2010-12-24 / Columnists

The Progressive

Faith And Politics
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

It is one of the fundamentals of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that all of us have obligations to make the world in which we live a better place. We are required to help those in need and to work for a more equitable and just society. Scripture often mentions Divine Providence’s concern for the widowed, the orphaned, the poor, the afflicted, and the foreigner. We are called to treat the foreigner well because, as a people, we were slaves in Egypt.

When it is apparent many of our religious leaders of all three faiths have political agendas it is important to analyze the role of these leaders and people of faith in political debate and processes. It was not the desire of the founding fathers that religious beliefs should be separated from our analysis of political, social, economic, and cultural decisions. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the government should not endorse any particular belief and that no particular faith leaders and believers should use government to enforce their particular belief system. In recent years presidents have asked television evangelistic leaders to have input on Supreme Court nominees. Government funds have been given to faith-based groups that promote their belief system and values with these funds. Some members of the military that are not Christian feel their branch of service endorses certain belief systems that are promoting their particular views of Jesus Christ (not the beliefs of all Christians). This is unacceptable.

During this time of serious economic decline and stress that emphasize the unjust aspects of our political and economic life, it is amazing that only a few of our religious leaders feel the need to push for economic justice. It is incredible that the working conditions of workers in a Kosher meat packing plant and the inhumane use of undocumented workers in that plant in Iowa are not major concerns for all religious leaders. The increasing gap between the elite and the less fortunate and privileged should be a major priority for religious leaders. The Catholic Church has to address the closing of parish churches and schools as an issue for all Americans. Our citizens give these organizations tax exempt status to maintain their social function to assist the community not to leave when the community needs the faithbased organizations. All three religious organizations need to address the closing of their medical centers when medical administrators strip these centers causing their demise. Often the communities need the faith based medical centers the most because of the disregard of the indigent sick by other medical centers. Some of these administrators are clergy or are considered pillars of faith belief because they worked for faith based medical centers.

Our religious leaders, organizations and the faith-based believers must recognize their inadequate response to unsafe and inhumane treatment of workers in all industries including industries with which they are affiliated. A decent standard of living is a moral issue. Abuse by clergy is not limited to sexual issues. Abuse is also neglect of duty. The use of religious faith for political and economic superiority is an issue that needs examination.

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