Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 11, 2000
Christ reshaped to fit agenda of consumerism
"Christian faith does not separate us from the world," said Oscar Romero. "The Church is a follower of Jesus who lived, worked, struggled and died in the midst of the city, or polis."
This does not mean that when faith enters the political arena that all will be well.
The Latin American dictators of the 1970s and '80s all believed that defending the faith was intimately linked with defending western capitalism. People who resisted this notion were summarily removed as if they were medieval heretics.
On the other hand, separation of Church and state does not mean that the Church as an organization or members of the Church as individuals ought to remain silent.
Neutrality is a political act that amounts to supporting the oppressor. To accept without criticism the economic and political system in which one lives, is to endorse the status quo.
Christians are called to change the present order of things - an order constructed over centuries of unjust socio-economic relationships.
What has happened in the past though, and is happening still, is that a partial or distorted understanding of religious principles is used to influence the electorate to vote in a certain way.
Karol Wojtyla, later to be Pope John Paul, warned his fellow cardinals in 1977, while still a Polish bishop living in the midst of communism: "Even where Christ is accepted there is at the same time opposition to the full truth of his person, his mission and his Gospel.
"There is a desire to reshape him, to adapt him to suit mankind in this era of progress and make him fit in with the program of modern civilization - which is a program of consumerism and not of transcendental ends."
Wojtyla was speaking at a time of unspeakable oppression in Third World countries exercised in the name of God and with the overt or covert assistance of the industrialized, civilized West.
He was also speaking at a time when the Moral Majority's electoral successes in the States were built on cleverly crafted appeals to feelings of patriotism, love for family and religious faith, which can be all natural healthy parts of human life.
But in many circumstances, past and present, these feelings can also manifest themselves as xenophobia, racism, various forms of fascism, militarism, re-introduction of the death penalty, stepped up incarceration and a rejection of refugees, immigrants and the unnamed "other."
No doubt, the discussions surrounding abortion, and the fear of feminism and homosexuality served to galvanize the right as righteous.
As the whole political spectrum moved to the right to capture the vote, the poor - the homeless, the hungry and other outcasts - got short shrift in a moral debate which emphasized tax cuts, competition, debt reduction, national interest and economic growth.
The Church has always considered heedless self-interest as bad morals, but if an economy is to safeguard the common good, then it is also bad economics.
You simply can't create a better world by downsizing, excluding, eradicating and "excommunicating" everyone who doesn't fit a certain morally upright corporate consumer mold.
The pope and bishops have therefore repeatedly reminded us that current economic, social and political trends are eroding key Christian values such as cooperation, solidarity, compassion and justice.
Before or after the election, we are called to walk with the least among us, even if those who call themselves Christian entice us to follow them towards a market paradise of the few.
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