Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Pandering the Faith

One of the things people on the left have trouble with is the right's view of religion. Not everybody on the right is religious, but we all know that it is not a pick and choose sort of thing to give you the warm fuzzies, like some of the left's approach to spirituality. It's a whole-life committment for many of us, although we no doubt do it as imperfectly as anybody. It's a committment to a view that says there is natural law, that there are real rights and wrongs, and not just consensus viewpoints about what is socially acceptable.

Kerry, although he likes to talk about himself as an altar boy has problems with this whole life committment, because he long ago chose the role of what is often referred to as "Cafeteria Catholic," choose the issues which are ones you can deal with and ignore the church teachings on the ones you have problems with.

He is so obviously a picker and chooser that it becomes very insulting to many committed Catholics and non-Catholics (even non-Christians) notice it. Jonah Goldberg noticed:

Personally, I'm ambivalent about the role of religion in politics. I think zealots who want to purge all religion from the public square are ignorant about, among other things, American history and culture. For example, without religion the anti-slavery and civil-rights movements would have been impossible. To me, in politics morality is more important than theology, but it's foolish to dispute that much of our best morality derives from theology.

But what does offend me is the selective invocation of God. George Bush is basically consistent. He says God guides him in everything he does. John Kerry says that, too, but it's hard to see how he's not lying. His faith is clear on abortion. It's pretty darn murky on, say, affirmative action.

It seems to me that you shouldn't pick and choose at all. You shouldn't infringe on, say, the property rights of citizens out of religious convictions about a clean environment and then conveniently fall back on the argument that it would be outrageous to invoke religion when it comes to abortion. Either your faith informs your views or it doesn't.

I say you shouldn't pick and choose, but I understand that sometimes you have to — but in completely the opposite way John Kerry picks and chooses. Kerry invokes God's guidance on the little stuff, the easy stuff, the boilerplate. He turns his back to God on the big issue, abortion (and, with a wink, gay marriage).

It seems to me this is exactly backwards. God doesn't have a position on the minimum wage or Superfund, so politicians shouldn't feel the need to consult Him about that stuff. It's only on the grave fundamental questions in politics that God should speak to one's conscience. Thomas More didn't put his life on the line about how Henry VIII handled crop rotation.

And that's what I find a little galling about all of Kerry's God talk. Beyond the naked pandering of it, it's morally and religiously empty. He may talk about deeds backing up faith, but where his faith is unambiguous he wants no part of it. When it comes to the tough issues, what he really seems to want is grace on the cheap. It's as More said: "If honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable."

To me, and to other believers especially, it shows a lack of integrity, a lack of wholeness that says, "I am a truth compromiser," and although we probably are all guilty of this from time to time, for some of us, at least, character counts, and we don't want to trust a person like this. And the more he tries to wrap himself in the mantle of being religious, the worse it gets. It's just another type of pandering.

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