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Entries in Tim Keller (1)

Sunday
Apr242011

Religious Leaders Debate Religion and Government

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As heated political rhetoric escalates and acts of religious intolerance arise across the nation, a group of prominent religious leaders appeared on ABC’s This Week to discuss the role of religion in government and what can be done to promote civil discourse.

"A hundred years ago the social safety net in the country was provided by the church," the Rev. Franklin Graham told host Christiane Amanpour. "If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, 'I can't feed my family.' And the church would help you. And that's not being done."

Graham's comments come as people across the country debate the degree to which the government should manage social programs including Medicare, social security and health care.

"The government took that," Graham said. "They had more money to give and more programs to give and pretty soon the churches just backed off."

As Congress debates the federal budget including the plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which would decrease the extent of government involvement in certain social services, Graham concedes that churches are not prepared to handle the civic responsibilities they once bore.

In a year when "compromise" has been described as a dirty word in Washington and a congresswoman was shot at political event in her hometown, what role should religious organizations play in promoting civility and understanding?

"At the very least, we should be creating individuals who know how to talk civilly," said Pastor Tim Keller.

"As an institution, most of the churches have lost a lot of credibility," Keller told Amanpour. "So I think my job is to create individuals who can participate in civil discourse."

The governing principle of the separation of church and state traces back to the founding of the country, but its interpretation and the degree to which the two entities should be separate is an issue of heated debate. Even among religious leaders, the church's proper role in politics is not consistent.

"I personally think the church, as the church, ought to be less concerned about speaking to politics and more concerned about service," Keller said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton had a very different take on the role of the church in politics, claiming that spiritual leaders have the obligation to build a moral and ethical framework for heated political discussions.

"I think the church must set first a moral tone," Sharpton said. "All religions are based on how we interact one to another as human beings... That should be reflected in the public policies that we support."

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