religion. However, based on Pew Research in 2018, there has been the presence of a significant division of various faiths in the United States. The statistics indicate that about 1.7% are Jews, 0.6% are Muslims, 0.7% are Buddhists a while a whole 24% are Catholics making up the majority[4]. About 16% are not affiliated with any religion. Basing the illustrations on the statistics, it can be identified that the higher percentage has been Catholics and thus the leadership and politics are based on the Catholic perspective[5]. Although most presidents of the United States such as Donald Trump have failed to reveal their religious affiliation, a president like Obama came out and clearly portrayed his affiliation with the Catholics[6].

During his campaigns, this was viewed as a setback to his potentiality in getting more votes since this was viewed as a betrayal to other religions such as Islam.  A closer look to the Congress indicates that the religious affiliation has significantly improved in consideration with the proportion of religious backgrounds of the people. In the last general election, about 54% were Protestants, 6.2% were Jews, 31% were Catholics, and 2.8% were Mormon[7].  This representation in Congress was a major achievement in ensuring good governance and justice. Since there is hardly a religion among those mentioned which advocate for evil, the balance of the leadership has assured that all the citizens have been represented and thus creating a sense of belonging in USA.

Religion and politics

            In the quest to understand the religion and its association with the politics of the United States, there have been three subcategories that will explain this relationship. The first level analyzes the context of the role of religion and various organizations and how the functions can be integrated into the political sphere of the USA. The second level analyzes how the citizens’ expression of faith can affect the variables in the political arena and hence influence decision making in regards to politics and to what extent do the expression of faith affect various political fields. And finally, the way religion affects the cultural fundamentals and perceptions in the culture of politics. The presence of either catholic or protestant religions has been the norm of the politics in the U.S. Since independence, the religious, political, and culture has either been based on Christianity or Judaism with several laws in the U.S. constitution drafted from Mosaic Law.

            The justification of the freedom of the religious affiliations has made legislation to be based on a religious angle[8]. These legislations far much consider protecting the credibility of the religious doctrines. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court judges indicated that specific measures on contraceptives violate the freedom of religion as it was applied in business contexts[9].

            In recent years, there have been several controversial topics on different politics in America. These political topics include the right for marriage in same-sex, stem cell research, abortion, birth control, among others. These topics have led to divergent opinions on forsaking the right way to righteousness. This indicates that the unaffiliated individuals are not fully represented in the policy formulation in America[10].

These topics have been brought forward by different individuals who feel that the Civil Rights enacted during President Johnson’s reign has not been fully covered. The abortion right has triggered debates on whether to take away life since God is the only giver of it, and no person has the right to take it away. However, some individuals also urge that the right to life of an individual should not be compromised by enacting policies that will be against it. The formation of the American constitution on the basis of the religious background has made several leaders consider the abortion right a sin against God and humanity. Besides, same-sex marriage is among the rights which have been viewed as a sin to God. In the bible, the main reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the Angels of God was due to increased rates of immorality.

Since America is a religious country, particularly Christianity, the same-sex marriage rights has not only gone against the Christian doctrines but also sinned against God, and just like Sodom and Gomorrah, it can attract severe repercussions[11]. Obama’s health initiatives are yet another bill that has been faced by heated debates with staunch Christians citing its affiliation with eschatological signs. The proposal indicated that every person was supposed to register for the Medicare program and that no one will access the health care services if not registered[12]. This bill was viewed as a violation of the freedom of the citizens. It is through this bill that various political analysts indicated that the Democrats might lose their privilege of retaining the presidency after Obama left the office. The analysts were certainly right since the candidate for the Democrat party lost to the Republicans under Donald Trump.  Since taking over the office, President Donald Trump has resisted and failed to fund Obama’s healthcare initiative.

Role of religion in politics

            The active involvement in politics by religion was witnessed in the 60s and 70s when most people were fighting for Civil rights. Church leaders such as Martin Luther were in the forefront to fight for reasons such as involvement in politics, fights against segregation and discrimination in public places such as churches, schools, and hospitals[13]. The main people who were affected by these challenges were blacks. The movements of civil rights were backed up by religion due to the understanding of equality before God. Therefore, it was necessary to advocate for equal rights and fight against discrimination since each person was created in the same image as God and thus no one was special than the other[14].

During the slavery debate, religion played a significant role in supporting prohibition. In the current situation, the evangelical Christians are pushing to be directly involved in the formulation of various policies, a move that has received support from President Trump. The secret backing up of President Trump on the active involvement of religion, mainly the church has triggered debates. The reason for debate had been the fact that religious organizations are exempted from paying tax and thus prohibited to take part in politics actively. Different religious leaders have taken caution in endorsing political leaders lest they lose the tax exemption right.

            The Declaration of Independence, a founding document, indicates that God, who is the overall creator of everything, is the giver of unalienable rights. Even though the constitution grants the nation the rights to religious freedom, it does not indicate that religion is among the fundamental criteria for selection to serve in public offices[15]. However, some states in America still conduct some religious test when a person is about to hold a public office. They insist that non-believers are not fit to lead people and protect the recognition of God as the overall Authority.

            The religion in USA politics has been viewed as a checker of political performance on various mandates bestowed to God and the constitution. They are mandated to point out the vices and “bad” policies which might go against the will of God. It is the responsibility of church leaders to advocate for justice in every action taken by the government. The leaders are expected to be honest and rightful in their actions in enacting various policies. The love for one another should drive these leaders and thus should do to others what they would like to be done to themselves. As in Mathew 7:12, Jesus Christ ordered, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them, for this is the law and the prophets[16].” And when this command has been met by the leaders as insisted by religion, the state of governance will be acceptable before God. 

Competing political ideologies in the USA

            The current state of governance in the United States political arena has been characterized with different ideologies. These ideologies lay in the understanding that the political governance and power do not operate under a prior ideology but rather a founded system of gradual changes in values, beliefs, cultures and behaviors of the citizens[17]. The political ideologies in America are a set of classical liberalisms and this makes them be almost similar to each other. For instance, most people in the USA believe in the free market, limited government, and individual liberty. The only difference is that the Republicans seem to lean on the right while Democrats to the left. The competition between these two political parties arises when the two have different means of achieving the highlighted goals. The competition in the political ideologies is not monolithic; there have been frequent disagreements between the Republicans and their fellow Republicans and Democrats with their fellow Democrats. And this feature makes the politics of the United States to be outstanding from other countries in the world. The division of the different political ideologies in America has been done on the basis of influence and size they have on governance. The conservatives and the liberals have the lions share in the government, while the libertarians almost support no one in the political arena. Socialists have been identified to consider intervention concerning various government crises. 

Liberalism

            The liberals advocates for equal treatment of citizens in the United States. In the 60s across the 70s, the liberals were the major force in advocating for civil rights which would later promote equality among the citizens regardless of the social status, race or ethnicity. The liberals are still noticeable currently due to their activities of pushing for same-sex marriages, gay rights, open immigration, affirmative action, and abortion[18]. The expansive civil rights have been the main focus of the liberals as they seek to push for the economic, political, and social wellbeing of the people. The liberals are working hard to ensure that the rich do not unlimited power and that the poor are assisted through assistance programs. Besides, the liberals seem to dislike the idea of free-market; they advocate for a graduated system of taxing, which will ensure the rich are taxed heavily than the poor among others. The liberals reject socialism and capitalism in the distribution of resources.

Conservatism

            This group focuses on maintaining the status of United States of America[19]. The status includes money, morality, and culture. However, conservatives tend to be different in some ways among the subgroups. The tax cut and reduced government interference (laissez-faire) are also the primary focus of most conservatives. They are in most ways opposing the idea of abortion rights, same-sex marriages, gay rights, strict gun control among others[20]. Safeguard the security of the nation, the conservatives favors the increased spending of the government on military purposes. They also favor color blindness and positive discrimination quotas. The state governments, as conservatives indicate, should be mandated with safeguarding the interest of the citizens while the federal government should mainly focus on national security.

Moderates

            These are the people who are neither liberals nor conservatives. Their personal view on different policies is drawn from both the liberals and the conservatives. They mostly pick the most efficient policies from both sides and endorse them.  

            The main aim of both the democrats and the liberals is to formulate policies that will ensure the wellbeing of the people is improved. The ideologies work under different principles; the liberals believe in gradual change and improvements of the social policies. The gradual improvements entail evaluation of the performing and underperforming policies to determine the needed improvements. For instance, the move to support gay rights and same-sex marriages was after the evaluation of civil rights. The civil rights advocated for equal opportunities to every citizen of the United States. The gays were considered to have equal rights with other people and thus needed equal opportunities as well. The liberals and the Democrats seem to agree and disagree on some of these policies. However, the disagreements have been as a result of the urge to provide adequate services to the citizens of the United States.

            The political ideologies which seek to promote diversity and tolerance in the political, religious, economic and social aspects has been viewed to receive remarkable support from the judicial system and the members of the public. These aspects are an idea of an open society. This idea in some cases seems to counter the social policy of both the democrats and the republicans. The idea of open society was the main tool to the tolerance of diverse ideas on how to formulate the public policies and implementation purpose. Hence, the open society encouraged improved competition to the political groups and thus facilitated better consideration of the citizens’ needs.

Past policy intervention

            The implementation of various policies has been faced by different challenges in the operation phase in 1960s[21]. These challenges were viewed as a major setback in the process of facilitating better services delivery and assistance to citizens of the USA. The frequent questions of whether it was good to tax the people to give other people, or as Murray put it, to rob Peter to pay Paul, was the necessary thing putting into consideration that these two people might be of the same economic standards. The need to revisit these policies by the government was urgent. In the name of social assistance, the less active citizens were over-relying on these programs whereas the innovative struggled to meet certain economic standards only to meet the heavy taxation from the government to assist the less active and thus the poor ones. In the meantime, the taxation in form of payment for services delivered might not have been too satisfying. However, the services delivered such as garbage collected might not be equivalent to the amount of the money the owner of the garbage pays. The money is therefore transferred to the social programs such as social security and food stamps[22].

The social assistance programs might be benefiting the receiver than the contributor of the tax used in the facilitation of these programs. Therefore, the need to harmonize the tax collected so that it matched the services provided was necessary. This type of intervention would later help in balancing the benefits obtained from these policies and also work to ensure that social justice and equality are enhanced as stipulated in the Civil Rights[23]. In addition, the need to find out whether the social assistance programs were really performing their functions was necessary. For instance, a program such as food stamps was needed to facilitate and supply the required nutrients to the beneficially, hence finding out whether it served this purpose was essential too. Therefore, finding ways of benefiting every person directly or indirectly involved in the public policy was useful in ensuring that satisfaction is met and that no person was oppressed at the expense of other people[24]. Another challenge in the implementation of the public policies was the question of whether the policies really benefited the right people. Several cases were reported of individuals benefiting from social assistance but they had some other means of survival.

            These policies were mainly focusing on assisting the individuals mostly in abject poverty to enhance their living standards. It also included better housing, medical cover, and nutrition[25]. This was viewed as a shortcoming since the satisfaction in human life did not just include the mentioned policies but also entailed a good parent, safe streets, loving spouse, freedom and respect for one another.

            The enactment of public policies in the past was not effective due to failure to consider the impacts they had on the net happiness of every person in the United States of America but rather focused on; evaluating the impacts of the policies to the intended person, and also whether the policies had the intended functions or not.  Failure to consider the happiness which will be brought about by these programs was a setback since it is the only way to gauge the effectiveness of these policies and also determine how to improve them. The happiness demonstrates satisfaction on the services.  

            The considerations on the level of needs of different people were the only way that will help in distribution of social benefits from the assistance programs. The level of needs was essential in identifying urgent cases hence giving them first priorities. For instance, the people who suffered from lack of food were supposed to be prioritized from those who just social assistance mainly because maybe they lost a job. In this case, the social program would have achieved a good thing.

            During President Johnson era, mistakes were made during the enactment and formulation of the public policies[26]. It was not in order to take away the hard-earned money from industrious poor citizens who were responsible and give to the less active and irresponsible poor citizens in the name of helping. These policies can be considered as unjust to a group of people. The policies did not consider the harm caused by some citizens. For instance, the move to clear the criminal histories of various young people arrested was one of the many policies which demonstrated a weakness in governance[27]. Various analysts indicate that the future of these children was destroyed rather than been enhanced. These policies did not serve the call for justice. The children who were cleared from the criminal police records were given the go-ahead to look for the jobs to keep down the level of poverty. While some of them might have benefited from this policy, some seemed to have been given the license to commit crimes.

            The policy, such as social assistance was initially aimed at relieving poverty among various individuals. However, the people who relied on this program seemed to do so for the rest of their lives. This problem has been identified and remedial measures taken to ensure that the policies facilitate behavior changes and thus, the beneficiary change their perspectives of been helped and thus take charge of their lives. This has reduced the number of those under the government programs to a significant level and thus facilitating less expenditure by the government on social programs.

State of the government from a biblical perspective

            The current state of the government of the United States of America is characterized with the decay of morals. The people have ceased to consider the importance of religion and the sovereignty of God in the leadership system. Lacking absolute morals is one of the major reasons behind the enactment of policies that do not seek to identify God in the system. These morals also translate into weakness in the government. The disregard for the religion in the United States has made some of the leaders to consider themselves as sovereign. Failure to consider a power above them is the major problem that has made policies such as same-sex marriages, abortion and other policies to be enacted. A policy such as the gay rights and same-sex marriages were the main reasons for the destruction of Sodom, and Gomorrah.

Some religious analysts indicate that the main threats facing the United States today are not diseases, war or other calamities but it’s the moral decadence of the people and their leaders. They no longer believe in absolute truth and the purpose to be under the influence of God’s word. The purpose of the word, which is the Bible, is to monitor the craving for freedom beyond limits, therefore, control the occurrence of sins. The change from this kind of perspective can be only achieved at a personal level once a person takes the responsibility of living in truth and justice and refrain from the acts of sins.

The main concern currently in regards to these policies is whether the United States of America can survive without honoring God. The nation was established under the Christianity doctrines, and this is one of the primary reasons for the success. However, the recent challenges facing the United States can be associated with the disregard of God and abandoning the role of leading the people in truth and justice. Currently, the level of crime has escalated, tax evasion has been reported, and infidelity and immorality level has also increased due to failure to honor God. The fall of great empires such as Rome due to such activities is a clear reflection of what might be awaiting this great nation of the United States.

The debate on whether the government is directly affiliated with the church is one of the major reasons for diverting from doing what is right to what is wrong. The church and the government are separated by the constitution, but this might not mean moving away from intervention of the church between the government and God. The government should act in accordance to the directive of the church since the later represent the government. The acting of the leaders on their way is the primary factor that has led to the occurrence of sins. In II Chronicles 26:19, the word of God indicates that the role of the priest was to form a bridge between the leaders and God. Just like in Hebrew republic where the Church was separated with the government but worked together to ensure integrity, the current government of United States is supposed to ensure that the bond between them and the church hence God is strong.

Conclusion

            The United States government has been ruled either by the Republican or the Democrats. These two political parties are led mostly by the liberals or the conservatives. The two ideologies are the main forces behind the enactment of various policies which some have failed to deliver the intended purpose, and some have been successful. The success or failure the public policy has been attributed to the collapse of the government to consider God in the leadership system and also acknowledge Him as the provider of wisdom in leadership. The failure of various policies has mainly been corrected through the enactment of remedial policies, which will facilitate change of the problem been faced.

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