Now, this is just a speculation that you’re free to disregard if you like …
I was watching something recently about the Dalai Lama, and I got to thinking about how he was the leader of Tibet, and how that’s pretty foreign to our thinking. Imagine if Pope Francis were the leader of the USA…
Would that be good? I tend to think not. In fact, while I don’t want to say that the fact of the Dalai Lamas leading Tibet *caused *trouble for that nation, I think it was a contributing factor in the eventual takeover of Tibet by China.
Looking at it another way, I think it is best to have a secular leader who loves peace but is also willing to go to war to protect his/her country. (Although I was also somewhat critical of GW Bush, when he was president, for the way we went to war, but that’s another can of worms.)
The Pope is already a political leader, as the sovereign, elected nominally for life, of the Vatican City. Until 1871 the Pope was the political leader of a good bit (of variable size) of Italy (and continued to claim political leadership until the 1920s). It’s relatively recently that the idea of the Pope being largely apolitical came about (and primarily, only because of necessity, even then).
Writing from a country where our monarch is the Supreme Governor of the established Church and there are 26 of its bishops in the upper house of our Parliament, I don’t think it’s too bad. But that’s because of British political culture more than because we have a church which can (literally) lord it over everyone else. (Though hardly make a difference in terms of numbers when it’s time to vote, the bishops tend to have fairly erudite contribution to make to the debate)
On the other hand Iran is led de facto by its religious leader (we need not mention ISIS), and I’d hardly suggest either are stunning examples of religious-cum-temporal leadership in action.
Having the (earthly) leader of a religion also sit behind the Resolute Desk might not be unconstitutional (it would be unconstitutional not to let them as long as they fulfilled the other criteria!) but I think it is so foreign to American political culture that it wouldn’t work.
This is kind of ironic given that it’s more or less unthinkable for a realistic candidate for high office in the United States to declare him/herself an atheist (and heaven help US political discourse when the first Muslim candidate for president presents themselves!).
Would it be a good thing? That must surely entirely depend on the character of the man or woman, and the crises he or she is called upon to face.
In general I don’t think religious leaders (or frankly anyone with unbreakable principles especially with regards foreign affairs issues like warfare), make good political leaders. Here in the UK the current Leader of the Opposition while not Christian (as far as I can tell) is most definitely a pacifist. I don’t have a problem with this, regardless of whether or not I agree with him, but having totally unshakable principles is a wonderful thing for a man or woman - but largely a bad thing for a politician. The real world very rarely conforms to ideals. The reason why little actually happens in politics is because for any system to work, you have to compromise, and at best work towards your ultimate goals in stages. The most ardent anti-abortion President or Prime Minister couldn’t end abortion overnight, any more than the most anti-firearm President could confiscate everyone’s guns, even if they wanted to. It’s not politically achievable.
I think we’ve yet to see if as a political figure (negotiating with and within the hierarchy of the Church, for instance), Francis will be as successful in the long term as he is an eirenic one in the short term. He makes a first-class Pope, I’m not sure he’d be a great President.
Yes, I suppose I gave away my biases, both as a Catholic and as an American, in that first post. :o
Anyhow, today I got around to watching the second half of the film. (“10 Questions for the Dalai Lama” on Netflix.) Although I would recommend it, or similar films, to others, I have to confess that some things set off my “naivete alarm” if you know what I mean.