Mixing Religion and Politics

Commentary

In days past, it was seen as good manners to avoid the discussion of politics and religion in social settings. That’s changed, but not for the better. Today, we are almost always found in social settings only with those who agree with us politically and spiritually, where we can espouse our views on these matters without fear of being gauche or of being challenged to defend our convictions.

We luxuriate in the unanimity of our social gatherings. You know it’s true.

Because the public square does not provide that comfort, political debate rarely deals with matters of faith. Nothing of the sort in the 2004 debates, thus far. Has anyone broached the subject in presidential politics since George Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ?

Of course now we have the classic battle of the conservative Protestant George Bush and the liberal Catholic John Kerry. President Bush has been open and even outspoken on his beliefs as an evangelical Christian, and there has been much written on this topic, including The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1585423092/qid=1072373275/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/103-0163221-8350279

 

We’ve heard only a little about the fact that if John F. Kerry is elected, he will be the first Roman Catholic president since John F. Kennedy, and only the second in the nation’s history. More has been said about the problem Kerry has with some of the teaching of his church.

Baptist leader Al Mohler writes:

TIME magazine recently pointed to a potential problem with Kerry’s Catholicism. This time, the criticism is not coming from non-Catholics opposed to a Catholic candidate, but from Catholic authorities increasingly frustrated with Catholic politicians who violate the church’s moral teaching in their political lives.http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=18011

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As California firebrand Bob Dornan commented to Sean Hannity yesterday (both Roman Catholic), because of the sexual scandals of the Roman Catholic clergy in recent years, the Catholic church may have lost the moral authority to hold politicians such as Kerry to account.

As TIME reports, “Kerry’s positions on some hot-button issues aren’t sitting well with members of the church elite.” The magazine cites a Vatican official who said, “People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there’s a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion.”

Kerry has been a stalwart defender of abortion rights, and he holds to a thorough pro-homosexual set of policy positions. Though he claims to oppose same-sex “marriage,” he voted against the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opposes President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment establishing marriage as a union of a man and a woman. He has taken confusing and contradictory positions in response to the same-sex “marriage” controversy in Massachusetts, and supports civil unions for homosexual couples. The Vatican is increasingly frustrated with politicians who run for office as Catholics, only to violate Catholic moral teaching at every turn. Will rank-and-file Catholics see John Kerry as a renegade? The question is certain to be magnified as the campaign heats up. (

In the modern age it isn’t just the Catholic Church that has faced the development of what Mohler calls “cafeteria Catholics”—believers who pick and choose the church teaching they will accept, and simply disregard and disobey the rest. The heated debates of the culture wars are drawing increased attention to the problem of cafeteria Christians of many stripes.

–James Jewell
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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church and State, Democrats, Politics, Presidential campaigns, Pro-life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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