Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Whining in the Public Forum

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Whining in the Public Forum

Article excerpt

One of the functions of religious groups in the United States is participating in the shaping of what the late Walter Lippmann called "the public philosophy." That is, faith communities often try to influence answers to the enduring question, "How are we to order our common life?"

Only a few flat-footed secularists argue that religious groups do not have the right to argue politics in the public square. But when religious groups become political, there are a few rules they ought to accept as part of the process. They are:

(1) When others disagree with you on questions of values and policy, don't cry bigotry.

To disagree with specific political positions of the Christian Right, Catholic bishops, or mainline religious liberals, for that matter, should not be equated with Christian- or Catholic-bashing.

A number of Christian Coalition leaders in general, and Pat Robertson in particular, should understand that it's not their religious convictions that most of their critics are engaging. It's their political convictions.

Again, no serious commentator argues with the right of Catholic bishops to get tough in their opposition to abortion coverage in proposed health-care plans. But American Catholics must understand that it is possible for others to respect both their church and its right to witness, and yet feel free to disagree openly with the teaching authority of the hierarchy.

(2) Assume there is equality among the various voices in the political arena.

However convinced religious groups may be about the absolute rightness of their position, the pluralist character of American politics requires that they recognize the legitimacy and good faith of other groups.

They should neither demonize nor dismiss the opposition. Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas recently demonstrated either supreme arrogance or ignorance - or both. Thomas wrote, "For most of this century, the Christian Church has been in self-imposed exile . . . then it re-emerged on the scene in the 1980s." (Post-Dispatch, July 10)

How parochial. …

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