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Politics and Religion

These are the two words that seem to cause the most conflict in the earth today. On this Independence Day (for Americans) I thought I would share on these two subjects.

Here in the U.S. the Presidential political season is beginning to warm up.  Republicans, Democrats and everyone else are unveiling their, “How I would do it better” proposals to voters across the nation.  Rhetoric, clichés and grandiose promises fill the airwaves, the internet and every other form of media. Some choose to lead with messages of change for a brighter future while others choose to lead with fear of a dismal future. All sides seem to make valid points at some point in their speech and all sides also seem to say things that cause your eyebrows to rise in disbelief.  There are many issues that candidates and parties choose to champion or oppose; some of them with clear biblical guidelines and others coming in the form of preferred style and form of government. 

Is there a candidate, cause or set of issues that we as followers of Christ should be behind? Should our faith in Christ be the key influencer of our selections in the ballot box? Can we separate moral, social, financial and political agendas to justify our selection and support?  Is there guidance from scripture concerning our participation in the civil arena?

Let’s try to break this down into a few different sections and then pull it all together at the end. I want to look at the moral side of politics; i.e., the issues that will appear on the ballot and the key moral issues that candidates pledge their support or opposition for. I want to look at taxes, governmental size and style.  I also want to look at our obligation as Christians to be involved in the affairs of our society.  As always, I will use scripture to illustrate the points that I make.

Before we move any further I think it is important to say that the God of the Bible is not a member of a political party.  The God of the Bible does not have an earthly nationality. The God of the Bible’s rule supersedes the governments of our nations (Psalm 24:1). As followers of Christ we have been called from every nation on earth (Revelation 5:9).  We are the church; the Ecclesia – and our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to establish the Kingdom of God here on the earth through the preaching of the Gospel.  We are not call to build a nation but a nation within the nations.  Our movement is not a movement of people in the political arena but a movement of people towards God.

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

The Bible predicts that Christ will establish a theocratic government at His second advent (Revelation 19). The New Testament does not speak of a Christian nation or a Christian government prior to this event.  The governmental systems of our nations can never establish the church nor can they further the cause of Christ.  As believers we cannot look to elected officials or propositions on a ballot to bring men and women to belief in Christ. Conversely the governments of our nations have the ability to create freedom to preach the gospel without persecution or prosecution or they have the ability to impede or outlaw the free exercise of our faith.  It is to this goal that we as followers of Christ must work civilly and prayerfully to either maintain or secure; to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ may be freely preached in our nation.

Moral & Social Issues

Morality is a term that is often overused or misused in public discourse today.  There is no end of debate on what is right and wrong or even if there is a right or wrong. There are causes for and against multiple issues that scripture provides clear direction on.  It is these types of scenarios that we as followers of Christ must find ourselves agreeing with the Word of God when we stand in the ballot box to cast our votes.

One of the most relevant scriptures on this subject is found in Second John:

If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work. (2 John 10-11)

As followers of Christ we cannot support candidates, propositions or policies that violate the truth of God’s word and declare that which the Bible teaches to be sin to be OK.

Governmental Issues

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There are no political candidates who represent a complete biblical worldview and far too often we are forced to elect the lesser of two evils. It is in these times that we must still stand for what is righteous, what is good and what is true. There will never be a political savior in your nation who will solve all of the problems you face and there will never be a government that is pure. We have been redeemed from this world’s system for a reason and we must remain conscious that even though we live in this world we are no longer of this world. (John 15:19). We must preach, pray, live and work to further the message of Christ at every level of society but must also remain cognizant of the fact that the system of the world is opposed to what we are doing. We cannot change the system; we preach Christ so that people’s hearts can be changed.

The Christian Right

Hot button issues in many nations are items like Abortion, Homosexual Marriage and Doctor Assisted Suicide. The curriculums of elementary schools, secondary schools and universities are also frequent battlegrounds for Christians in politics. There is also great debate over social welfare programs, immigration, healthcare and taxation. Each of these issues affects the lives of people; regardless of their faith. They are important for our culture, our economies as well as the fabric and future of our societies.

As a Bible believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ I cannot support any can political party, candidate or proposition that disagrees with God and His Word. As an American I believe that our political and social landscape has significantly deteriorated to the point where our nation will no longer be able to maintain its status of prosperity and leadership in the affairs of the world unless there are significant changes. There are far too many men and women who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ in our nation to expect that the policies of our nation will be righteous and congruent with biblical teaching.

This does not mean that we should abandon hope but it does mean that the need for a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in our nations has never been greater. Political change will not provide the necessary catalyst for changing the heart of a nation. A true revival of divine origin is required to change the heart of our nations. It is only then that we will elect a representative who can change our governments to reflect the demands of its people.

The message of Christ should be the first thing that comes to the minds of unbelievers when they hear the term Christian. Politicians, preachers and lobbyist have turned the first thoughts of many into biblical stances on Abortion, Homosexuality and other Moral/Social issues when speaking of Christianity. This has done our cause a great disservice. Arguing political, moral and social stances without the cross turns our faith into a political doctrine. As followers of Christ our first priority is to share the message of Jesus. As people receive Christ and grow in their faith the Holy Spirit renews their mind, their worldview changes and consequently so does their political, social and moral stances. We cannot reverse the equation. We must love God and love people.

Biblical Christianity

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

If we are going to be the Christian Right – our right place is foremost one of repentance and prayer for our nations. If we ever expect any true change to come to our nations, the change must first come in our hearts. Revival in our nations will begin when the church “gets right”. We cannot expect the world to embrace the doctrines of life and righteousness unless the church is living in the fruit of the Spirit and moving in the power of the Spirit. Cultural and political change of divine origin begins at the house of God.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:13-15)

These verses were spoken to believers. It is our mandate to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  The message of Christ follows the life of those who follow Christ.  It is the life we live and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives that creates authentic hunger and thirst for the message of the cross. Why are we different? Where does the love, joy, peace, etc. come from in our lives? What is the source of integrity? What motivates our compassion?

 

Obligations of Believers

There are two primary passages of scripture that provide guidance and direction for followers of Christ in relationship to their government in the New Testament.

Pray

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Obey the Law

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:1-7)

Conclusion

This is a challenging subject to write about from a completely biblical perspective and I am sure this is a challenging subject to read about from a completely biblical perspective. Each of us has political beliefs and opinions and there is a high probability that we agree on some things and disagree on others. As followers of Christ we must work diligently to maintain focus on the core of who we are. Our identity in Christ is the most important aspect of our lives and if it is not then we are truly not followers of Christ.

Our faith influences every aspect of our lives, including our political views and stances. The relationship between faith and politics can be looked at in a similar way to the relationship between faith and good works. Good works are not performed in an effort to earn or attain salvation; good works are the result of a regenerated heart that has already received the free gift of God’s salvation. Upholding biblical political views is not the pulpit from which the message of the gospel is to be preached. Those who have received the message of the gospel naturally hold biblical political views as a result of the change that Christ has made in their hearts.

So, here are the bullet points for this message:

Stand for what is right; regardless of the opinions of men
Focus on sharing the gospel and converting men and women to Christ instead of propagating a political doctrine
Pray for your leaders and the direction of your nation
Participate in government (i.e., voting)and obey the laws
Live the Christian life and fulfill the great commission

 

The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). Until that time our calling remains the same:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

My passion is to educate and provoke Christians to fulfill the calling of God on their lives (which is always tied to the fulfillment of the Great Commission). I have been known to offend with bluntness and sarcasm, but normally it happens by telling the truth people do not want to hear or be reminded of.  The motivation behind it is to provoke people to become more like Jesus and live the faith they profess to have. More messages can be found here.

Article from articlesbase.com

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Church and State: The Role of Spirituality in Politics, Hammer Museum


Frank Schaeffer, author of the New York Times best selling memoir, Crazy For God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, joins us to discuss his fiery evangelical past. The son of theologian Francis Schaeffer, Frank came of age with the Christian right, growing up in an evangelical/fundamentalist world with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson at the kitchen table. He eventually broke ranks with the powerful political/religious movement that influences the Republican Party and will provide us with his unique insights as he searches for a meeting place for what he calls “the scattered refugees of The Church of Hopeful Uncertainty.” (Run Time: 1 hour, 43 min.)

Security Politics and Regional Integration: ASEAN, MERCOSUR and SADC

Introduction

During the Cold War, Latin America, Southern Africa and even the dynamic Southeast Asia hardly figured in international politics. Studies on the Cold War politics and the scramble for security in other parts of the world, particularly in the industrial West mostly overlooked the Third World countries and their quest for security. Even after the Cold War ended, Third World security predicaments remain because of the existence of a very complex balance of power that is often precariously balanced. The current phase of the globalisation, as Kenichi Ohmae (1990; 1993; 1996) puts it, has become a ‘borderless world’ where economic forces and free trade have become the main theme of international relations. In such a situation, the Third World countries often have to play awkward balancing acts. This article is therefore an attempt to look into this Third World security predicament at three analytical levels – the international system, the regional and state levels. This analysis is done using three important regional organisations in the Third World – ASEAN, MERCOSUR and SADC. This is an attempt to reveal how security politics and regional integration are interrelated and intertwined in the Third World. In the process, it will contribute to our understanding of how these regional organisations cope and deal with security issues with the current phase of globalisation.

What is security?

Security in international politics is a moot point, and it remains so to date. For a very long time, the traditional thinking had been that “the state is and should be about security, with emphasis on military and political security” (Buzan et al 1998:37). This notion of security has been prevalent since the Westphalian peace of 1648 where the concept of the nation state was created. This view became more important during the twentieth Century with the two World Wars and the consequent Cold War that lasted for almost five decades. Following the end of the Cold War, the scope of security in academic studies has been changed with many “wideners” who argued that the subject needed to embrace a more varied range of threats and move beyond the traditional emphasis on the military aspects of security for the state. Such changes in perception have created debates between those still subscribing to the traditional thinking and those who wanted to “widen” the definition of security so as to include other nonmilitary threats too.[1]

Security in the Third World

Since 1945, many of the most significant threats to state security have become internal rather than external, a shift which has profound consequences for international relations. As Holsti (1996: 15) writes, security between states in the Third World “has become increasingly dependent on security within those states.” For the Third World states, security does not simply refer to the external military threat dimension but also to the whole range of the state’s existence which includes internal security and nation building; secure systems of food, health, economy, trade and environment (Thomas 1987). The Third World states, like all states are concerned with their own security, internal and external. But as they are mostly poor, underdeveloped and postcolonial, Third World states inherited their colonial economies, political structures and security perceptions. Some are pre-modern and weak, characterised by low levels of sociopolitical cohesion and poorly developed structures of government. The securities of these states are therefore shaped by these characteristics. To the authoritarian governments of the Third World, security also means countering internal subversion and keeping internal order at any cost.

The next three sections will deal with security politics and regional integration in the Third World mostly through the different dimensions of security at three analytical levels – the international, regional and state levels. Where appropriate, the security dimensions will include the military, political, economic, societal and environmental sectors.[2] Besides these dimensions, security concerns are located in both the external and internal dimensions. As mentioned before, this analysis will be done looking at how the three regional organisations of ASEAN, MERCOSUR and SADC deal with security issues.

The International System


The Cold War Period

The politics of the Cold War had dominated the working of the international system for a major part of the second half of the twentieth century. It is interesting to note that while the Third World states were unimportant in the global balance of power and hardly figured in the security agendas of Western policy-makers, the prevailing bipolar system and the preoccupation of the Western powers with the spread of communism and its containment exacerbated conflicts in the Third World. While conflicts in the core and strategic areas of Europe and North America were avoided, the Cold War turned out to be a hot one in and for the Third World states where the superpowers played the game of international politics. The Vietnam War was the clearest result and example.

The intensity of the Vietnam War and the increasing involvement of the Soviet Union and the growing threat to regional security led ASEAN to adopt a nonaligned policy. The Vietnam War continued to strain members’ relationships and threaten regional security. Communist victories in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam worsened the situation. By 1976, ASEAN was forced to contemplate being an association with security as its predominant concern. Thus at the February 1976 Bali Summit Meeting, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the Declaration of ASEAN Concord were signed. They agreed to “The right of every state to lead its national existence; free from external interference, subversion or coercion; non interference in the internal affairs of one another; settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means; and the renunciation of the threat or use of force” (ASEAN 1976). The reunification of Vietnam, the worsening internal security problems and the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia led to another security dilemma for ASEAN during the mid-1970s. Negotiations followed during which time ASEAN’s importance as a regional organisation to settle disputes and maintain security was widely recognised. Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia in 1989 and the Vietnam War was concluded by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

Meanwhile, the southern African security problem during the Cold War was exacerbated by the presence of apartheid South Africa, a regime which also adopted a strong anticommunist policy and came out harshly against any socialist orientations. Angola and Mozambique, having chosen this path, were particularly targeted. During the 1950s and more in the 1960s, the South African Defence Force (SADF) developed a national security doctrine (Total Strategy) stressing the psychological, social and economic means to target its enemies, in addition to the military means. The South African government established a framework for implementing policies which completely cut across all sectors of public life, called the National Security Management System. Louis Nel, then South African Deputy Foreign Minister, said in November 1982, “The Kremlin has actively supported the southern African Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements in their quest for power in Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The Kremlin is currently backing SWAPO, the South African ANC and the South African Communist Party who operate against SWA/Namibia and the Republic of South Africa, respectively” (Quoted in Hanlon 1986: 8). Using such words had two advantages – the policy of apartheid could be seen as communist-inspired and it demanded Western support as it was a bulwark against the communist onslaught (Hanlon 1986: 8).

The United States, being a great power, recognises Latin America as being under its sphere of influence. Beginning mostly with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 when the US President James Monroe warned the European powers to keep out of the Americas, the US has, in effect, reserved the right to exert influence and interfere in Latin America. This has been a policy factor for the US as well as many Latin American countries for a long time. The Cold War also cut Latin American countries (LAC) from the possibility of relations with other regions. As a result, many of the countries of the region lessened their dependence on the superpowers. It was the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) that shaped much of the South American regionalism. This can be seen as an indirect opposition to the superpower hegemony. Contrary to Europe, this part of the world has been relatively peaceful until the 1960s when the Cold War became a hot one with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. While several interstate wars erupted after the 1960s, the real security problem for Latin America was the Cold War, with the countries of the region progressively becoming an American zone of influence. Since the 1960s, the United States had increasingly intervened militarily in its own backyard and installed puppet governments.

The Cold War also ushered a dangerous arms and nuclear race. In the face of such a threat, in 1971, a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) Declaration was signed by member states of ASEAN. This Declaration can be seen as a reaction to the emerging multipolarity of the region with the USSR, US, China and Japan as the principal powers influencing events in Southeast Asia. Likewise, through the Foz de Iguazu Declaration of November 1985, Brazil and Argentina declared that their nuclear programs were to be for peaceful purposes only. Such action on the part of Third World states can be seen as their desire to keep away from the Cold War politics of interferences and aggressions from the superpowers that destabilise the Third World regions.

Post-Cold War Period

The decline of the Soviet Union and the change in the bipolar world had more immediate effects for the Third World. It witnessed the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower which has become even more powerful with time.

Politically, the end of the Cold War resulted in the removal of support for many Third World states and movements. The collapse of the Soviet Union has discredited the alternative model and ideology represented by the Soviet Union. This in turn affected many movements and supports in many Third World states including members of ASEAN, MERCOSUR and SADC. Economically, it has also resulted in changes in the direction of trade and businesses. The military dimension also produces the same result of redirection of arms trade, transfers and dealings. The post Cold War world, epitomised by the great power influence of the US, its involvement in Third World problems and conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan etc.), besides the complex web of international relations has and will continue to have an impact on Third World security and their regional integration processes. For the Third World countries, security concern has become more multifarious after the Cold War as it has become subject to more complex pulls and pressures.

Post-9/11 Period

The world entered into a new period of insecurity and threats after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the events that followed. Soon after, the United States launched a movement and led a coalition to remove the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The attacks also led to the introduction of “anti-terrorism” legislation in many countries including the United Kingdom, India, Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, China, Canada, Russia, Pakistan, Jordan, Mauritius, Uganda and Zimbabwe. This has brought to a close the transitional phase that followed the end of the Cold War (Wenger and Zimmerman 2003: 1).

For a long time, states and regional organisations had ignored and did not regard terrorism as a priority. While this is true for most states, it is particularly more so in the Third World countries where poverty, diseases, domestic conflicts and hunger had been seen as the immediate issues to be addressed. But this threat had been becoming more a problem for every state mostly beginning from the bombings in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Casablanca in 1999, Bali bombings, attacks in Britain, Egypt, Yemen, Argentina in 1992 and 1994 and other threats and attacks in all parts of the world. Terrorism can no longer be treated as a Western concern. It has become an international security issue where regional organisation must provide a coherent response so that the integration process and inter and intra regional trade will not be hampered by such threats.

The Regional Level

When ASEAN was formed, despite their policy of nonalignment, some members still had official alignments with the US and Great Britain. The fact was that member countries were solely responsible for their own security. Thus, much of the political and strategic alliances with other countries took place outside ASEAN’s structures. After its establishment, ASEAN was seen by the communist bloc as nothing more than a “western-inspired military alliance directed against China and the Indo-Chinese states” (Dixon 1999: 118). True, during much of the Cold War and after, China has been viewed as a major security threat by ASEAN members, which is why most ASEAN states want to see the US remain as a regional power. Many of them feel that US disengagement will create a power vacuum that would be filled by either China or Japan. But ASEAN members’ relation with China has improved considerably since the end of the Cold War. This new relationship with China was reflected in the ASEAN Meeting of 1997. It was held in Beijing. This new understanding was because the ASEAN leaders began to recognise the political and economic benefits of closer ties with China easily outweigh any military risks.

The end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the formation of the SADC and its attempt to reconcile differences between erstwhile states of divergent policies and regimes were significant developments for southern African security. At the Gaborone Summit of 1996 of the SADC heads of government and state, the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security (OPDS) was launched. For the first time since the SADC was established, the region now had stable regional security architecture. The Inter-State Defense and Security Committee (ISDSC) which had been established in 1994 was incorporated into the newly found OPDS. In 2003, a Mutual Defence Pact was signed by SADC members. This was an official commitment by SADC to function as a collective defence organisation. While “International terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… play as good as no role at all in the region” (Steinhilber 2006:11), the problem of HIV/AIDS is a big concern for all African states. This creates instability and as a result affects regional integration. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been a major factor and issue that raises a big concern for southern African states at present. This problem is clearly reflected in the statement of Prega Ramsamy (2001: 35), the former Secretary-General of the SADC when he said that, “the [HIV/AIDS] pandemic continues to escalate in our Community. Available statistics indicate that the rates of infected people in the region could be as high as one in five in some member states. At least four member states have rates higher than 400 per 100,000 population indicating the magnitude of the problem.” The SADC members have committed themselves to collectively fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in an urgent manner (SADC 2003).

Improved relations, the changed security agendas and the process of democratisation in Latin America since the late 1980s and early 1990s have led to a newly shared perception of a vision for Latin America. The Treaty of Asunción established MERCOSUR in March 1991. With the admission of Bolivia and Chile, MERCOSUR expanded to represent 230 million inhabitants, that is, 45 per cent of the population of Latin America. Though the countries of the southern cone do not face much external threats, closer economic ties and open borders often cause security problems for their neighbours. As the military has taken new tasks, the problem is whether a balance is maintained between member countries in matters of security responsibilities and management. Argentina and Brazil are also opposed to the idea of the institutionalisation of the conference of American defense ministers. This explicitly implies that they are against a continental security system. Though they explain that the countries of the continent are too different, it can also imply that the two most powerful states in the Southern Cone desire to wield their influence on other members of the MERCOSUR and on the functioning of the regional integration arrangement itself. Paraguay and Uruguay favour a joint manoeuvre and want an advisory body for this purpose because they are afraid that Argentina and Brazil could use their nuclear technology for their own ends despite nuclear treaties. Brazil is also said to have its own nuclear project. Chile meanwhile opted to have an autonomous defense policy. On the economic front, the MERCOSUR countries are yet to achieve security – the Brazilian Real devaluation of 1999 and other financial crises in Argentina and Brazil being cases in point. These crises have even led the MERCOSUR members to question its existence.

The State Level

An analysis of Third World security at the state level encounters enormous problems because of the vast dimensions of security and differences in the perceptions and conditions in these states. Security for these states always goes beyond the common issue of the state’s ability to protect its resources and borders and involves the dimensions of food, environment, economy, elites, society, culture and the legitimacy and survival of the states and regimes. In other words, the whole dimensions of military, political, economic, societal and environmental securities are all equally important for the Third World. In recent years, the problem of transnational crime, drug trafficking and terrorism have also added to the security dilemma of these states.

Firstly, the role played by the armed forces is vital for regimes and governments in ensuring and maintaining their sovereignty, ideology and legitimacy. This political role of the military in the Third World coupled with the weakness of government institutions have led armed groups and the paramilitary forces to gain more power and influence. In the case of Thailand, military coups after military coups have happened because of the extremely powerful political position that the military enjoyed. In Indonesia too, the longevity of regimes depended on controlling the military. The military has also been used to gain more power even illegitimately. This in turn leads to the use of more military might against opposition forces leading to the deaths of thousands. This type of military adventurism and use of the military is particularly widespread in Africa. For example, in August 1998, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia decided to take part in an intervention operation in the DRC to fight against rebel forces. This intervention happened based on the request of President Laurent Kabila who came to power through military force. In most parts of the world, the militarisation of these problems and the new role that the military began to play ironically led to more insecurity for the civilian population. Such roles as played by the military could bring them into contact with the civilian population and increase the chances of human rights violations. It could also bring them into direct confrontation with the people (Pion-Berlin 2000). But as a whole, the political role that the military played had immensely reduced since the process of democratisation began.

In addition to the secessionist movements, ethnic violence and internal unrest, the states of ASEAN are susceptible to economic crises and are economically unstable. Monetary security has not been achieved. For example, the Thai economy underwent a severe economic crisis during the 1970s and early 1980s that led the economy to the verge of collapse. Several reforms were initiated under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank through which the Thai economy slowly recovered. The Asian Crisis of the late 1990s also had severe effects on the economies of these states.

Environmentally, over exploitation of resources and the limited concern paid to the environment has now been the subject of international dispute and one in which regional organisations are now more involved. As the ECLA (2001) stated, “The environment has played an important role in the production of resource-based commodities as well as in the provision of food and other amenities for the population. Nevertheless, an integral relationship between economic and social development and the environment did not form the basis for development strategies and policies pursued in the Caribbean. Since the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations, the importance of environment to trade and development has become generally accepted. However, developing countries have been concerned about proposals to bring environment and labour standards within the purview of the WTO. This was part of the reason for the failure to launch a new round of trade negotiations in Seattle in 2000. Environmental issues were again on the agenda at the Doha Ministerial meeting in November 2001.”

Integration and Security

From what has been said above, security and its perception, for many of the Third World states continue to be the main source of strain for any regional integration movements. During the Cold War, the international system had created a condition that led to the emergence of internal strife and, sometimes, wars. Such ill effects destroyed the thin fabric that holds Third World countries in their endeavour to come together.

The very nature of the ASEAN Way of noninterference, multilateral consultations can also be modified to a more useful and practical way. Instead of ignoring the underlying problems and skirting the issues, they must be directly addressed. Of course, sovereignty of a member should be respected, but as a regional organisation, it is also its responsibility to effectively deal with a member’s problems in a constructive way. Linked to all of these is the problem that ASEAN regionalism faced. It lacked in capacity and resources. These limitations are augmented by charter constraints which accord a high priority to principles like sovereignty and noninterference. In such a situation, prospects for cooperation are further reduced. Even as ASEAN had “come to be regarded as one of the most successful experiments in regionalism in the developing world” (Acharya 1993: 3), ASEAN Way or ASEAN’s informal process of noninterference has come under severe criticism. Because of these reasons, some have commented that its “central purpose seemed to consist in concealing fundamental differences of view among its members under the guise of consensus and non-interference” and that “The ASEAN Way” did not deal with underlying tensions; it simply ignored them” (Jones and Smith 2002: 103, 108).

The Southern African scenario was quite different from that of ASEAN. For many years, the SADCC member states had faced the brunt of South Africa’s ‘Total Strategy’ of destabilisation and blackmail. From the 1990s, new hopes emerged within the region. But hope and reality often go their separate ways. Therefore, for the SADC to continue as a strong regional organisation, the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation (OPDSC) should not be allowed to function as its predecessor, the OPDS. Members’ suspicion of each other can be removed through a series of confidence building measures, and the adoption of a system of shared leadership. For the OPDSC to be effective, it needs to adopt a concept of security that takes into account military, political, social, economic and environmental issues. Mutual suspicion still remains in southern Africa that led to diverse perception of security. Southern African states have not yet shared common values and visions too. An optimistic outcome that can be ascertained from the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO) is that the SADC seem to have abandoned the narrow view of security that was prevalent during the Cold War period. Its agenda now includes both the politico-military threats (inter-state war, internal war, large-scale human rights abuses, war crimes against humanity, genocide, coups d’état and other forms of illegal seizure of power, poor governance and abuse of power, dangers of instability accompanying political transition periods and attacks on democratic institutions) and non-military threats (food security, mass movements of refugees, illegal migrants, humanitarian and natural disasters, disease, poverty and underdevelopment and ecological degradation) (Hammerstad 2005: 7). Another major issue for southern Africa in recent times has been the problem of AIDS/HIV. Interaction and cooperation between people, individual, parties, leaders and government will help a great deal. It is now up to the states to gather pace and start the process of confidence building and cooperation in the military, political, social, economic and cultural fields.

By the 1990s, many of the erstwhile interstate conflicts in Latin America (Argentina-Chile, Peru-Ecuador, El Salvador-Honduras, Chile-Peru) had been diplomatically resolved. The policies of rapprochements followed both by Brazil and Argentina had also paid dividends leading to the eventual formation of MERCOSUR, one of the biggest economic groupings in the world, eventually representing 45% of the population of Latin America. Democratic institutions in Latin America being relatively new, they are weak in their structures paving the way for nonstate actors to wreak havoc (Steinhilber 2006: 7). The internal problems therefore include drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, organised crime, environment, natural disasters, social deprivation, transnational crime, guerrilla organisations, state dysfunction and counterrevolutionary violent activities that in many cases lead to militarisation and confrontations between groups. The key risk factors for Latin America after the Cold War are associated with lack of governance, instability, and weak democratic institutionalisation (Aravena 2004: 6). Let not the mere formation of MERCOSUR be the end. Instead of relying on mere rhetoric and ideologies, the member states must work collectively in a cooperative spirit and tackle these enormous problems head on.

As a whole, the regions of Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and South America have peculiar kinds of security concerns different from the Western idea of security. For them, security does not alone imply being safe from external threat and having a huge stockpile or arsenal; it also means being secured from internal subversion. It also means regime maintenance and continuance, secure systems of food, health, trade and development. All these problems are interlinked. These problems challenge the legitimacy of governments which in turn results in ineffective governments incapable of ensuring security for the people. But at the same time, no single organisation or model has managed to establish strong governance for these regions to achieve these goals satisfactorily. To create a new organisation to address these issues is out of the question. The existing ASEAN, SADC and MERCOSUR organisations can lead the way in improving relations while at the same time seeking ways to ensure security for the Third World states, provided that these organisations become more proactive and sincere in their activities.

END NOTES

[1] To read more on this, see Ullman (1983); Hirsch and Doyle (1977); Meadows et al (1972); Ruggie (1982); Walt (1991); Mearcheimer (1990); Ayoob (1997); Peterson and Sebenius (1992); Lynn-Jones and Miller (1995); Buzan (1991a); Buzan (1991b); Buzan et al (1998) and Wirtz (2002).

[2] This is derived from Buzan et al (1998)

REFERENCES

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Aravena, Francisco Rojas (2004), Security on the American Continent: Challenges, Perceptions and Concepts, Briefing Papers, May 2004, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Colombia.

ASEAN (1976), Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, Bali, 24 February 1976.

ASEAN (2002), Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, 2002.

Axworthy, Lloyd (1999), Human Security: Safety for People in a Changing World, Concept Paper, The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 29 April 1999 [Online: web] Accessed 13 July 2006, URL: http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/foreignnp/HumanSecurity/secur-e.htm.

Ayoob, Mohammed (1997), “Defining Security: A Subaltern Realist Perspective,” in Keith Krause and Michael Williams (eds.) Critical Security Studies, Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.

Bearman, Sidney et al. (eds.) (2001), “The Americas”, Strategic Survey 2000-2001, London: IISS, 2001, pp. 55-94.

Buzan, Barry (1991a), People, States and Fears: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post Cold War Era, 2nd Edition, Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner.

Buzan, Barry (1991b), “New Patterns of Global Security in the 21st Century,” International Affairs, Vol. 67 (3), pp. 431-451.

Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver and Jaap de Wilde (1998), Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner.

Dixon, Chris (1999), “Regional Integration in Southeast Asia”, in Jean Grugel and Wil Hout (eds) (1999), Regionalism Across the North-South Divide: State Strategies and Globalisation, London Routledge.

ECLA (2001), Trade, Environment and Development, Implications for Caribbean Countries, Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean, Report G.669, 2001.

Hammerstad, Anne (2005), “People, States and Regions,” in Anne Hammerstad (ed.) People, States and Regions: Building a collaborative security regime in Southern Africa, The South African Institute of International Affairs, pp. 1-21.

Hanlon, Joseph (1986), Beggar Your Neighbours, London: CIIR, James Currey.

Hirsch, F and Doyle M (1977), “Politisation in the World Economy: Necessary Conditions for an International Economic Order,” in F. Hirsh, Doyle M. and E. Morse (eds.) Alternatives to Monetary Disorder, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 11-66.

Holsti, Kalevi J. (1996), The State, War and the State of War, University of British Columbia, Vancouver: Cambridge Studies in International Relations Series No. 51.

Jones, David M. and Michael C. R. Smith (2002) ‘ASEAN’s Immitation Community,’ Orbis, 93-109.

Lynn-Jones, Stephen and Sean Miller (1995), Global Dangers: Changing Dimensions of International Security, Cambridge, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Malik, J. Mohan (1992), “Patterns of Conflict and the Security Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region: the Post-Cold War Era”, in Malik, J. Mohan et al. Asian Defence Policies: Great Powers and Regional Powers (Book I), Geelong, Deakin University Press, 1992, pp. 33-52.

Matthews, Jessica (1989), “Redefining Security” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 68 (2) pp. 162-177.

Meadows, D et al (1972), The Limits of Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Report on the Predicament of Mankind, New York: Potomac Associates.

Mearsheimer, John (1990), “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War,” The Atlantic Monthly, 226 (2), pp. 35-50.

Ohmae, Kenichi (1993) “The Rise of the Region State,” Foreign Affairs, Spring

Ohmae, Kenichi (1996) The End of the Nation State, New York: Touchstone

Ohmae, Kenichi (1990) The Borderless World, New York: Harper Collins

Peterson, Peter and James Sebenius (1992), “The Primacy of the Domestic Agenda,” in Graham Allison and Gregory Treverton (eds.) Rethinking America’s Security: Beyond Cold War to New World Order, New York: WW Norton and Co. pp. 57-93.

Pion-Berlin, David (2000), “Will Soldiers Follow? Economic Integration and Regional Security in the Southern Cone”, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, 42 no. 1, Spring 2000, pp. 43-69.

Ramsamy, Prega (2001), “SADC: The Way Forward,” in Christopher Clapham, Gregg Mills, Anna Morner and Elizabeth Sidiropolous (eds.) Regional Integration in Southern Africa: Comparative Perspectives, Johannesburg: South African Institute of International Affairs.

Ruggie, J. G. (1982), “International Regimes, Transactions and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organisation, Vol. 35 (2), pp. 379-415.

SADC (2003), SADC Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Maseru, Lesotho, 4 July 2003.

Steinhilber, Jochen (2006), “Bound to Cooperate? Security and Regional Cooperation,” Occasional Papers, September, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Thomas, Caroline (1987), In Search of Security: The Third World in International Relations, Boulder, Colorado: Rienner.

Ullman, Richard (1983), “Redefining Security” International Security, Vol. 8 (1) pp. 129-153.

Wæver, Ole et al (eds) (1993), Identity, Migration and the New Security Agenda in Europe, London: Pinter.

Walt, Stephen (1991), “The Renaissance of Security Studies,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 35 (2), pp. 211-239.

Wenger, Andreas and Doron Zimmerman (2003), International Relations: From the Cold War to the Globalized World, Boulder: Lynne Rienner.

Wirtz, James (2002), “A New Agenda for Security and Strategy,” in John Baylis et al (eds.) Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The author has a Ph. D. in International Politics from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
His areas of interest are Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Latin America and writes mainly on the politics of regional integration in these areas. He also writes on issues pertaining to South Asia, particularly on India’s Northeast.

Lewis Black on Politics and Religion


ME OF LITTLE FAITH by Lewis Black On sale June 3 from Riverhead Books

Effect Of Religion On Political Participation By Latino Citizens In Us Politics

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Definition of political participation

Political participation has taken on a series of definitions depending on the author or the context. However, for purposes of this paper, political participation will refer to lobbying, convincing others to vote, protesting, voting and related activities. Usually, one of the most prominently used measures of political participation is the amount of people who turn out to vote; in other words, voter turnout. (Tippet, 2007)

There have been a number of reasons available to justify why voter turnout is low among certain groups and much higher in others. For instance, when a country opts to use personalized contact to inform people about the need to vote, then chances are that that country will register high voter turnout. The latter method usually entails visiting potential voters from door to door. Less effective methods include pre-recorded phone messages usually known as robo-calls. (Lilla, 2007)

In certain instances, political participation may be impeded by a citizen’s lack of  awareness on the details surrounding voting. For example, some may not know how to use voting machines or the location of voting centers. Consequently, this impedes their participation. Additionally, people may record low political participation because of certain cultural factors. For instance, it is likely that immigrant communities and ethnic communities may lack the basic language skills required to understand messages from political interest groups. Such persons may require translators and this makes them less effective in achieving their goal.

However, perhaps another more valid cultural factor is a group’s beliefs and values. When these beliefs do not fall in line with politically related ones, then it is likely that these groups may record lower voter turnout. In this case, the most outstanding factor is religion because it forms the basis for most belief systems. (Austin, 2008)

Lastly, low political participation may be caused by missing elements in the political system of a certain country. It is possible to find that certain countries may encourage only certain members of their community to take part in politics while others may be prevented from pursuing this because no one has bothered with them. These groups normally lack models from which they can borrow from thus making them isolated. However, for purposes of this paper, greater emphasis will be placed on the influence of religion on political participation.

1.2 Research question

The research question is: Does religion effect political participation by Latino citizens in the US?

2.0 Frame

This question can be further divided into three major segments as follows

What role does religion play in politics in the US?
How does the importance of religion in politics relate to Latino immigrants?
Do Latinos have poor political participation?
How do religion, Latino immigrants and political participation intertwine in US politics?

2.1 Project outline

There are a series of issues that need to be analyzed critically in order to answer the research question. For example, studies have shown that religion has an important role to play in society. However, there is a need to look at how this importance can be related to the United States. The latter issue shall be covered in the literature review. Secondly, there is a need to look into the extent of political participation by the Latinos in US politics. This means that an in depth coverage of the facts and figures surrounding the civil engagements will also be done. (Mathewes, 2007)Lastly, there is a need to examine some of the factors that could be causing these low voter turnouts. Additionally, the paper will look at how the role of religion is related to the Latinos. In the end, the paper will summarize what the link between political participation, religion and Latino immigrants.

3.0 Theory

3.1 The role of religion in US politics

Avowed secularists, agnostics and atheists belong to the minority group according to research conducted by almost all authors researching this topic. However, one cannot ignore the fact that their numbers in the United States are rising day by day. According to reports made by certain scholars, atheistic ideas are becoming important aspects of US political life. This means that the numbers of people listening to atheists have increased dramatically and also, the numbers of writings on atheist principles and beliefs have become bestseller lists. This could be the reason why the US instated the freedom from religion Act. (Keith, 2007)

In the latter Act, the country’s constitution is recognized as the most important aspect of political life and that it had been established in order to ensure that all US citizens were protected by it. Consequently, it should not be linked to any particular religious establishment because this will sideline the efforts of other parties involved in the political process. While the latter stance may make the US appear very secular, this does not undermine the influence of religion over the lives of Americans.

Religion within the United States is one of the most important social economic factors. Atheists may be trying to bring in other factors to this equation but one cannot ignore the important role that religion has played in American public/ political life. (Rogger, 2007)

For example, almost all presidential candidates affirm that they have a religious inclination. For instance, one of the current presidential aspirants; Democrat Barrack Obama asserted that religion should not be thrown to the periphery when dealing with political issues. Instead, it should be treated with the respect and grace it deserves. He also claimed that public policy should be related to religious principles that can be applied to all religious groups regardless of their affiliation. He believes that individuals who enter publish service should not abandon their religious beliefs at the door. These comments were not the first of their kind. Many other political candidates in past regimes have taken similar stances. (Sorensen, 2006)

It can be argued that the US is a highly religious society compared to their counterparts in developed countries. For example, a visitor from the European continent once asserted that religion was very important in US public life because religious messages could be found almost everywhere. (Miller, 2004)For example, this visitor saw a sign of a bumper sticker found on a milk delivery van informing passers-by about Jesus. Shortly after, the same visitor saw a certain notice pinned on a lawn requesting people to call a free number if they required prayers.

The latter visitor realized that even if the US law required separation of church from state, one could find that religion was part of Americans daily lives. For instance, a poll conducted by The Public Life Group and the Pew Forum found that a whooping seventy percent of Americans would like their president to poses strong religious beliefs. This is the reason why many presidential candidates tend to mention religion in just the right quantities.

However, the particular choice that individuals settled on was also highly different. For instance, when some people were asked about who they would vote for in the previous election where George Bush and John Kerry stood against one another, it had been found that some voters would vote for any individual as long as the depicted some signs of religious beliefs. On the contrary, others claimed that they would vote for President Bush because he was a Pentecostal and not Candidate Kerry because the latter was Catholic. (Cladis, 2007)On the other hand, some people claimed that they were not sure about their preferred candidate but that they would vote for whoever was more religiously inclined. However, other individuals claimed that they did not despise religion but that they did not want public policy to be enacted on the basis of religion.

Certain US citizens feel that religion has intruded into the stance and policy issues surrounding certain controversial topics such as

Stem cell research
Abortion
The Iraq war
Educational policies

All the latter features have brought about a lot of controversy because of differing religious opinions. Eventually, this has affected the rate at which people support certain candidates running for political or public office. (Espinosa, Elizondo & Miranda, 2005)

Some research has also been conducted on the link between religion and political participation. One such example is a journal article written by Driskel, R., Embry, E. and Lyon, L. the article is entitled Faith and politics; The influence of religious beliefs on political participation; published by the Southwestern Social science association. The objective for conducting the latter research was to establish whether there was a link between political participation and religion. The Driskel, Embry & Lyon (2008) used denomination and church attendance as measures or indicators of religion. Besides these, they also employed the use of certain behaviors related to religious beliefs, traditions and principles to find out just how related these two aspects were.

The latter authors did not restrict themselves to the two former mentioned factors i.e. religious attendance and denomination alone as indicators of religion. This is because restricting oneself to these factors alone was likely to camouflage the real influence that religion had upon the lives of other people. Consequently, this was the reason why they included other aspects in the study.

Driskel, Embry & Lyon (2008) found that there was a high significance of religious beliefs on political participation. It was found that when individuals identified themselves with a certain religion, then chances were that they would not participate in national politics. However, when one examined the degree of participation in religious activities alone, it was found that this actually increased participation. The latter researchers asserted that types of religious beliefs influence political participation in different ways. Consequently, it is necessary for one to study exactly how this related to a particular group or type of person. For instance, macro religious factors affected politics in that they changed macro political factors. However, micro factors or individually based religious factors had a small effect on political participation. Those who were deeply taken up by their religion were likely to be less enthusiastic about other aspects of their social lives such as politics. Consequently, this latter aspect was likely to participate less in politics. (Thomson, 2006)

Given the latter assertions, it is necessary for one to examine whether the same reasoning can be applied to Latinos. In other words, based in the findings of this former research, one should examine what kind of religion Latinos practice in order to place their political behavior in context.

3.2 Do Latinos record poor political participation?

Research conducted by Leal (2004) found that the overall rate of political participation among Latino citizens was much lower than for other minority groups or immigrant population. This research was done quantitatively among a series of locations within the United States. In this article, the author makes reference to other researches that had been conducted within the US. In previous quantitative work, done by Sclozman, Brady and Verba, it had been found that there was no significant difference between political participation among Latinos and other minority groups. However, Leal (2004) opposes these previous findings by asserting that there were indeed discrepancies between Latino participation rates and political participation among non citizens within the US.

Additionally, the latter author also found that the rate of political participation among Latino citizens depended on the nature of the political activity too. This research found that a large percentage of Latino citizens preferred participating political electoral activities than in political civic groups. Also, the latter author affirmed that political participation in all the latter mentioned categories was likely to be much lower among Latino citizens than among non Latino citizens in ethnic minorities.

In this research, some factors were identified as causative in relation to low political participation. For example, it was found that many ethnic groups including Latinos opt not to take part in political activities because they did not understand politics especially in relation to the United States. It was also found that a substantial number had plans to go back to their home country, consequently, they did not feel the need to engage fully in US politics. On the contrary, Latino immigrants who planned on naturalizing their citizenship were more engaged in the country’s political systems than the former mentioned group.

Ethnic identity among Latino citizens had a large role to play in explaining why Latino citizens recorded lower political participation rates than other immigrant populations. According to this author, if an individual had a strong ethnic identity, then they were more likely to be involved in politics than their counterparts. Consequently, because many Latino immigrants lacked this characteristic, then chances were that their rates of political participation would be low. Additionally, it was found that age was key in explaining why Latino citizens had lower political participation rates than other groups. When individuals were young, they had higher chances of understanding English. Additionally, they were open-minded about the idea of staying in the US and embracing its social, political or cultural aspects. In close relation to this factor was language. Other immigrant populations who spoke English were more likely to participate in politics than those who did not. Since Latinos speak different languages from English, then this could be causing the gap in their participation rates. (Strauss, 2004)

Leal (2004) also affirmed that the latter mentioned factors were more important than previously mentioned ones. For example, it had been asserted that most Latinos failed to participate in political activities owing to some traditional factors such as;

Education
Length of stay in US
Income
Other socio-economic factors

The latter author claimed that these were not important predictors of political participation; instead, more emphasis ought to be given to the former mentioned factors such as age, language, naturalization status among others. (Cahill, 2005)

As it can be seen in Leal (2004)’s research, very little attention was given to the role of religion as a determinant factor in explaining political participation. Therefore, there is a need to examine whether this elimination was a deliberate one i.e. whether religion has no part to play in Latino participation in US politics or not. Additionally, there is a need to assert whether this was a miscalculation on the part of the author.

3.3 How the importance of religion relates to Latinos

Verba, Scholzman and Brady found that social economic activities have minimal roles to play in determining political participation. They claimed that one should look at churches as forms of civic associations. In other words, one was able to gain civil skills from church attendance. Consequently, it is possible for these particular church attendants to create their own forms of memberships and experiences depending on these churches. Consequently, one can affirm that the nature of particular church can affect the type of civil skill acquired.

Protestant churches differ from Catholic churches because in Catholic churches, few instances occur when people are taught about civil engagements. Consequently, one ought to look for mechanisms that could assist them in the process of understanding just how a certain system of governance works or how politics is conducted within a certain nation. Accordingly, this could have led to the high cases of poor political participation among members of the Catholic faith. One can apply this argument to Latino citizens owing to the fact that they adhere to the Catholic faith.

However, Marquez, Frances & Wainer (2002) assert that there is a different way of looking at this matter. These authors explain that churches (regardless of their denominations) play an important role in promoting civil engagements. By the very fact that someone is going to church, gives an indication that they should be highly active in their civil engagements. This explanation solves the dilemma created by the latter mentioned assertion about denominational differences. In this regard, if denominations play a large role, then one should be able to see a pattern of varying political participation by denomination across the entire country yet such is not the case.

4.0 Hypotheses

Religion has a large role to play in Latino immigrant lives

Religion causes Latino citizens to participate less in US politics

5.0 Data

5.1 Demographic details

The latter can be used as influential depictions of the importance of religion among Latinos in relation to political participation. In this part of the research, more emphasis will be given to secondary research. This is because the factors under consideration are micro factors thus making it increasingly difficult to collect them through personal research. Examples of useful research here include Patterson, E. (2005) entitled Religious Activity and political participation; The Latin American politics journal. In this article, the author affirms that close to seventy percent of Latin Americans is Catholic, although the Protestant movement is growing by the day. This author believes that most Latin American churches do not encourage participants to take part in political activities. This is the reason why the issue of democracy in Latin American countries is under question. According to the author, Protestant doctrines are highly related to civil engagements and political participation.

If there is a significantly low number of Latin American from other types of religions that are perceived as more open towards political engagement, then one can assert that religion plays a crucial role in determining whether or not people will take part in the country’s political systems. (Dombrowski, 2001)

Demographic analysis will also be important in analyzing civic participation among the Latino owing to the fact that it will give information about previous electoral data on the Latinos. Certain aspects such as the numbers of people who voted in a certain election from the Latin community will be instrumental in understanding this issue well. Additionally, care should be taken to analyze whether these groups are actually passive by comparing the overall Latin population and those who chose to vote. These can then be linked to the religious inclinations.

5.2 Individual level analysis

Marquez, Frances & Wainer (2002) sought to find out whether they could link civil engagements, religion and political participation to the Latino population. In order to establish a relationship, they decided to conduct two hundred and sixty interviews of Latinos from various parts of the country.

Consequently, a similar approach can be used in this particular research. For instance, one can look for representation from a series of faiths in order to affirm that the views collected represent those of the majority. Denominations that can be chosen here include;

Pentecostals
Catholics
Historical protestants
Evangelical protestants
New Religious Tradition

In these individual types of interviews, participants can be asked about what their church leaders tell them about participation in politics. Additionally, respondents need to be asked about the nature of their political participation. In other words, they should give information about the last time that they had taken part in an election or a political activity. (Rienhart, 2006)

In depth interviews will also be instrumental in determining whether church attendance has a role to play in pushing Latinos to engage in protests, demonstrations or even political rallies. It has been found that a substantial portion of persons who have been engaging in these kinds of activities are usually propelled to do so by some external force such as a  civil association which in this case happens to be the church. (Correa, 2001)

Consequently, respondents will be asked about what they think about the church’s influence. Besides all the above, participants will be asked about what they religious leaders normally encourage them to do beside political participation. For instance, if these citizens are not guided to participate in politics, then their leaders may be telling them to take part on community related activities or other social activities. (George, 2001)

In other words, the research will determine whether the lack of enthusiasm for political activities is related to the process of departing from partisan political activities or whether it can be related to other factors.

6.0 Discussion and Conclusion

The paper has looked at political participation among Latin Americans. It has been found that this group has one of the lowest rates of political participation among minority groups within the United States.

The paper also examined the link between religion and political participation. It was found that the effect of religion largely depends on the nature of the religious activity and that macro factors were more important than individual ones. However, when one relates political participation among the Latin American immigrants and the role that their religion plays, it was found that most Latin Americans are predominantly Catholic. Their leaders spend less time encouraging them to engage in partisan politics and instead focus their energies on the issue of community engagement. Their concern is mostly in communal work and this has a large role in influencing political participation patterns among Latin American citizens in US politics.

Reference

Austin, D. (2008): The secular conscience and why belief belongs to public life; Prometheus Publishers, p304-356

Lilla, M. (2007): Politics, religion and the modern world, Knopf Publishers, p 45

Mathewes, C. (2007): A theology of public life; Cambridge University Press, p 167-188

Rogger, T. (2007): Must faith be privatized – religion in pub;lic life; Oxford University Press, p 23

Cladis, M. (2007): Rousseau, Religion and democracy in the 21st C; Columbia University Press, p 78

Tippet, K. (2007) Speaking of faith, Viking Publishers 203-260

Keith, W. (2007) is religion dangerous; Eerdmans Publishing company, p 80-89

Rienhart, J. (2006): Apocalyptic faith and political violence; Palgrave Mc Millan, p 78

Sorensen, K. (2006): Discourses on Strauss; Notre Dame University Press, p 13

Thomson, G. (2006): Opposing views of democracy; Greenhaven Press; p 48

Cahill, L. (2005): Participation, ethics and change; University of Georgetown Press, p 201-270

Strauss, L. (2004): Faith and political philosophy; University of Missouri Press, p 65

Miller, P. (2004): Politics and the first commandment; Fortress press, p 90

George, R. (2001): Law religion and morality in crisis; ISI Books, p 49

Dombrowski, D. (2001): Rawl and religion; New York University Press, p 45

Leal, D. (2002): Political participation by Latino citizens in the United States; British Journal of Political Science, 32, 12, 353-370

Marquez, T., Frances, K. and Wainer, A. (2002): Latino Religion and Civic Engagement: How and Where Do Congregations Encourage Participation; Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association; Aug 28th

Correa, J. (2001): Political participation: Does religion matter, Political research Quarterly; 54, 4, 751-770

Patterson, E. (2005): Religious Activity and political participation; Latin American Politics and Society; 47, 1, 36-79

Gershon, S. & Pantoja, A. (2008): Political Orientations and Latino Immigrant Incorporation; Arizona University Department of Political science

Driskell, R., Embry, E. & Lyon, L. (2008): The influence of religious beliefs on political participation; Baylor University Press, p 54

Espinosa, G. Elizondo, V. & Miranda, J. (2005): Latino Religions and civic activism in the US; ISBN 9788195056

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