...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, May 14, 2004
      ( 11:31 AM )
Wafer Watch

...or "Holy Communion, Batman!"

Whoever said that religion and politics don't mix obviously didn't have to deal with modern American politics. For us Americans who would prefer the two stay separate, we are being hit in this election season on two fronts: George Bush does everything he can to get the Bible into politics and the governing of the country in order to please his Christian Coalition base, and the Church is doing everything it can to influence elections.

I'll spend another post on the whole subject of how this nation, despite the protests of conservatives, wasn't established as a "Christian" nation and that the founding fathers never meant for one religion to dominate others (if you'd like a look at how we presented ourselves to the world early on, have a look at the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams - and try Article 11 on for size), I instead will focus on the recent arguments that have bubbled up over John Kerry's taking of communion.

Amy Sullivan had a great column in the Gadflyer this week about the attention being paid to this issue.

"Kerry Takes Communion on Mother's Day" was the headline on a recent AP story about John Kerry's Sunday doings, followed by the lede: "Democrat John Kerry attended Mother's Day Mass on Sunday and took communion although some Roman Catholic leaders say he should not receive it because his abortion-rights stance violates church teachings."

Missing once again was the accompanying story that begins, "Republicans George Pataki and Tom Ridge attended Mother's Day Mass on Sunday and took communion although some Roman Catholic leaders say pro-choice politicians should not receive it because their stance violates church teachings."

Also no word on whether George W. Bush attended church over the weekend.

She goes on to discuss the many reasons given by the administration as to why George W. does not regularly attend church, despite his proffession of devotion.

The point isn't whether Bush or Kerry go to church or whether they are allowed to participate in the sacraments of the church they attend - the point is that it is their own private decision to practice their faith and has nothing to do with their standing as or ability to be president.

The Church has made a huge deal out of Kerry's pro-choice stand and yet does not criticize republican pro-choice politicans who continue to take communion. The Catholic Church is adamantly anti-death penalty, and yet is not refusing communion to those who support state-sanctioned killing. The Protestant Evangelical Church seems to be pro-death penalty, but I can't quite figure that one out.

Now a bishop in Colorado has drawn what he believes to be a line in the sand:

The bishop of Colorado's second-largest Roman Catholic diocese has issued a pastoral letter saying Catholics cannot receive Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage.

(on a side note, evangelicals and catholics alike seem to have massive heebie-jeebies about stem-cell research but offer no protest over in vitro fertilization treatments, which inevitably kill thousands of already-created embryos a year.).

Okay, not even getting into the issues this bishop has chosen (euthanasia, but not death penalty?), the fact that he refused communion to parishoners based on how they vote is abhorent. This may be acceptable to fundamentalist religious folks, but it is unacceptable in a free society. For parishoners to be pressured in how they vote for their government by the very tenants of a faith they hold personally close is ridiculous, not to mention completely unreasonable.

I suppose though, that if Jesus lived in the US in 2004, he'd be sitting on a hill handing out fishes and loaves to everyone... except the gays and the prostitutes and the politicians and the feminists...NOT. He'd be hanging out with those "undesirables" and looking to make their lives better, not banish them from society. This dangerous mixing of religious requirement with the free expression of political viewpoint is not good for our country. Look what happened to Saudi Arabia under fundamentalist religious rule.

How a politician or a regular person chooses to express their faith, whether in private, or through sacraments with his or her church family, is their business. It is not the business of the church OR the government how we practice our faith, or even if we have one. Someone running for president can be judged on his ethical and moral record without judging him for how he practices his faith. Obviously, despite George W.'s public profession of evangelical faith, he has not exactly demonstrated a proclivity to value life or create peace in the world. So what one's religion is cannot be a determining factor in whether they are qualified as a governmental leader.

That the bishop in Colorado would demand political fealty in order for his parishoners to partake in what the Church has said is sacrament instituted by God is to act for a political view, rather than to act for God. And as for the administration's apologist pundits who continue to make a big deal out of John Kerry's taking of communion might do well to remember one of Jesus' parables. You know the one: about pointing out the speck in your brother's eye when there's a log in your own.

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