Saturday, May 7, 2011

Should the Church Stay out of Politics?

The theme has come up a few times this week, and not once because of the fact that there was a national election here in Canada. The most recent time was when I was reading The Telegraph online from the UK. It was in relation to the Archbishop of Canterbury condemning the shooting of bin Laden. Some would say, 'stay out of politics.' I don't understand that. Isn't it equivalent to saying, "hey, let's found this organization based on God's Word, and then not talk about anything we learn about that Word"?

I'd like to say that this is just a tactic that the Word's enemies use to silence the Word, but I think there's more to it than that. You even hear it inside the Church. 'Don't preach politics from the pulpit,' is almost commonsense for Sunday church attenders. I must say I don't get why not. I want to hear who to vote for and why. I want to hear about how we can change this world to reflect God's Word very concretely. You might respond, "Yeah, but what you'll get is the priest's own bias." And I'll reply: exactly!

Is there something intrinsically dysfunctional in clergy that they are able to advise on the most important matters of life, i.e. how to attain salvation, and not on something quite trivial by comparison, i.e., to teach us about what these same eternal truths imply for whom we should vote?

I defy you to come up with a cogent reason for why priests should not tell you for whom to vote. Because there is something wrong with your priest is not such a reason. If there is something wrong with your priest, then he should certainly not be in a position where he is telling you how to get to heaven. If that is the state of you pastor, that is a problem of episcopal, or even papal, proportions!

I want to adjust the adage slightly, from keep politics out of the pulpit to politics must discussed in no place other than the pulpit.

I want to go to mass tomorrow and hear my pastor say, "Thank God that Cheryl Gallant was voted back in in this riding; thank God that the Conservatives of Stephen Harper were voted back in so that the forces of the culture of death cannot advance further with laws supporting abortion and the destruction of the family."

Why can he not say this? Because people will be offended? Offended to realize that the Church is adamantly pro-life, immovable, intransigently pro-life, offended to realize that the other parties are not, boo hoo hoo? Their discomfort is not the Church's problem; their salvation is.

Is this what it's all about? Okay, so let's not debate whether taxes are incrementally too high or too low - who would ever want to discuss this from the pulpit anyway? But you'll open the door to all those liberal priests talking about their inane, worldly causes, you might object. But isn't that a problem of having inane, worldly priestly, rather than the problem of politics in the pulpit?

Perhaps the principle of no politics from the pulpit is an old one that came out of a time when differences between parties used to be much less dramatic. Remember, there was a time when only the communist party would maintain publicly what the lefties maintain quite ordinarily today, like, we will run your family for you, we will decide how many children you have, what to do with your children, what you will say and think...

I was reading something the other day where B XVI was maintaining that the idea of natural law is essential to oppose the absolutist pretensions of the modern state. Why would we limit the efficacy of the Church's resistance to this absolutism precisely in the spot where it would be most effective? Politicians should be supported when they attempt to make the country more humane, and opposed when they do not. They should be named, and their heinous endeavours exposed.

Lastly, you'll tell me something about tax-status. Charitable organizations must stay out of politics. That's the tax law, but it's not natural law. I pay taxes. There ain't nothing to it. Man wasn't made for bread alone. Tax-free has gotten us precisely where?

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