Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Religion and Politics

I can't remember a time when religion and politics were stranger bed fellows.

Oh, I'm not naive. It has ever been thus. Religion and politics are two threads closely intertwined in the very DNA of this country.

But this - this religious-political "War on Women" - is just flat out bizarre.

I'm old enough to remember the flap about the presidential election of John F. Kennedy, a devout Roman Catholic. He would be the first - and, remain the only - Roman Catholic President of the United States. (Please, God, that it may be so at least for 2012.)

Indeed, the issue was so white-hot at the time, that on September 12, 1960, Kennedy was invited to speak to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion.

This is the same speech that another Roman Catholic running for the presidency, Rick Santorum, said made him "almost throw up" because, he said, “In my opinion it was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square, and he threw faith under the bus in that speech.”

Kennedy said, in part:
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
And so, here we are, 50 years later, witnessing the "whole fabric of our harmonious society" being "ripped at a time of great national peril". Which, in truth, makes me almost throw up.

Thanks to Kennedy, the fact that Mitt Romney is a devout Mormon and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are wildly different Roman Catholics is not playing a central role in the debates as it did when he was running for president.

Indeed, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York appeared Easter Day on Face The Nation and quashed the idea that no one should vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon.

Make no mistake: Religion and Politics are the discordant notes we hear coming from the unharmonious music of the campaign trail as well as the Congress in Washington, DC along with State Senates and Houses of Representatives around the country.

And, the victim? Not politicians but predominantly the very ones that religion - and, a good democracy - is supposed to concern itself with: the poor and the oppressed.

The most visible battle is the one being called "The War on Women" mainly because it is a battle over erosion of reproductive choice and laws that protect women against sexual assault, rape and domestic violence.

The thinly veiled hidden agenda of this political war comes from two religious fronts: a highly funded and politically active Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops and a conservative Evangelical base which funds the Tea Party Movement of The Republican Party.

In that same television interview, Cardinal Dolan pledged to fight President Obama’s contraception policy - even though the White House modified it so that religious-affiliated hospitals, universities and charities would not have to directly offer or pay for contraception.

“We didn’t ask for the fight, but we’re not going to back away from it,” Mr. Dolan said, adding it put the church “in a very tough spot.”

"Tough spot," indeed. Especially since polls of Roman Catholic women consistently reveal that anywhere between 90-97% use some form of contraception.

Which, I would concede, is a problem for the Roman Catholic Church. It should not, however, play a role in dictating what is part of good, preventative health care for women.

I have gotten a good deal of flack from some of my brothers - and even a few of my sisters - about "buying into" the "myth" of a Republican War on Women.

Indeed, I think they are deeply embarrassed by the Republican Party. And, who wouldn't be?

It's easier to believe that the War on Woman is a "myth" fabricated by the Obama Administration in order to win votes than to believe that any Republican would actually believe in some of the stuff that's on the Platform of the (not-so) Grand (anymore) Old Party.

Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave.

Most of it comes disguised as "religious purity" - meaning that the church and her priests ought not get involved in politics.

I'd love to agree, except that the whole War on Women is being funded and fought by men (and, sadly, some women) who are fueled by their religious beliefs about the role and status of women.

It's hard to hear the logic of limiting availability of contraception to women while at the same time eroding a woman's right to abortion and not hear a "natural order theology" that leaves a woman barefoot and pregnant and dependent upon men to make decisions for her and men in total control of creation.

Which, apparently, is the point.

This has been the foundation of the religious and cultural ideology of patriarchy for centuries.

I don't know what's more insulting: that these good prelates hold such a low opinion of women or that they think we're so stupid we don't understand the religious agenda behind their political rhetoric. 

So, yes, I'm going to open my mouth. It's not that I want to speak up it's that I can't remain silent in the face of such blatant, bold, unmitigated sexism and misogyny.

Pierre Whalon, bishops of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, recently wrote this in an article in the Huffington Post:
The only way we bishops (or rabbis, or imams, or prophets, etc.) should publicly intervene in the politics of a democratic society is through linking our particular concern to the common good, not the rights of our particular religion. Nor can we argue purely from revelation: why should other citizens respect our opinions if we do not present them as applicable to all people regardless of religion?
I couldn't agree more.

I do what I do and speak out when I do not just because of my religious beliefs or place on the political spectrum, but because these two factors are linked to the common good of women and men of every religious persuasion.

It's not about defending my religion - it's using the best of my religion to fight for what's right for everyone - not just people who believe what I believe about God and what it means to be part of the family of God.

I and many other women  - and men of quality who are not afraid of equality - have been put in a 'tight spot' by these prelates-cum-religious politicians.

In the words of Cardinal Dolan, "We didn't ask for this fight, but we're not going to back away from it."

You can take that to the Altar as our Offering - a sacrifice of thanks and praise to a God who created us - men and women of all ages and races and nations and tribes and religions - equal.


Bex said...

Actually, the good cardinal and his pals did ask for this fight. They can blame themselves that the president's popularity with female voters is increasing by the day.

By the way, I just read that Santorum has dropped out of the race, so half your prayer has been answered!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bex - Yes, I just heard that Santorum has "suspended" his nomination process. I pray for his daughter Bella and their family, but I won't hide the fact that I am overjoyed that he's out. Now, we have to pray that he's not the VP nominee.

I can't believe that the Cardinal doesn't understand that the same women who sit in church and listen to him....pontificate....go home and take their birth control pills. And, in November, they vote.