Saturday, May 07, 2005

Rendering unto Caesar

This story is making the rounds: a North Carolina baptist church expelled its democrats recently. The preacher is a rabid republican, who told his parishioners how to vote - he told them if they were going to vote for Kerry, they should leave the church - some of them resisted, and he finally demanded they sign a loyalty oath. ("he expected them to sign forms supporting his political and moral beliefs" - sounds like a loyalty oath to him, if that's any worse.) They walked out and were voted out. That is not pretty. Religion is a powerful force - but it is a force that is concerned with one's soul. And while it makes clear demands on one's behavior, behavior never translates directly into political positions. Politics, after all, is not about behavior, primarily - it is about organizing society. Morality intersects with politics but cannot be said to drive it. But the church's power over individuals is strong - the ability is there to bully people into doing things against their consciences. It's hard not to see that here. When this happens - religion ceases to be religion and starts to be nothing more than politics. And that is what the first amendment is meant to protect us against.

No comments: