Rabbi lectures on religion and politics
Tricia de Groot | Friday, October 29, 2004
With the election less than a week away, the Rock the Vote series wrapped up Thursday with a lecture by Rabbi David Saperstein on “Religion and Politics in Election 2004.” Saperstein began his lecture with references to past examples of religion in political, including Kennedy’s presidential campaign and the Republican’s belief that Democrats would ban the Bible.
He then touched on several hot religious controversies and concluded this part of his presentation by saying that “what is good for religion is good for American democracy, and what is bad for religion is bad for American democracy.”
Saperstein talked about the shift in voting patterns in America over the years, going from votes determined by ethnicity and race to today’s voting, which is influenced primarily by religion. According to Saperstein, one of the reasons why faith is playing a large role in election is because of this recent breakdown of voting patterns.
The focus of the lecture then shifted to an illustration of Judaism.
Saperstein described Judaism “not really as an evangelizing faith” and as a people not mandated to Judaize America. At the same time, however, the Jewish faith is one that believes in “the perfectibility of human beings and human society,” and while they don’t believe that they can make the world perfect, “we could constantly be perfecting the world.”
The Jewish people were described as being believers in “what we own we own a trust relationship with God,” and are thus required to share God’s wealth with those less fortunate.
“[Therefore], one political sin was sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing,” Saperstein said.
The final issue that Saperstein addressed was that of Church and State. Saperstein first pointed out that America is unique in that it says citizens’ rights are not something given by the government but rather something entrusted to the government to protect, and this has given Jews more rights than they have known anywhere else.
“America is the greatest nation in the world for us because of religious identity in connection with the state,” Saperstein said.
Saperstein emphasized how the separation of Church and State in the United States has actually encouraged religion because, according to Saperstein, “government sponsorship has weakened religion in everyplace it has existed.”
Finally, Saperstein left the audience with five rules regarding the relationship, or lack thereof, between church and state and how this might play into the present political scene.