Post-Election Spiritual Politics

There is a proliferation of study centers focusing on the inter-connection of religion and politics - most on them on the Left.

by Stephanie Block

Since the opening of the new millennium, there’s been a proliferation of centers studying the conjunction of religion and public life - most of them quartered at institutions of higher education.

Mark Silk, editor of Religion in the News, author, and a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, is the founding director of one of these - The Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. (In 2005, he was also named director of the Trinity College Program on Public Values, which incorporates both the Greenberg Center and a new Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture.) There’s also an associated blog ( providing post-election analysis.

These centers are of concern because their perspectives are generally reflective of the Left’s thought and formative for the next generation of young liberals.

So! The day after Obama was elected, Professor Silk observes: “Once upon a time, Catholics were a solid Democratic constituency, but nowadays it makes the most sense to see them simply as that religious agglomeration which most closely approximates the American voting public at large…” He elaborates, of course, but this is the big news of the day.

On November 8, the topic is a “portrait of the Catholic bishops and the election”. The 60 bishops in this portrait have “more or less” told Catholics they must vote pro-life, just falling short of endorsing particular candidates, and Silk contrasts their position against “the whole legacy of moral analysis and reflection that the Catholic Church can offer.” Silk closes the topic with an aside about Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, who explains how he could vote for Barack Obama, despite his pro-choice views on abortion. “If my choice is between a person who makes room for abortion, but who is really pro-life in terms of justice in the world, peace in the world, I will prefer him to somebody who doesn’t support abortion but who is driving millions of people in the world to death.”

On November 9, the blog entry is titled the “Party Faithful” – which draws an analogy between medieval social structure and the Republican Party, consisting “of the economic conservatives (those who prey), the foreign policy conservatives (those who pontificate), and the social conservatives (those who pray)”. That third class, “grumpy and restive when the GOP nomination landed by default on John McCain”, had “to be given Sarah Palin as their Joan of Arc”.

The next day brought the faithful reader an election wrap-up from Jewish Week, anticipating bloody battles “between GOP factions over the future of the party” and a second piece, circling back to the Catholics and the question of denying communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Quoting Archbishop Donald Wuerl – “We have always taken the position of the majority of the bishops – that we present the teachings of the Church and the expectations on one’s conscience, and it's up to the individual to make the judgment about their worthiness to receive Communion” – Silk draws our attention to the words, “majority of the bishops.” Silk, who isn’t Catholic, then writes, “There's the minority that want to bring the hammer down, and then there’s the rest of us. That’s where the battle line is, if there's to be a battle.” Interesting, no?

OK, next day. Silk notes that Obama campaign’s opening to the pro-life community were “pretty modest” and the pro-life Catholics willing to sign on to it “says more about them than about any change of position on the part of the Democrats”. He then moves on to consideration of the Obama administration’s presumed office of faith-based and community service. Religious groups will no longer receive federal funding if their principles conflict with government mandated standards of tolerance – such as reluctance to hire non-Christians, say. Silk argues that if it “detracts from a religious institution’s mission to hire those who are not with the religious program to perform the secular business that the government funds are underwriting, then there's good reason to suspect that the government would be in the business of furthering the religious ends of the institution”.

One could turn that around and counter-argue that the government began outsourcing some of its social service programs to religious institutions precisely because they did a better of job of running them than the secular world did. If the government is now hell-bent on forcing these same religious institutions to swallow its secular viewpoints, it will destroy the very characteristics that made them useful in the first place. Guess that’s too obvious.

It’s also obvious that we are looking at a very particular perspective. Something to bear in mind when you help your kids look for a college.

This article appeared at Spero News, December 4, 2008

Stephanie Block is the editor of Los Pequenos - a New Mexico-based publication. Her columns are made possible by the sponsorship of generous individuals who believe information about the development and dissemination of progressive ideology needs to be more widely understood. Please fell free to share -- acknowledging authorship – these articles with others. If you would like more frequent publication of Stephanie Block's work, tax-deductible donations can be sent to: Catholic Media Coalition - PO Box 427 Great Cacapon, WV 25422 Attn: Progressive Watch

Home  +  Articles

Dissenters Press Releases Speakers Bureau