Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pro-Life Values, and the Public Square: Continuing the Discussion

And so if the Democrats have been anti-life all along, that means the Republicans have been pro-life.  Right?  Because our two-party system in the U.S. depends on (the illusion of) binary opposites.  So if one of the parties does not favor or promote or want life, the other obviously does favor, promote, and want life.

And if the Democrats are hostile to religion, that must mean the Republicans are open to and supportive of religion.  Right?  Except it seems to be Republican administrations that have had a history of declaring war on priests and nuns in Latin America working on behalf of that area's poor people.  Who are, one assumes, struggling for life when they struggle against social and economic oppression.

And so when people try to convince me that the Democratic party has been hostile to religion and opposed to the values of life--with the implication that this party can reform itself and become open to the values of life by opening its arms to religion (and to "bipartisan" "centrism" aka to Republican ideology)--I tend to hear a pitch for a certain kind of religion. 

Not for the religion of Jesus and the prophets, which is unambiguously on the side of the poor, and which makes a great deal of sense to me.  But for a religion controlled by powerful men who mete out the meaning of religious systems and religious symbols for us, and who tell us what religion will mean when and under which circumstances.

And when that meted-out meaning so often and so grievously ignores and tramples on any values of life that make the slightest bit of sense to me and many other folks, I'm at a loss to know what to do with it and its claims.  With its claims to represent religion and God and life, purely and simply, in the public square.

I'm at a loss to know what to do with that kind of meted-out, power-driven, top-down, male-dominated and male-controlled religion when it tramples on values of life including,

1. Children's (and adults' ) need for food, 
2. Children's (and adults') need for sound education, 
3. Everyone's need for basic health care, 
4. People's need for good jobs with adequate benefits, 
5. People's need for protection from exploitative wealthy elites, 
6. People's need for protection from the environmental destruction commonly caused by exploitative wealthy elites, 
7. The needs of minority groups for protection from oppression by the unjust and the powerful--e.g., the need of women for rights, the need of gay and lesbian persons for rights.

And so, naturally, when a group of powerful men meting out the meaning of religious systems and religious symbols, who function in a top-down way that excludes all women (and almost all of the non-ordained) from power in its religious system, informs me that it's serving the cause of freedom and rights in the public square, I tend to skeptical.  As I tend to be skeptical when these powerful men representing a system that discriminates in its very constitution try to convince me that they're protecting freedom and rights by denying freedom and rights to vulnerable minority groups.

Which is precisely what the American Catholic bishops are trying to convince us of today, as they continue an expensive national campaign to remove and block the rights of gay citizens, and as they fight for their "right" to withhold access to contraception in the health care plans covering women working in Catholic institutions.  And precisely why their powerful media spokesman Michael Sean Winters keeps arguing that what the bishops are all about is promoting religion in the public square, and defending human rights, and serving the values of life, and that Democrats, who are insensitive to religion and the values of life, had better listen to the bishops:

This is beyond me to understand.

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