Religion, right and left

Here is another old-guy post, about how things are different from the way they used to be.  I can remember the election of 1960, when there was genuine fear among some Protestants about a Catholic being elected President of the United States.  The fear was that the Catholic hierarchy would try to dictate to Catholic politicians how they should vote.  Now, in the abortion debate, some Catholic bishops are doing just that, and they are being applauded by conservative Protestants!

What has changed is that the differences among the Christian denominations, including the Protestant-Catholic divide, has become less important than the division between religious liberals and religious conservatives within the denominations.  Within American churches, we are moving toward two religions – an ecumenical liberal Christianity and an ecumenical conservative Christianity cutting across denominations.

The disturbing thing about all this is that, with some exceptions, the positions of religious liberals are the same as the positions of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and the positions of religious conservatives are the same as the positions of the right wing of the Republican Party.

There is nothing wrong with religious leaders or groups taking a stand on politics.  This goes back to the struggle to abolish slavery or even to the Hebrew prophets.  Religion is about how to live, and politics is part of life.  But it is not a good thing for a country when the religious divide coincides so precisely with the religious divide.  It makes religion political and politics sectarian.

It may have been Voltaire who said the best thing for a country is to have many religions (because none can oppress the other) and the worst is to have just two religions.


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