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Essay about Religion and Politics

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A popular bumper sticker plastered on an untold multitude of American SUVs declares that “God isn’t a Republican… Or a Democrat”. Now, if an entire system of thought can be fit onto the back of someone’s car and is readable from five feet away then the issue may require some rethinking—or is at least oversimplified. However, that sticker echoes some of the most fundamental dilemmas facing believers and political enthusiasts alike in the modern world. Where does Christianity fit in terms of one’s choice in elected officials? What about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in relation to one’s social circle, one’s choices in reading material, or one’s favorite bands? The tangled enigma of religion and society is pressingly relevant in this present age, but it has existed for millennia. Jesus himself famously grappled with the issue when dealing with both the Roman government (“give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25)) and the hypocrisy of the actions of the religious leaders of his day (“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1)). The role of Christianity in society cannot be overstated in its significance in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The highly religious culture in which Stephen is submerged is fundamental in his shaping as an artist and intellectual as he struggles to correlate the spiritual traditions and customs of his surroundings with his own experiences and developing worldview.
From a very young age Stephen is confronted with a culture that is politically tumultuous and religiously devout. The identity of Ireland as a nation apart from England and the potent cultural presence of Roman Catholicism intertwine, influencing ...


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...spection has resulted in an undeniable self-centeredness. While it is this self-centeredness that enables him to be liberated of his past and to embrace his future, the narcissistic qualities also result in his rejection of Cranly’s emotional pleas (when Cranly admits that he is quite lonely and wishes to be “more than a friend” (Joyce 218) to Stephen) and the desires of his elderly mother (she wishes him to take communion). These instances are simply casualties in Stephen’s necessary transformation into a fully formed artist and thinker, whose products may not contribute to personal relations but will almost certainly assist in the constantly evolving, eternal conversation concerning the nature of humanity and reality. Although he gazes chiefly inward, and although he has rejected the religion of his homeland, belief in a creator God is alive and well in Stephen.



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