Election Section
Is the Christian Right?

Pollitics and Religion

by Joe Cacaci
published by Writer's GUild Magazine

Let me warn you, I'm in a bad mood these days. Over the years, politics and religion have frequently gone hand in hand, but it seems to me that the sordid little twosome has scaled new heights of hypocrisy and immorality this election season. For one thing, George W. Bush is the only presidential candidate in history to be touted as the Almighty's chosen one. Adams, Jefferson and the gang from Philly--a mostly devout bunch--separated their religion from their politics, foreseeing the soulless, ruthless, heedless miscreants currently in power who treat God as just another endorsement, to be trotted out when beneficial, and stuffed into a trunk when cumbersome. Meanwhile, their religious right anointers guide their spiritual path.

And by the way, just who is the religious right anyway? Since there are more varieties of Protestantism than coffee, it's hard to tell. One group that's easy for me to spot, however, is the Catholic contingent. After eight years of Catholic education and two more spent as a teacher in two dioceses, I ought to understand the reasoning of the Mother Church by now, but I don't.

Their latest gut wrenching behavior came just as the furor over the sex abuse scandal was beginning to wane a bit (meaning for me, that I wasn't walking past every parish in Manhattan wondering what horror was going on in the sacristy at that moment). The Conference of U.S. Bishops, in their infinite wisdom, took that as a cue to dive headlong into this year's election wars. In June, they released a statement in which they deemed any pro-choice politician "... guilty of cooperating in evil."

Reading the report carefully, I searched for any reference to politicians who support the death penalty--which the Church also believes is wrong--or about those who perpetrated the war in Iraq--which the Pope himself has denounced on many occasions--but came up with only a mandate that Catholic institutions "... not grant awards or honors... to Catholics who... act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." Hmmmm. I wonder then, how they justify that the Pope chose to honor the former Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, by awarding him a highly coveted post in Rome even though he resigned in disgrace for protecting pedophile priests. I guess shielding children from sexual predators just didn't make the cut list of "fundamental moral principles." Similarly, why was the naming of a new trauma unit at St. Vincent's Hospital for pro-choice Republican Rudy Giuliani, in August, acceptable? Does party affiliation trump the evil?

In September came more dark tidings from St. Louis disguised as an easing of restrictions (There was a time when the only bad news out of that town in September was that the Cardinals were blowing another pennant lead.) It seems that Archbishop Raymond Burke had softened his personal edict that Roman Catholics could not vote for pro-choice candidates (like John Kerry?) by saying that they could-- but-- only if the pro-choice position was not the reason the person was casting the vote, in which case it would be a "grave sin." Thanks for the clarification. I'll sleep better now knowing my fellow Catholics are exercising their constitutional rights unencumbered by theological constraint.

All this religious piety mixed with political doctrine worries me no end since I couldn't help but notice that the perpetrators of the September 11 massacre were all deluded by religious piety mixed with political doctrine themselves. To them, we were the infidels and the carnage was the miracle. Only a die-hard conspiracy theorist (many of whom are in my phone book) would equate the 9/11 terrorist thugs with our current political and religious leaders--and I'm not drawing that parallel. But I would like to scream from the bell tower of some midtown church that religious zealotry paired with government is a highly combustible and toxic mix, no matter what the religious group or governing state, and it's time to get a grip.

The term jihad is not owned by Muslim terrorists, the most infamous one in history--the Crusades--having been paid for and executed by the Catholic Church against, among others, Muslims. Call me a heretic, but no God or political leader I'd want to follow would deem any war holy. But justifying hatred by claiming Providential authority is a powerful strategy. I can well remember many prominent church leaders and politicians in our great land quoting scripture and whipping people up into a frenzy over the perils of racial integration. And although only a few fanatics nowadays would bemoan the Civil Rights movement (publicly anyway), the piety and passion back then was as virulent and self-righteous as anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-"unpatriotic liberal" rhetoric is these days.

So what am I left with? A constant headache, a global travel website that may come in handy on November 3 and this very sad truth that, while not surprising, is disheartening because it is so conspicuous these days: wrapping yourself in the American flag while clutching the Holy Bible doesn't make you religious or patriotic if the deeds you practice are immoral-- but it sure as hell can get you a lot of votes. And that, unfortunately, is why my bad mood won't quit for awhile.


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