A recent poll by Ipsos covering 10 countries shows that the United States is by far one of the most religious cultures on our planet. While the new pope, Benedict XVI, laments how Europe has lost her way and is becoming a secular community, religious vibrancy among the masses is so high in the United States that one can hardly cover politics and not run into it. France was on the other end of the spectrum with the highest percentage of nonbelievers in God, while South Korea was second in unbelief. Only Mexico of the 10 countries surveyed comes close to the United States in religious fervency.
What do we do with our religious interest? In some countries, like Mexico, there is a concern about too strongly mixing faith and politics. The same hesitancy is true for Italy, the most religiously robust of the European countries polled.
One of the great calls to the faithful is that we must engage and influence our culture. Some critics credit the now-defunct Moral Majority with creating the newfound interest in integrating faith and civic life in the United States. But the United States has always integrated faith and politics. This was evident in the days of the Pilgrims. Alexis de Tocqueville noted it in the early 19th century in his famous study, Democracy in America. Faith in God deals with all of life, so culture and the state are inevitably a part of the equation. The question is, How does an individual believer best integrate faith into the surrounding political culture?
The Lessons of History
History can teach us much here, as can theology.
First, we look at theology. When Jesus told his followers to render unto Caesar the things that are his, he implicitly endorsed the idea that government has the right to exist. He also implied ...1
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