Essay on A Role for Religion in Public Service

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A Role for Religion in Public Service ABSTRACT: In this paper I discuss recent scholarly work on ideology, mostly by Europeans, that exposes a secularist bias in current political theory, invites a nonderogatory concept of religion, and (I argue) justifies more flexible church/state relations. This work involves (1) redefining ideology as any action-oriented ideas, whether destructive or ameliorative, including both secular theory and religion, then (2) drawing on hermeneutical and critical studies of the power/ideology relationship to rediscover a role for ‘utopia’ as a social catalyst for amelioration. I then call attention to the relevance of ‘mission’ to this work. For in both secular and sacred contexts, missions are defined and…show more content…
This reconsideration involves two phases. First ideology is redefined as any action-oriented ideas whether destructive or ameliorative including both secular theory and religion. Then hermeneutical and critical studies of the power/ideology relationship help us rediscover the role of 'utopia' as a social catalyst for amelioration. As exemplified by Newspeak in George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four: destructive ideology is used not to convey information but to provide a truth-indifferent rationale for institutional policies and practices. Such obfuscation has been a government staple, not just in the former Soviet Union but in the West as well, where governments have misrepresented their coercive activities as fending off "bandits" earlier in the twentieth century and "terrorists" more recently. What matters for my purposes is that one might similarly appeal to religious beliefs to justify pursuing a goal that is not obviously religious at all.(1) Special terminology is needed, then, to distinguish religious beliefs from mobilized religion. For this purpose some writers(2) use the term 'worldview' (in German, Weltanschauung), and others rely on 'ideology.' 'Worldview' encompasses both religious and secular beliefs, as does 'visionof the world' or 'mentality,' which some historians favor.(3) But none of these implies a call to action. The term 'ideology', though action-oriented, tends to be associated only with nonreligious ideas. But some
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