Review of Church and State by McGlinn

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I’m a little over half way through Sen McGlinn’s Masters thesis Church and State: A Postmodern Political Theology, and I do plan to write a review when I’ve finished, but with all good books that take a while to read, I’ve been mulling some of the points over in my mind.

I picked it up because I’m looking at the problem of being a religious person in a secular, pluralist society as part of my doctoral work. McGlinn’s title may appear strange at first, given that the ‘church’ is a Christian institution, nevertheless the content of the book is McGlinn’s interpretation of Baha’i scriptures on the question of the separation of religious institutions and governance of nation-states (and potentially a federated world commonwealth).

McGlinn argues that it is a fundamental teaching of the Baha’i religion that religious organisations and states are separate institutions with their own spheres of authority. The role of Religion is to inspire, educate, advise, whereas the state’s role is coercive. Where a religion attempts to displace the state (as in theocracy), then religion becomes corrupted, due to the coercive nature of the state: we all know that coercive religion leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

{josquote}Where a religion attempts to displace the state (as in theocracy), then religion becomes corrupted, due to the coercive nature of the state{/josquote}

I can understand why the Baha’i institutions disenrolled Sen, without really going into the details. I think they would have trouble arguing that his thesis is wrong. Better to just disenroll him and speak no more about the matter.

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