Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emperor as Philosopher

Was wandering through a recently opened exhibit on the art of Ancient Rome today when I came across a statue that caught my eye. Well, in all honesty the very regular-looking contrapposto figure wasn't all that stunning, but the caption was. "Emperor as Philosopher" it read, and then went into some detail about who the (now headless) figure might have portrayed, but I was stuck on the caption. Emperor as Philosopher? Emperor as the foundation of academia and religion?

(queue bad segue music - but it is really what got me thinking and writing today)

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about the cross-section between politics and religion. I have come to some basic understandings in regards to my personal beliefs and how they play out in the way I act politically. I feel like I have done my part in sorting out what I believe for the most part and don't have to try to convince, persuade or defend my position to anyone but myself, except for the lively banter between friends. However, I've gotten tired of candidates' religion being the 'meat' of the political platform from almost any area of the political spectrum - "Yes, I heard you the first fifty times you said you were a 'Christian', now please tell me what you actually plan to do in office and stop posturing". (And if all else fails, I can check your voting record). I have gotten tired over the years of politicians claiming to be 'Christian' (or even 'religious') and not following the moral or ethical codes from any religion I've ever found. I've come to expect religious affiliation from those in office and don't imagine it will change any time soon.

My political/religious dichotomy lies not only in this learned skepticism but also in a plentiful history of political endorsements from organizations that end up leading people astray rather than educating them and letting them make their own informed decisions.  Perhaps it is because I am more worried about actual evidence of morals than someone being able to quote the Ten Commandments or perhaps I've just become too cynical to actually believe what Mr. Smith says on his way to Washington.