Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Louisiana + Politics + Religion...

Some things just shouldn't be mixed. In the trio: Louisiana, Religion, and Politics, mixing two is dicey, mixing all three is explosive.

The following article deals with all three.

The situation in a nutshell is this: the Republican candidate for Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, is a Roman Catholic. In 1996, Jindal wrote an article in the New Oxford Review (which is an unabashedly Roman Catholic publication) in which he laments that the Protestant Reformation led to a "scandalous series of divisions and new denominations." That is historically true - the Reformation gave rise to thousands of denominations, sects, and divisions in the Church, as well as outright heresies that have crossed the boundaries into the world outside of the Church. The only "value judgment" word in the sentence is "scandalous." But the multiplicity of denominations within Christianity is scandalous - especially given our blessed Lord's prayer "that they may be one" (John 17:22). The divisions that plague the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (and have since 1054) are indeed a scandal. They certainly cause Christians no joy - just as they cause Christ no joy.

I do believe the Reformation was necessary - but I do lament that there were very bad side effects. Had the Roman hierarchy been more pastoral, willing to sit down together and dialogue honestly, and been even a little open to make make reforms of some openly scandalous abuses and practices (instead of merely circling the wagons, aggressively digging in their heels, and simply executing anyone who raised questions), the "scandalous divisions" might not have happened at all. Jindal and I would place the blame in different places, no doubt. But I certainly agree with him that there were unintended bad consequences of the Reformation.

Bobby Jindal - like every good Roman Catholic - believes that the Roman communion headed by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) is the earthly manifestation of the one true church, and that all other Christians are in a sort-of "impaired communion" with the Catholic Church. You cannot be a Roman Catholic and not believe this. This is Catholic dogma. Should being a Roman Catholic disqualify a man for political office? The Democrats of 1960 sure didn't think so.

But to hear the Democrats in 2007, Jindal is insulting individuals instead of simply confessing his faith. To hear them tell the story, Jindal is insulting "Protestants" calling them "scandalous, depraved, selfish, and heretical."

Do you see the difference?

This is a blatant appeal to poison the conservative Christian waters in the non-Catholic areas of Louisiana against Jindal. The Democratic strategists are hoping to weaken the coalition of conservatives of different Christian traditions by attempting to start a fight between Catholics and Protestants - hoping, of course, to capitalize on the chaos.

But if Jindal's opponents are correct, then no Catholic may ever run for office. Indeed, it also means that nobody who holds to any religion ought to run for office. For by believing in (actually believing in) any religion, that means you believe other religions are wrong. Similarly, if you are a Democrat, you believe Republicans are wrong. If you are a Republican, you believe Democrats are wrong. If you like Coke, the Pepsi folks may be "offended," and if you like Pepsi, the Coke folks may want to protest your home for your "hate." This is a classic "divide and conquer" approach, and it is distasteful. But, of course, it works. So shiftless and unscrupulous politicians will do such things until our Lord comes again to reign as King without politics.

Frankly, people ought to respect a man for honoring his religious faith - even if they don't agree. Protestant Christians who are interested in pro-life issues, for example, may well want to vote for Roman Catholic, Mormon, or even Muslim politicians - as they are going to be more sympathetic to defending life than a non-religious person will be. I'm not telling anyone how to vote (far from it - I'm not registered with any party), but I hope that voters are savvy enough not to be bamboozled by political opportunists of any stripe. Regardless of how you feel about the Republicans or Jindal, he is getting a raw deal in this attack on his Catholicism. And so are we as Lutherans, as Christians who cling to a specific confession and hold it to be doctrinally correct.

Consider this attack against Jindal's faith as an attack not only against Christianity, against religion, but also as an attack against anyone being willing to take a stand on anything. This is indeed an attack against objective truth and the assertion of objective truth. Therefore, it is an attack against our Lord Himself (John 14:6).

Politicians typically speak out of both sides of their mouths. As a friend of mine once put it: "You can't beat the truth out of 'em, 'cause the truth ain't in 'em." I remember a few years ago one of the presidents (I don't even remember who) made an appearance at a Monday Night Football game wearing a jersey made up of jerseys of both teams. How often we hear politicians being asked direct questions, but they answer obliquely and with such carefully weighed words you have to wonder what the heck they REALLY believe beneath the weaseling and waffling.

And shame on the Democratic candidates for staying mum in the midst of this mudslinging. They are allowing other members of their party to "do their dirty work" while they "keep their hands clean." If these were honorable men, they would blow the whistle and call a "foul" for what is being done to their fellow politician for doing nothing more than actually believing his own religion.

And don't get me wrong - the door of hypocrisy swings both ways. In this case, it just happens to be Democrats engaging in dirty tricks. The Republicans do the same thing. A certain part of me really doesn't care if the politicians eat each other. Let them fling mud at each other all day long - as long as they leave us alone. But the Christian faith, and thus Christ Himself, are being sullied by the politicians who are flinging the mud, as well as by the politicians who are standing "piously" on the sidelines not offering Jesus a towel with which to wipe his muddied face. The Democratic candidates for Louisiana governor have become the priest and the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Politicians only care about winning. I'm convinced that many of them would defile the graves of their own mothers in order to "win." There are exceptions, of course. But that's why they are exceptions. The exceptions prove the rule.

The bottom line is this: your governor is not your pastor. Who cares what religion he is? Who cares what his religion thinks of your religion? As Martin Luther once said, better to have a Muslim emperor who is competent than a Christian who is not. Politicians need to leave the theology to the theologians and stick with what they do best (and being a pastor, I won't get any more specific than that).

Shame on any politician, Democrat, Republican, or anything else, who exploits Jesus in the name of winning an election.

[Contest: Can anyone identify the Christian element in the Louisiana state flag (above) that has been challenged by the ACLU?]


Luke said...

Father Hollywood:

Though I wholeheartedly disagree with Senator Jindal, it is good to see someone who shows integrity in his belief. Being "a man of your word," whether it's campaign pledges or, more importantly, credal confession is becoming a rarity among our political leadership, which is lamentable. It looks like your state, at least, has a man representing it who can give his constituents a touchstone by which to test him. And what else, besides wisdom, can we ask of our elected "parents" of the nation?

BTW, the words of Aquinas' "Adoro te devote" will answer your contest question:
Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda tuo sanguine; cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.


Father Hollywood said...

The Reverend Father Zimmerman gets the prize!

The only catch is that you have to collect in New Orleans. The next time you find yourself in the Big Easy, I'll buy you a plate of beignets from Cafe du Monde. In fact, as a bonus for using the original Latin, I'll throw in a steaming mug of cafe au lait and even a shrimp po-boy as "lagniappe" while we're at it! :-)

Nice to hear from you, Luke!

Dan at Necessary Roughness said...

Yum, beignets...there is a good bakery in Lafayette that makes some yummy ones.

Lawrence said...

Are these scandalous divisions really new divisions, or did the reformation simply bring to light divisions that already existed?

Is the Reformation is the cause of many of the problems discussed, or merely a consequence of?

Past Elder said...

The fact is, there are all kinds of Roman Catholics who do not believe Roman ecclesiology and much else of Roman doctrine.

Both Senators from Massachusetts are Catholic.

Interesting that the wail doesn't go up when liberal clergy invoke Christ or Christianity as the basis for the liberal agenda. Where is "separation of church and state" and "not imposing your personal beliefs" then?

I wonder how statements like "while I am personally opposed to slavery the decision is a matter between the property owner and his state" or "slavery should be safe, legal, and rare" woould have played.

The governor isn't the pastor. Though, in a world where religion is OK as long as you keep it to yourself, they become the closest thing to it many people have. Hence, no other religion but the secular one can be professed.