Elections spiritual and sociopolitical
Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke both recently characterized voting as a moral act with spiritual consequences.
The pope said that "decriminalizing abortion is a betrayal to democracy," since he believes the procedure denies rights to the unborn. Burke called voting a "serious moral obligation" and added that Catholics "can never vote for someone who favors absolutely what's called the 'right to choice.'"
If Catholics largely disregard the church's teaching (the 2008 Catholic vote for president went to pro-choice Obama), does what the pope says matter? Is voting a religious act or purely political?
Spirituality is relishing one's inner freedom as well as honoring the freedom of others. The state's responsibility is to see that individual freedom and rights are protected as long as they don't interfere with those of others. To choose a candidate for the state is not just one's responsibility, rather it is a moral and spiritual obligation as well. Religious authorities should refrain from interfering in the freedom of choice of an individual. Expecting people to follow a religious authority would not be fair on the individual choice for the process of democratic election; a religious diktat being utterly different from a spiritual assertion which rises from deep within one's conscience.
Religious persecutions often take place in the garb of following the Word of God. During the Witch-Hunts of the Middle Ages, thousands of women were wrongly persecuted, all in the guise of doing good for society. This pattern of religious persecution repeated itself during the Spanish Inquisition, when scores of scientists were killed due to their perceived wrong doings and heresies. Today, terrorists justify their actions by claiming them to be very spiritual according to a certain faith. Even today in some countries in Africa and the Middle East, it is saddening to see that laws exist that deny equal opportunity for women in name of religion. The discrimination of the Dalits in India, a group of people who are regarded as low caste and the prejudice towards them because of their caste which is determined by birth, was still followed as a custom by religious diktats until a few decades ago. This had no spiritual sanction whatsoever.
Utmost care needs to be taken that discriminatory practice and superstitions do not creep into society in the name of religion and spirituality. Any legislation or diktat need not be followed if it doesn't uphold common good of people and society at large. On social matters, spirituality should promote scientific temper, common sense and freedom of thinking rather than dogma.
Electing a state representative is as much a spiritual matter as it is sociopolitical. Society is not simply ruled by the twin issues of abortion or gay marriage. There are multiple factors that need to be taken into consideration. One has to bear the responsibility for his/her actions and inactions. By voting, you elect some person and by not participating in the process, you help someone else win. Therefore you can never escape the election process and the responsibility of putting someone in an elected position.
Perhaps society needs more personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. when confusion reigns high between the spiritual and social aspirations of people. Scriptures often are interpreted, misinterpreted and re-interpreted by various groups for their benefit and their impact is ephemeral.
The Vedas declared that knowledge is infinite. "Tatvu Samanvayaat" - When conflict arises between two instructions, you have to take into consideration three additional factors: place, time and situation. The Hindu and Buddhist schools of thought say that life is eternal and hence no one can create it or destroy it. More than the actions, the intentions make Karma good or bad. Also in Bhagavad Gita it is said, no action is ever perfect and every action has got some flaws. Common sense is to choose an action that has minimal flaws and provides maximum benefit to a maximum number of people.
There is nothing wrong in giving guidance to people to follow that which is right but it should not end up in a diktat where free thinking is obstructed. Spiritual and religious leaders are there to guide on all aspects of life -personal, professional, social and religious provided they have proficiency in it.
No one individual can claim to be proficient in everything, hence collective opinions on matters of social importance have to be generated from think tanks. One cannot be sure that even this is foolproof. One of the important jobs of a religious spiritual leader is to see that society remains progressive and not clogged with dogmas.
It can be challenging for religious and spiritual leaders to guide people towards electing honest and uncorrupt politicians. The Bhagavad Gita (Ch 18: Verse 63) which has been the guiding scripture of Mahatma Gandhi, after giving guidance on all aspects of life finally gives an instruction that is "Vimrushyaitadasesena Yathecchasi Tatha Kuru" - Knowing everything, follow your own intuition and do what your intellect says is right .
Posted by: SG108 | November 8, 2010 8:25 PM
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Posted by: ramesh_kumble | November 8, 2010 2:24 PM
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Posted by: Jacob_Ezekial | November 7, 2010 11:32 PM
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