Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 4, 2001
Church must distance itself from the state
I am not sure what to make of the apparent benevolent relationship of the Church with the Bush administration.
Bush is a born again Christian and has billed himself as representing the religious right and the Moral Majority. It is unfortunate that the Church should feel comfortable in that corner.
Historically, from the alliance with Franco, Mussolini, the Ustashe regime and a long list of Latin American dictators, there seems to be a peculiar ecclesiastical inclination to lean towards a conservative political point of view which some progressive voices in the Church might characterize as a dangerous flirtation with fascism.
This "Fascism with a Smile" envisions the U.S. as a uniquely moral and democratic nation ordained by its virtue to rule the world.
Maybe large institutions are prone to a kind of narcissistic affirmation. There might be other explanations, having to do with a propensity towards authoritarianism.
Be that as it may, it should be made clear that both in the U.S. and in the Church there are many individuals and organizations that take issue with the right-wing agenda. They believe that the Church should be countercultural.
Church that seeks to be propped up by Caesar usually finds itself co-opted by the Empire. The separation of Church and state allows for the necessary freedom to be critical of legislative policies that harm the common good.
In the U.S. the drift to the right dates back to the mid-'60s and the Goldwater era. Religious casuists who proclaimed that wealth was evidence of God's favour and poverty a sign of spiritual failure were preaching a new gospel of prosperity.
Central to this prosperity gospel was the furtherance and protection of the free enterprise system.
Domestic police intervention and global military might was extolled as righteous to defend the New Jerusalem from the subversive ideologies of dissenters and adversaries.
The right-wing gospel of domination and accumulation played itself out in the arms race and first strike nuclear capacity, the wars in Indo China, Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and wherever Western "moral superiority" was being questioned.
It includes the bombing of Iraq, the exclusion of Cuba, the scrapping of the Kyoto agreement and the promotion of FTAA that allows corporations to set up shop abroad and secure maximum return on investment under the protective umbrella of U.S. military superiority.
The morality of the right is hypocritical at best, exclusive, chauvinistic and theocratic at worst. Behind the rhetoric of protecting "family values" there is the same long-term agenda of assuring the absolute right of corporations to do whatever they please to farmers, workers, communities and the environment.
The churches are asked to mitigate the negative impact by partnering in a "Faith Based Social Service Plan." But once you are the recipient of government grants, you might hesitate to bite the hand that feeds you.
The Bush vision is unashamedly cast in the language of moral values and religious faith. From the miserly amount set aside for foreign aid, most of which goes to Israel to protect U.S. oil interests in the Middle East, some more has been taken away from countries where abortion is practised, in part as a result of sweatshop conditions imposed on them by transnational corporations. All this demands an autonomous Church position.
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