Friday, October 22, 2004

Faith and Patriotism

Archbishop Chaput in the The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Faith and Patriotism:

"The theologian Karl Barth once said, 'To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.'

That saying comes to mind as the election approaches and I hear more lectures about how Roman Catholics must not 'impose their beliefs on society' or warnings about the need for 'the separation of church and state.' These are two of the emptiest slogans in current American politics, intended to discourage serious debate. No one in mainstream American politics wants a theocracy. Nor does anyone doubt the importance of morality in public life. Therefore, we should recognize these slogans for what they are: frequently dishonest and ultimately dangerous sound bites.

Lawmaking inevitably involves some group imposing its beliefs on the rest of us. That's the nature of the democratic process. If we say that we 'ought' to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody's ought becomes a 'must' for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it's how pluralism works.

Democracy depends on people of conviction expressing their views, confidently and without embarrassment. This give-and-take is an American tradition, and religious believers play a vital role in it. We don't serve our country - in fact we weaken it intellectually - if we downplay our principles or fail to speak forcefully out of some misguided sense of good manners.

People who support permissive abortion laws have no qualms about imposing their views on society. Often working against popular opinion, they have tried to block any effort to change permissive abortion laws since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That's fair. That's their right. But why should the rules of engagement be different for citizens who oppose those laws?
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