From Where I Stand by Joan Chittister, February 17, 2005
Is this kind of Christianity Christian?
By Joan Chittister, OSB
The problem with the political agenda of the Radical Right is not that they’re wrong. Who isn’t concerned about the so-called “moral values” on which this last presidential election is said to have hinged.
Each of those concerns surely merits attention. Abortion, for instance, is indeed a major issue. Hitler did it and called it eugenics; the Chinese did it in Tibet and called it population control. Obviously, the whole question of the morality of abortion is a serious and an imperative one, as is birth control for some denominations and alcohol for others, for instance. Just as obvious, however, is the question of whether or not the government of a pluralistic state ought to be legislating for any of those things according to the tenets of any one particular religious tradition. Those are questions of faith, not of politics. That’s how we got the Taliban in the first place. Someone somewhere decided that their religion had to be everybody’s religion.
The question for the state, then, is not whether or not abortion is morally wrong. That is for religions to decide. The question for the state to determine in its responsibility to assure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is, What is life? When we know that answer, we’ll all know, each of us from a different religious perspective, the political answer to abortion.
This is not the first time in U.S. history, however, that politics began to look like religion and single-issue religion tried to drive politics.
It was religion that fostered prohibition on moral grounds and its notoriously ineffective decline into the speakeasies operated by organized crime syndicates.
It was also religion that supported slavery and segregation and the argument that God made the white man (sic) superior.
MOYERS: I can hear them saying this. I can hear James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson say, “I was called by God to do what I’m doing.” You feel called by God.
CHITTISTER: I do. But I don’t feel called by God to impose my life on yours. I believe that I’m called by God to keep God a constant question in the human heart. I believe that anything that isn’t… that anything that uses God as an instrument of oppression on other people is not of God.
And I believe that their belief is a powerful witness. I just simply do not believe that it can be imposed on the beliefs of people who are witnessing to another face of God.
MOYERS: Dobson, Falwell, Robertson and a lot of secular pundits and columnists are saying that this election was decided by moral issues. Do you think moral issues were that decisive in this campaign?
CHITTISTER: Well, I don’t believe… I’m not exactly sure that they were as decisive in the end. And I’m not sure that there’s any way we can measure that. But even if I say, “Yes, they were,” the fact of the matter is that they are some moral issues, they’re not all moral issues.
The fact of the matter is that they’re all in contention with something else which is also a moral value and also equally important unless you put it completely out of your mind or your heart. For instance, let’s look at the abortion question. I’m opposed to abortion.
But I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking. If all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed and why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.