Monthly Archives: March 2013

So You Really Want to Keep “Religion” Out of Politics?

Okay, I’m going to rant here for a minute. I ask your forgiveness in advance if what I’m about to say somehow offends you. Too bad… The politically correct gloves are coming off, and I make no apology for that.

This is called a losing, unjust cause

This is called a losing, unjust cause

I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics, most especially the gay marriage/marriage equality debate. It’s same old yada-yada that there is this “constitutional separation of church and state.” That it false. The phrase “separation of church and state” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. You can read all about that. It’s not in any of the founding documents, and meant something completely different from the “kick religious voices out of the legislative process” sentiment that is out there now.

To all the folks who want religious people to just shut up about the legality and Constitutionality of marriage equality or any other important issue we face, let me remind you of a few things.

  • Major movements in civil rights and equality in America were spearheaded and championed by people of faith, including¬†suffrage¬†and equal rights for ethnic minorities.
  • There are many strong proponents for gay marriage/marriage equality who are from the faith community. Do you honestly want them to shut up, too? [pregnant pause] I didn’t think so…
  • There are people of faith seeking to influence all kinds of issues, including the issues you care about, and are most likely voicing your opinions in the places where laws are debated and passed.
  • There have been awful times in human history in which the church’s silence was either purchased or coerced. A prime example: Germany in the 1930’s. Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence. Now before anyone flies off the handle at this, I’m not comparing anyone to Hitler or the Nazis. But the point is, when the voice and influence of the faith community has been shut out, terrible things can and have indeed happened.
  • Laws are statements of what we value, what we hold to be right and wrong, and what we affirm to be just and unjust. What informs how we make these decisions? Isn’t it our philosophy, our values, existing law and tradition, and our morals? For most, faith is foundational to how we understand all of those things.

Now, I don’t believe that religious voices should possess any more power or influence than anyone else. I don’t believing in forcing you to legally abide by my religion or religious convictions. But that does not mean we don’t have a voice at the table. Our Constitution does uphold, in freedom of speech, the right of the faith community (and everyone else!) to be a voice in any pressing issue. Our prophetic voices cannot be silenced, and no one–God help us– will ever silence us in any arena, especially the political arena that molds and shapes our laws.

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Why the Pope Matters to Me

In the last few weeks, I’ve been asked a few times by Catholics and non-Catholics, “Why does it matter to you who the next pope is?” The answer is simple: the Roman Catholic Church is the largest tradition within Christianity. Whoever heads the Roman Catholic Church as its Supreme Pontiff wields a tremendous amount of influence on the world stage of thought, politics, and spirituality. He shapes the face and attitude of the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. And in some ways, his leadership can influence the rest of the Christian Church, too.

Pope FrancisThat’s why today’s election of Pope Francis is an extraordinary one. The choice of Cardinal Bergoglio of Francis as his papal name is ¬†groundbreaking. No other pope has taken this name. St. Francis himself was not even an ordained priest! His life was marked with simplicity, humility, poverty, holiness, and a close relatedness to Christ and to all of nature. Francis is also one of the saints greatly admired by both Catholics and Protestants. Perhaps all of this signals a humility and greater openness of this new pope to Christians of other traditions? We’ll soon know…

But regardless, the world’s attention on today’s events is a striking picture of how tightly woven our global community has become. A leader of one particular establishment is a consequential choice for everyone else. And now we see the direction the Roman Catholic Church is possibly taking by electing an Argentinian (non-European!) Jesuit (first in history) who has shown a life pattern of simplicity. (He’s always cooked his own meals and taken public transportation.) He’s not a Vatican insider. (He was not a favorite of the Roman Curia.) He has spent his life in Argentina, advocating and working among the poor.

Any way you slice it, a man like Pope Francis could have tremendous influence on Catholics and non-Catholics a like. And that is why his election matters to me.

So, I offer my congratulations and blessings for Pope Francis, his ministry and leadership, and my brothers and sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. You have a Pope, and we all have a leader who will have a hand in shaping our world. My prayer is that he will shape it to look more like the kingdom of God…

 

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