Sunday, May 15, 2011

Religion and Politics

House Speaker John Boehner is a Roman Catholic, who was invited to give the commencement address at Catholic University of America. Recently, a letter signed by 70 Catholic scholars admonished him for attack made on the poor by the institutional Republican Party.
"The Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policymakers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it."
Writing in the LA Times, Tim Rutten reflects,
Even so, what this controversy brings into fresh focus is just how distasteful it is in the American context to turn politics into a kind of inquisition into any officeholders' religious conscience — or, for that matter, to allow religious conviction to blindly dictate political decisions.....

The seductive aspect of reductionism, whether in politics or religion, is the false promise of clarity. But just as meaningful politics can't really be reduced to a series of nonnegotiable demands or single-issue litmus tests, neither can genuine religion be reduced to mere ethics or a series of legislative votes. Church and state are separate in America not simply through constitutional tradition but because the tradition recognizes that politics and religion are distinct aspects of human experience. They often inform and, sometimes, challenge each other, but when they merge, the result is harsh and unlovely. There's a reason we deem "theocracy" a term of opprobrium.
But haven't the Republicans crossed this line, with their unholy alliance with the Evangelical wing, and the US Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops (which elevates abortion and gay rights as issues uber alles? Can we put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, when a faction of one party insists that its view of religion should trump everyone else's?

Discuss.

3 comments:

Fred Schwartz said...

all I know is should religion become inexoably mixed with politics I want to be the one reading the Bible!

Counterlight said...

Even without the religious element, this is a moral issue about the responsibility of government to all of its citizens, who are ALL officially sovereign, rich, poor, or in between. Officially, every citizen of the United States is sovereign and equal to HM the Q. Government is ours in every sense.
As those dangerous socialist radicals Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt pointed out, wealth is not supposed to be a precondition of citizenship and participation in the government of the United States.

Counterlight said...

Interesting how the official commentariat only complains about church / state issues when it comes to social responsibility, and not when it comes to enforcing a very sectarian form of private morality upon everyone else through legislation. God forbid all the Best and Brightest, the Wise Men on our teevees should piss off the people who sign their paychecks.