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Thursday, October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Easter season is a celebration of deliverance and the liturgical calendar sets Easter Week up as a kind of catharsis.

Holy Thursday and the Last Supper have an ominous feel because they are preparation for Good Friday and the dolorous story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet two days later, the tale ends in triumph and resurrection. Whatever questions Christians may have about the meaning of that empty tomb, most of us have experienced a sense of joy when the words “He is risen, alleluia!” are shouted out on Easter Sunday.

Christianity, like the prophetic Judaism with which it is inextricably linked, is rooted in the idea of liberation, and I have long seen the Exodus and Easter as twin narratives involving a release from oppression and the victory of freedom. Thesepromises have left a permanent mark on the culture outside the traditions from which they sprang.

Yet even in the Easter season, it’s hard not to notice that Christianity hasn’t been presented in its own best light during this election year because Christians have not exactly been putting forward their best selves.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently about the “crude” way religion has played out in the Republican primaries, including “the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda.”

Gerson is exactly right, but I don’t propose to use his admirable column as an excuse to pile onto the religious right. Instead, I want to suggest that what should most bother Christians of all political persuasions is that there are right and wrong ways to apply religion to politics, and much that’s happening now involves the wrong ways. Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

What I’m not saying is that Christianity should be disengaged from politics. In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression. There is great debate over how to understand the relationship between Jesus’ spirituality and his approach to politics, but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.

But because Christians have a realistic and non-utopian view of human nature, they should be especially alive to the ambiguities and ambivalences of politics. The philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain captured this well in reflecting on Augustine’s writings. “If Augustine is a thorn in the side of those who would cure the universe once and for all,” she wrote, “he similarly torments critics who disdain any project of human community, or justice, or possibility.”

  • ObozoMustGo

    Uhh… excuse me!!!!! Wasnt it Obozo and his stooge at HHS that announced they would force the Catholic Church to cover abortifaciants in their health care coverage plans? Didn’t that come “out of the blue”? Obozo IS THE ONE that brought this topic front and center, no one else did. Clearly, Obozo is using religion to divide America. Isn’t it the left’s constant attacks on religion and religious freedom in America that bring this topic to the forefront? Of course it is. By the way…. there is NO TRADITION of “social justice” in Christian churces UNLESS they have been coopted by the leftist radicals. Because you say so does not make it so, EJ.

    • Rigel54

      Religious freedom covers freedom from religion as well as freedom to choose religion. As long as the Catholic institutions providing the insurance operate as competitive business entities (and as long as they accept federal money) they must be subject to the same rules. All the church needs to do is stop accepting federal money and donate its services rather than charge for them. I think that might earn them an exemption.

    • UAWproud

      My wife has been working for a Presbyterian church for several years now. They don’t condone or promote abortions, but they do pay for birth control for their workers and their ministers’ wives and dependents. I guess the Presbyterians believe in freedom of choice for women in health care?

      It isn’t anyone else’s business but a woman’s what she chooses. What right would her boss (the minister of the church) have to decide that she can or can’t have birth control paid for by her Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance? He doesn’t and niether should Catholic bishops, insurance executives or some Bozo like yourself be able to step in on her and our family’s health care choices!

      It’s two-faced bozos like you who believe that the constitution only applies to you and that you should have it all your way. Bozo-you are what is wrong with America. Lots of luck in November. We are going to take the trash out of America and Obama will be re-elected.

  • William Deutschlander

    Inn actuality it is QUASI religion that is being touted in an effort to bring about the demise of our DEMOCRACY!

    Democracy = Democratic all the way in 2012!

    Independent for OBAMA 2012!

  • UAWproud

    It’s sad that a lot of creepy people on the fringes of religion and society are giving Christianity a bad name by supporting Republican radicals and Tea Baggers. Their actions and words against the greater American society put a bad word in the mouths of millions of Christians, turning them off towards organized religion. We need to get religion out of politics and keep it out!

  • Wa51e4

    I just visited Monticello this weekend and was greatly touched by what Thomas Jefferson, THE founding father of GOP, was trying to do his whole life and his vision for this nation as an empire of freedom and liberty. Upon the topic of religion, Jefferson said: “I have considered it as a matter between every man and his maker, in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.” The right of religious freedom is not only a right for one to choose his own believes, but more critically also a right that “no other, & far less the public” should be allowed to “intermeddle”! A state-sponsored religion is just another form of tyranny. This country was founded by so many who came to escape the religious persecution in other parts of the world. Does the current GOP candidates’ extreme views on religion and politics assemble anything close to Jefferson’s vision for this country and his party? To build this great empire of freedom and liberty, did any of the candidates regard an educated public to be the essential part of its foundation, as Jefferson said: “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be”?

  • I’m going to have to disagree with the article. Policies and laws need to be created with logic, evidence, and reasoning. It is by intellectual and critical inquiry that we can find common ground. This assumes that the people involved are reasonable – that is, they are willing to admit they are wrong if given sufficient intellectual reasons to do so. The entire problem we are facing is caused by people who put their faith above critique. These individuals are not reasonable. They will not change no matter how much you speak to them, and it is up to reasonable people to prevent these individuals from tearing down our Republic.
    I would sum up my point as follows. A reasonable person will never reject a well proven solution out of hand. The same can never be said of the religious.

  • Ed

    Throughout history, religion has caused more wars than any other reasoning. I do not understand how the “religous Right” do not adhere to the teachings of Jesus as set forth in the New Testament but want everyone to live under the strictures of the OLD testiment.

  • Electing a mega millionaire as a president is bad enough, but he’s a Mormon. An anti-christ yet the religious right evangelicals are following him like pigs to the slaughter. They have exchanged their faith for money and politics. What a sad day for Christianity.

    • phantomoftheopera

      and you are acting christ-like? try reading the gospels

  • howa4x

    Christians have allowed their religion to be linked to cutbacks for the most vulnerable among us and the rewarding of those who least need it. Most of the right wingers portray themselves as true believers, and make people fear what would happen if they took over. Instead of creating an atmosphere of freedom, they are repressive, even inserting themselves into the bedroom. They have shown us the dark side of Christianity, sexist and anti intellectual. It is up to people of faith to show America that their religion is one of love and truly cares about the down troddden. Just answer this question: If Jesus were alive today, would he be in a homeless shelter or a corporate boardroom? If the answer is the latter than make your voices heard! Don’t let politicians paint you as cold heartless people. Its up to you to make that choice, and to stand up for what is truly right and just.

  • that old obsolete piece of paper stated , seperate the church from the state, that means keep your fantisy out of the government, not further the crusades. wonder why the tigres shrinners are called tigres? something about a couple rivers and a promise of extermination. if you still don’t wish to see the truth, look at the history of the catholic church. burned any free thinkers lately? hypocracy in action? the g.o.pigs

  • Michael Mahan

    Religion is not reality: it is faith, belief or whatever. Easter is a hoot. A man rises from the dead based on Christianity and millions are BORN into this crap.

  • I was baptisted into christianity over 40 years ago, the people calling themselves christians today are far from Christ like, gun slinging, racist, money grubbing, neighbor hating, selfish,evil people calling themselves Christian but are acting as children of satan, beware of those who come in the name of Christ but do the work of the great deceiver.

  • Melvin Chatman

    “Be ye not deceived, for God is not MOCKED.
    What soever thou sowest, THAT shall thou also REAP”
    Please don’t be caught standing close to these CLOWNS, the “Side Effects” could be DEADLY

  • mertsj

    The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

  • wheatfire15

    If you add, ‘paranoid fear of damnation overriding their Savior’s greatest commandment, love’, to the sentence ‘Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry’ you have the reason I left the religious life…