Religion, The Poor, and Government

From the Editorial Pages of today’s Times-Dispatch, here are some items of note, and some comments of my own:

1)

“The left excoriates religious organizations when those organizations, such as the Christian Coalition, promote positions opposed by the left. Most recently, 48 Democratic Congressmen wrote a letter warning of resurgent anti-Catholicism if Catholic bishops refuse communion to Catholic politicians who disregard Catholic doctrine on abortion. In this case the bishops are not seeking to impose their views on anyone except fellow Catholics who are expected to accept church doctrine.”

The first problem is that it’s should not be the concern of Congressmen what Catholic bishops are dictating. The second problem is that Catholic bishops are picking and choosing their timing on when to enforce ‘church doctrine’. Church doctrine is a rather large body of work that few ordinary parishioners have a working knowledge of or would volunteer to obey if they knew everything in it. Basically, the expectation that parishioners accept doctrine should be limited by the difference that doctrine differs from accepted contemporary views. The more that church doctrine comes to light that has previously been unenforced, the less one should expect parishioners to appreciate it. Most church-goers go to church to feel better about themselves, not to be chastized. Maybe this is just my experience, but I have yet to meet a Catholic who is fully practicing the tenets of the religion. The way I see it – if you’re looking for something out of religion, it’s there if you want it. Some people can’t wait to practice all kinds of obsessive rituals and ward of all kinds of evil spirits and what-not. Some people aren’t superstitious at all and see church as a good way to make friends and help the community. Most people don’t want to get involved in contentious politics. Certain Bishops, though, who use their station as seats of political power to influence elections and even public policy, are simply doing what the Catholic church has, historically, always done – act like the world’s morality police, though morally bankrupt itself, with absolutely not basis for any such statement whatsoever.

Now, if a candidate, such as John Kerry is making a big deal about being Catholic and using that for political gain, then I say that he should follow the letter of the law when it comes to doctrine. However, if he is simply a product of a Catholic upbringing and thus relates to ‘Catholic’ when asked about his religious affiliation (like most Catholics I know), then he should feel free ignore the Vatican and any single guy wearing robes in general. You can’t help how you were raised and if you’re a ‘good kid’ you keep playing the part into adulthood as to make sure you get the goodies when Daddy & Mum-Mum pass into the great beyond. That’s just how the game is played.

2)

The following is from the same editorial, a little further down:

“Empower Hampton Roads does not merely seek to impose its values concerning the issues of the day. By trying through politics to “change the rules that bring the suffering to the doors of its churches,” the group aims to foist on others the self-imposed obligation of its members to minister to the poor and, simultaneously, lighten the churches’ own burden. It is an odd form of missionary work that picks up a cross and then says others ought to share the load.”

I agree completely. The central tenet of Christianity is to love one another. That’s open to interpretation, but Jesus says in Mark 14:7, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” Jesus recognizes that human society is broken into classes. You can shuffle the money around any way you want, but you will always have those who cannot handle themselves, cannot handle life in general, and many other ailments, calamities and suffering. These people will be poor – either spiritually or moneywise. The church should be helping, not trying to get government to do its job. In fact, that’s a far more dangerous proposition in the long run. The church would like nothing more but to have direct power over the citizenry. Why else do people lead or belong to a church, but to lead or be lead? Oh, yeah – that’s right. For the social club aspect. They just want to enjoy their spiritual party and not be bothered by stuff like poor people.

Another part of the Empower Hampton Roads issue that I would like to question is – what ‘rules’ are they seeking to change? How about this rule – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Or how about his rule? Survival of the fittest. It’s a bit naive to think that you can legislate nature away. You can, however, accurately observe and effectively respond to its effects, which is where – surprise – the church should be doing its job.

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