Danger of demagoguery
Q: U.S. Catholic bishops are defending their direct involvement in congressional deliberations over health-care reform, saying that church leaders have a duty to raise moral concerns on any issue, including abortion rights and health care for the poor. Do you agree? What role should religious leaders have -- or not have -- in government policymaking?
Religion can make some people arrogant. Because they have an expertise in ancient texts, or even in the subtle movements of the soul, they suddenly believe that knowledge is transferable to the benefits of the single payer system or the intricacies of congressional budget office estimates.
If you wish to be a political pundit, by all means do so. But to cloak political judgments in the mitre - or the cassock, collar or the tallit - is a grave disservice to both policy and religion. The fact that I know more about the Jewish tradition than my congregants hardly means I know more about the consequences of policy.
For it is consequences, not intentions, that we are talking about. To raise moral concerns is appropriate and urgent. As a religious Jew, I can state that all human beings are entitled to the dignity of having adequate health care. As a voter, I can favor one plan over the other in achieving that goal. It is when I conflate the two that I am being dishonest, allowing my political views to be sanctified. That way lies demagoguery (in both senses).
In clear moral issues, religious leaders have an obligation to speak out. In matters ranging from human slavery, to women's rights across the world, to the treatment of animals, the wild proliferation of guns, on and on - these are matters in which religious voices must be heard. We can add "the need for universal health care" to that list. But how to get there? That is why God created politicians. God made clergy, I suspect, for rather different purposes.
Posted by: Navin1 | November 17, 2009 6:40 PM
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