by Kathryn Nealey
Government is pretty complicated topic, and when you combine government and religion, it’s whole different ball game. Personally, I know next to nothing about politics, so I was going into the Dine and Dialogue on October 13th to expand my knowledge on government and religion. I am Christian, so I have read a good amount of the bible but have not really explored much of the Islamic or Hare Krishna traditions or religious texts. Being born and raised in the United States, I have grown up with a negative connotation around the involvement of religion in government. However, the Christian text that was chosen featured the Romans taking over the temples and Jesus kicking everyone out that had bad intentions, which is really inspiring to me. The vision of Jesus, who is just some lowly human in the eyes of the law, walking in and kicking this powerful government out of his sacred land is amazing. There is more intrigue added to it because I’m used to not picturing state and religion together, so the fact that the state had gone in and taken over the temple astounds me.
In the Islamic faith, there is no separation of church and state. Their governing law is the Sharia Law, which is derived from the Quran and Hadiths. This law is interpreted by the religious books of their faith, making it impossible to make church and state separate. People in Islamic countries practice this law today, which is a stark contrast from the government that I was raised in. It is very hard for me to imagine what it would be like to live in one of these countries, because when I have conversations with people about my religion or my political beliefs, it is almost taboo to talk about the other one. There is a verse from the Quran that states, “If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on the wrong path,” and since the Hadiths are a group of books about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it can be inferred that these religious figures helped shape the laws of the Islamic people. This is astounding to me, because in the U.S. if you said “I want this to be a law because of my religion”, they would laugh you out of Congress.
The Hare Krishna perspective is very unique. They also incorporate religion into government, but it is done in a different way. The passage we read was focused on a sage who came to talk to a king about the king’s troubles. A sage is a person that has reached complete realization. As they talk, the king shows complete respect to the sage and even bows to him. The king’s actions demonstrates his respect for the sage, and shows that even though the king knows he is the leader of this land, he still recognizes that even he is not above the sage. This contrasts with the Christian text, because the Roman government was completely in charge of everything, including the sacred temples. Most kings that I have personally read or heard about are pretty into having power, so it is interesting to think of a king that is not hungry for power and actually respects a higher being.
From attending this event, I think it is safe to say that my mind has definitely been opened more. I was even able to learn more about my own religion while being able to be reminded why I believe in what I do. I never realized how connected some religions and governments are because I am so used to the way the U.S. keeps them separate. I love being able to see my culture and beliefs right next to another’s, because then I feel like I can reshape some of my own identity and grow as a person. That is one of the reasons I think events like Dine and Dialogue are so great.
Kathryn Nealey is a sophomore at UNF. This is her second year at the Interfaith Center for Worldview Engagement, and she couldn’t be more thrilled. She is majoring in Elementary Education. She believes that it’s important to learn about diverse cultures so people can share the knowledge with others. She hopes that by surrounding herself with the amazing staff here she can grow and be able to share her knowledge with her future students.