Monday, June 9, 2008

Political-ization of Religion

It is politics, politics, politics in this prolonged primary season in America.

What ever happened to the good old days of tobacco smoke filled back rooms and cigar chomping politico bosses cutting deals and deciding whose name would go onto the top of any political ticket? The good old days?

The late 1960’s in America was a brutal time both in terms of blood and in terms of communication. The Vietnam War raged and everybody had some relative or another trying to stop the communist monolith over there instead of it all coming over here.

The so-called liberal media was spewing government approved propaganda numbers. I remember around 1967 thinking to myself that they better end that war soon before I get drafted into it. The radio was spewing out an almost hourly body count of the enemy, the enemy, the enemy. There was a point around 1968 after I came home from the weekly Sunday family drive to the country that I reached a saturation point in all the war news. The radio or TV might be switched on after that date but I was not listening.

I wasn’t an outward war protestor or a Hippie, but if it came to a vote of no confidence for the government and its policies, I would have been at the head of the line to vote. Not much has changed in forty years of American Politics.

Something of late in American politics is the Religious Party or more accurately, the Religious Wing on one particular political party. Not to say that the Dems have not been playing with the “God Vote” in the past but that vote was decided behind closed doors.

In the Dem politics of smoke filled back rooms, the bosses decided who and what to give to the local Catholic hierarchy in terms of respect, deals or candidates. The process was behind the scenes. I had a distant cousin who was a bishop and I heard a little bit of backstairs politics and religion mixing in a way that would have made Thomas Jefferson blush or flush with rage.

The local Dem committee man made his rounds the Sunday before elections and gave you a list of the party approved (and church approved) candidates along with a wink and a nod. Whatever.

Outside the big city political machines, out in the countryside, new ideas, burb ideas were beginning to form. Some of these ideas had to do not so much with abortion but with the general idea of birth control. The old “blue laws” were vague and archaic about contraception. New laws were needed. New bills were being introduced in the state legislature.

There were one or two local politicians who spoke not so much with the voice of God as with the sanctioned voice of the local bishops. Contraception was a sin. Any bishop who approved of it would never get his red hat etc.

The local parish was not big on homilies as a rule. The time allotted to sermons in my church was usually gobbled up with church announcements, meeting schedules, appeals for money etc.

I liked homilies as a teenager. With the disappearance of the Latin dead language thing in the mass, there was no time to daydream except during a very boring sermon.

So I began to notice that instead of talking about Jesus and his teachings, the homily time got filled with loud demands that we write to our local state legislator and demand a vote against House Bill 10-20-14 etc.

As I said the late sixties were brutal in terms of communication. Vatican II, while a temporary PR triumph, it was the devil in the details – confusion – mistrust - in following through on ideas approved in that council.

It was then in the late sixties that I stopped listening to whatever political propaganda was spewing out of the pulpit and cut the chain with the old faith.

These days, Public Relations are more sophisticated along with corporate media networks having their political agendas and their officially endorsed church candidates. Whether you, in the privacy of the voting booth, vote the party/church line or your conscience, nobody but you will know.

I don’t like these outward religious endorsements of politicians lately. I believe in the concept of the separation of church and state. It’s as American as the Constitution.

I am old fashioned kind of guy. I prefer the wink and nod from the local committee man to let me know what is what regarding politics and not religion.