Saturday, October 17, 2009

US Christianity


tags: American Christians, religious right, US Catholic vote, G W Bush, Obama, politically correct, family values, Vatican foreign policy, Monica Lewinsky, Michael Moore, abortion, justice for Palestinians, US Senate voting  

The 'religious right' and the Monica Lewinsky affair together gave us Europeans (who are too divided to have much political say in the world) the 8 year disaster (for the West) of the G W Bush neo-conservative presidency. But if the Catholic vote had been less divided these two factors would not have prevailed. 

The categories of 'left' and 'right' don't help much with the Catholic vote. Almost one American in four is said to be Catholic. But this is a swing voting group: psephologists reckon 47% voted Bush in 2000, but gave him a 52% majority in 2004. 

Among Christians as a whole (other than "religious right" said to be some 14%) there is much the same division. Pulling to the 'right' is opposition to abortion on demand (which makes the Catholic bishops politically a virtually "single sin" group), respect for the family as the basic unit of society, opposition to homosexual marriage, and concern for traditional morality as a whole as opposed to leftie "political correctness". 

Pulling to the left though, is profound moral opposition to the prevailing "worship of the golden calf" - unbridled capitalism: Catholic Michael Moore's stance. There is too, a growing conviction that Christians should act to meet the existential challenges of climate change despite the cost. And recognition there is 'sin' too in aggressive war, genocide, lack of concern for the world's poor and for social justice (including justice for Palestinians), and also in failing support health care for all Americans. For Catholics that all fits in with Catholic social teaching at least since the 19th century, and with the international policies of the last two popes. Other ‘main-line’ Christians too, derive much the same convictions from the New Testament. 

From what he has said, President Obama appears to share, at least in part, this Christian dilemma and to be trying to reconcile these by no means inconsistent concerns.

Achieving even limited success is another matter - especially given the undemocratic nature of the US Senate where two votes go to each state irrespective of population. That gives an inordinate say to mid-west sparsely populated staunchly Republican states with major ‘religious right’ constituencies. Enough maybe to deprive the Democrats of the 60 Senatorial votes needed to fend off an effective veto. Indeed the whole traditional Christian ethos (however tenuous) of US governments is being stifled by dollar-heavy lobbying (‘your election expenses paid’), AIPAC and Israel Government pressure, and monumental dishonesty in the financial sector. Not to mention pervasive racism subtly sapping the authority of a non-white president. 

While working on the vital task of bringing cooperation instead of confrontation to intenrationla affairs, President Obama is now under internal attack from 'left' and 'right' and this is exacerbated by the divisions in main-line Christianity. 
Perhaps all concerned would do well to study the holistic approach to all these issues and to the Obama presidency adopted by the Vatican under Benedict XVI.

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