Religious Symbols and Political Exploitation: A Biblical reflection

Vincenzo Anselmo, SJ

 Vincenzo Anselmo, SJ / Issue 2004 / 24 March 2020

Religious symbols have recently been increasingly appearing in the political arena. Often God is exploited, improperly invoked as testifying for a political party or as a label to promote a party. The subject is certainly topical, but the problem has ancient roots. That is why the Hebrew-Christian scriptures themselves contain antibodies against any instrumentalization of the divine.

If, on the one hand, the Lord is the God of a particular people, Israel, on the other hand, the sacred text is aware that God is “holy” (cf. Exod 15:11; Isa 6:3; Hos 11:9), “set apart,” that is, “distinct” from the world.[1] The Lord says through the prophet: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isa 55:8). This God who is so close to his people that he intervened to free them from the slavery of Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land is also Other than Israel. An eloquent sign of this is the Tetragrammaton, the Name of God that cannot be pronounced.[2]

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