Sunday, May 15, 2016

Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr. 

This website will augment and expand on those topics on  It will include interfaith issues in the broader context of religion, legitimacy and politics.
Religion is institutionalized faith, and for believers it is the primary source of those standards of legitimacy that define what is right.  Values, moral standards and laws are components of legitimacy, and a distinction must be made between voluntary moral standards and obligatory laws to provide liberty in law.  Liberty begins with the freedoms of religion and speech, and those fundamental freedoms cannot exist in nations that enforce apostasy and blasphemy laws.

Politics are about making laws and public policy, and that includes conducting military operations that are “an extension of politics by other means.”  In democracies where a majority of people are religious, politics are shaped by religious standards of legitimacy.  Politics are different in democracies that protect liberty with human rights and in those Islamic cultures that have no human rights to protect minorities from a tyranny of the majority.    

Secular standards of legitimacy can shape religions just as religions shape culture, and standards of legitimacy vary from place to place.  Beginning in the 18th century, advances in knowledge, reason and the natural law of the Enlightenment transformed politics and religions in the West, but there was no such transformation in Islamic cultures where apostasy and blasphemy laws continue to deny the freedoms of religion and speech and deny women and non-Muslims equal justice under the law.

One way to reconcile these conflicting concepts of religion, legitimacy and politics is to conform them to the moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.  It is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike that can enable us to promote a politics of reconciliation and restore legitimacy to our politics, both at home and overseas.

Religion shapes our concepts of legitimacy, and our concepts of legitimacy shape our politics.  If we ignore that reality, we do so at our peril.

See the following blogs on related topics at
Religion and Reason, December 8, 2015; Faith and Freedom, December 15, 2014; The Greatest Commandment, January 11, 2015; Love Over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, January 18, 2015; Jesus Meets Muhammad: Is there a Common Word of Faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims Today?, January 25, 2015;  Is Religion Good or Evil?, February 15, 2015; Religion and Human Rights, February 22, 2015; The Kingdom of God, Politics and the Church, March 15, 2015;  The Power of Humility and the Arrogance of Power, March 22, 2015;  May 10, 2015; Faith as a Source of Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, April 12, 2015; Religion, Human Rights and National Security, May 10, 2015; De Oppresso Liber: Where Religion and Politics Intersect, May 24, 2015; Liberation from Economic Oppression, May 31, 2015; Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity, July 12, 2015; Fear and Fundamentalism, July 26, 2015; Freedom and Fundamentalism, August 2, 2015; Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities, August 9, 2015; How Religious Fundamentalism and Secularism Shape Politics and Human Rights, August 16, 2015; The Power of Freedom over Fear, September 12, 2015; Politics and Religious Polarization, September 20, 2015;  Who Is My Neighbor?, January 23, 2016; The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves, January 30, 2016; The American Religion and Politics in 2016, March 5, 2016; Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America, March 12, 2016; Religion, Democracy and Human Depravity, March 19, 2016; Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery, March 26, 2016; Standards of Legitimacy in Morality, Manners and Political Correctness, April 23, 2016; The Relevance of Religion to Politics, April 30, 2016; Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation, May 7, 2016; and The Arrogance of Power, Humility, and a Politics of Reconciliation, May 14, 2016.  .


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