May 28, 2007

Politics and Religion, Part II

This essay is not as focused as it could be, I think, but I basically agree with it. The separation of church and state is narrowing in this country, and it is entirely the fault of the faithful. Not only the faithful in high places (e.g., Georgie), but the faithful who believe they should be sticking their faith into something where it has no business. An especially egregious example of this comes from Mr. Dobbs' essay:

This week the head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, basically threatened his faithful with denial of heaven if they don't support amnesty for illegal aliens. The good Cardinal said: "Anything that tears down one group of people or one person, anything that is a negative in our community, disqualifies us from being part of the eternal city."

That is way over the line. It is manipulative and tyrannical, to say the least. Just because this jackass is a Cardinal, he has no right telling me what I should think or believe. He also strikes me as being incredibly presumptuous, as he's basically dictating who God should or should not let into heaven. I don't think God strikes people dead nowadays, but I know if I had the power, I would be sorely tempted to let loose a lightning bolt.

Even more to the point, he's violating the very Scripture he claims to believe in. There's a telling little verse which shows how Jesus reacted to those who wanted to put him in a position of rulership. The context of the story is following a miracle--the feeding of possibly 8-10,000 people with five barley loaves and couple of fish.

"When the people realized what a great miracle had happened, they exclaimed, 'Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!' Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him their king, so he went higher into the mountains alone." (John 6:14-15, The Living Bible)

I've heard Jesus called a rabble-rouser, and in a way I suppose he was; he certainly railed against the dominant paradigm of the day. The dominant religious paradigm, that is. If he had wanted to, he could have whipped the Jews into such a frenzy they probably would have revolted long before 66 AD (and been about as successful, no doubt).

He did not do that. He did not try to be their king, even though they were expecting--wanting--a Messiah to free them from the Roman yoke. Instead, he battled with the Pharisees and preached the only solution to the Jews' (and our) problems--the Kingdom of heaven.

This is further illustrated in what he said to Pontius Pilate.

"Then Jesus answered, 'I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of the world.' Pilate replied, 'But you are a king then?'

'Yes,' Jesus said. 'I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth are my followers.' " (John 19:36-37)

(Snarky aside: I love that last sentence. One wonders if the good Cardinal has ever read it. He certainly doesn't seem to be paying attention to it.)

It seems to me that if one is claiming to be a Christian, one should follow Christ's example. If Christ, while on earth, did not get involved in the politics of the day...should Christians?

James, Jesus' half brother, answers with an emphatic No.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4, New International Version)

Just think how different history would be if Christians had followed what their Bible actually says. (I'm not a confirmed history buff, so anyone is welcome to disagree with me on the specifics; but I think we can all agree that the Catholic Church and its offshoots have been far too incestuous with governments for too many centuries.)

The Crusades would not have happened.
The Inquisition would not have happened.
Galileo would not have been condemned and imprisoned.
The genocides of the New World would have been lessened considerably (although I doubt eliminated altogether, since there was so much racism directed against the "savages" found by Columbus and the Spanish missionaries).

At the very least, if so-called Christians had stuck to what they do best--helping the poor and preaching the Gospel (note: this does not include forced conversion)--we would have a helluva lot more respect from non-believers in today's world, precisely because we had not tried to force our beliefs on everybody else.

This is why I do not vote. This is also why I look at people like Cardinal Mahoney with a great deal of skepticism, because I certainly don't want him watching out for my soul.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a hard-hitting defense for the separation of church and state. I'm a liberal Catholic Christian, and I'm at a loss as to why my church is once again trying to unduly influence politics. I just don't get it. And it's not just my church, it's the Evangelicals and all the religious rightwingers too!

Whatever happened to, "My kingdom is not of this world"?

Matthew said...

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

--Leviticus 19:33-34

I've got to say, I agree with the Cardinal. The eternal city is present on earth, if only partly. The kingdom of God is now, and not yet. "Anything that tears down one group of people or one person, anything that is a negative in our community, disqualifies us from being part of the eternal city." We can take part in that eternal city here and now, by loving as Christ calls us to do. Or we can refuse to take part in the now-and-not-yet Kingdom of God on earth, by rejecting the bonds we have with others, by putting immoral law before Christian love. There are no national borders in the Kingdom of God. St. Augustine wrote a big-ass book about this, entitled The City of God.