A timely conversation from 1958

Just came across this while looking for something else.*

Mike Wallace interviews Reinhold Niebuhr, April 27, 1958:

WALLACE: Dr. Niebuhr, the first question I’d like to put to you is perhaps a very obvious one, but I would like a kind of a capsulized answer, if I may. We hear about the necessity for a separation between church and state. If religion is good, why should our society be based upon a separation between the church and the state?

NIEBUHR: Your “if” is a very big one — if religion is good, it may be very good and it may be bad. The separation of church and state is necessary partly because if religion is good then the state shouldn’t interfere with the religious vision or with the religious prophet. There must be a realm of truth beyond political competence, that’s why there must be a separation of churches. But if religion is bad and a bad religion is one that gives an ultimate sanctity to some particular cause, then religion mustn’t interfere with the state. So one of the basic democratic principles as we know it in America is the separation of church and state.

WALLACE: Well, now this brings us to the issue of possible religious infringements on freedom here in the United States. I’m going to talk about several. First-off: The Roman Catholic Church opposes birth control and divorce and there is no doubt that this opposition has blocked the spread of birth control and easier divorce laws; not merely for Catholics, but for non-Catholics as well. Do you consider such measures an infringement on the rights and liberties of non-Catholics?

NIEBUHR: When you say not merely for Catholics that is the crux of the matter. A church has the right to set its own standards within its community. I don’t think it has a right to prohibit birth control or to enforce upon a secular society its conception of divorce and the indissolubility of the marriage tie.

WALLACE: When you say enforce upon a society how does the Catholic Church enforce? It suggests and enforces for Catholics.

NIEBUHR: No, that’s the point. Whenever a church does anything for its own group, it has that right.

WALLACE: Surely.

NIEBUHR: But when it reaches up beyond its group and tries to enforce its standards upon a society that doesn’t accept these standards, and perhaps for good reason, perhaps for bad reason, but anyway this is the problem we face in pluralistic society, that not necessarily every standard that every church tries to enforce upon the society is from the society’s standpoint a good standard.

Seemed timely.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Mike Lux has a thoughtful post about the dream of America as a “(Shining) City on a Hill.” Lux contrasts the communal spirit of John Winthrop’s original vision — “we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities for the supply of others’ necessities” — with the self-centered individualism of conservatives these days. (Go read the whole thing.) I was looking for a riff from Niebuhr in which he knocks down the hubris of “City on a Hill” nationalism, but found the above interview instead.

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

Postcards from the culture wars (5.6)
White evangelicals and 'the social upheaval of the '60s'
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning
'Religious outreach'
  • Tonio

    What did Niebuhr mean by “There must be a realm of truth beyond political competence”?

    He was right about the necessity of the church/state separation in a pluralistic society. It is mostly likely not coincidental that the separation’s opponents also seem to reject religious pluralism to a large degree. They talk about their stance on religion as though it was normative or should be so, or as though it was the same thing as US social and cultural attitudes.

  • Magic_Cracker

    But if I can’t force everyone to pretend to believe what I say I believe, how would I know it’s worth believing?

  • Shane

    Niebuhr seems to imply that there must be sort of Rawlsian notion of common ground for settling disputes in a political order.  He talks about the problem we face in a “pluralistic” society, but it seems like Niebuhr wants to ground society in a notion that is something more determinative than those groups that make up the “pluralist” society.  This would, in effect, make them groups who are allowed to be “particular” in as much as it doesn’t interfere with that something universal that underwrites their status as groups.  I’m confused over what they common ground/universal is.

  • aunursa

    Opponents of infant male circumcision argue that the procedure violates a child’s right to bodily integrity.  They further argue that current law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, because removal of all or part of a girl’s genitalia is currently prohibited.

    Should synagogues and Jewish organizations be allowed to oppose legislation that would restrict or prohibit circumcisions of infant boys?  Should they be allowed to oppose legislation even if it makes exceptions for religious reasons?  Should they be allowed to advocate for taxpayer coverage for circumcisions (which would not cover circumcisions performed by a mohel)?

  • EllieMurasaki

    If they want to keep their 501(c)(3) status, no, they should not be permitted to advocate for or against any law. (And don’t think it doesn’t piss me off that the Catholics and Mormons are keeping their 501(c)(3) status.)

  • aunursa

    The IRS policy allows a 503(c)(3) organization to influence legislation unless “a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).  A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”

    I take it you disagree with this policy that allows such organizations to engage in some issue advocacy?

  • Lori

     I don’t know about Ellie, but I do. “Some” is not a standard and neither is  “substantial”. In practice it means that the IRS decides what is and is not acceptable based on politics. They’ll go after some small, “weird” churches, but the big, well-connected, mainstream churches get a pass. That’s unacceptable and there are really only 2 ways to fix it. Either allow any group calling itself a church to do whatever it wants and still pay no taxes or you say that if you want to be tax-exempt you have to stay entirely out of politics. I pick option 2.

  • Shane

     How would one go about staying “entirely” out of politics, especially regarding issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage that many churches have strong positions on? It is contentious within the Catholic Church over whether to deny the Eucharist and discipline public figures who dissent from Church teaching over abortion.  Would that cross into politics?  Furthermore, what about other non-profit organizations that seek to influence politics; would they have to make the same decision?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Oh, that is easy.  If a church condemns abortion or same-sex marriage, then it should encourage its members to not have abortions or same-sex marriages.  When it starts to say that people who are not part of that church cannot have abortions or same-sex marriages, and encourages its members to push for legislation to enshrine that into law, that is where we get into trouble. 

  • Shane

    The Catholic Church considers abortion murder.  It cannot, by its tradition and theological positions, stand idly by if fetus’s are being murdered.  It cannot do anything but push for legislative protection of the unborn.  I always point out that if one is to truly understand the abortion issue, put in any other event of genocide (Armenian, the Holocaust, Rwanda); that is how the Church views such a struggle.  Also, should other non-profits (Planned Parenthood, to give a counter balance) cease any sort of political advocacy?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If this is true:

    The Catholic Church considers abortion murder.  It cannot, by its tradition and theological positions, stand idly by if fetus’s are being murdered

    Then this can not be:

     It cannot do anything but push for legislative protection of the unborn.

    The Catholic church can consider abortion *similar to murder*, they can consider it *very bad for similar reasons to why they consider murder bad*, but they can _not_ consider it murder if their response is “There’s nothing we can do but vote for pro-life candidates.”   The Catholic church invented the Just War criteria. There’s more they can do.

    The church opposes abortion. It opposes murder. It opposes euthanasia. It opposes the death penalty.  But it doesn’t consider them to all be the same thing.

    (Anyway,  *they oppose war and the death penalty*, and yet they’re throwing their support behind the party that is pro-war and has a zeal for the death penalty like something out of a slasher film. One might suspect that the church’s problem with abortion has less to do with the “unnatural” termination of life and more to do with “It gives teh wimminz sexual agency! O NOES!”)

  • Shane

     I’m not sure I have seen the Catholic Church endorse and anoint a political party.    But yes, abortion is, by Catholics, the taking of an innocent life.  That’s murder (Unless you would give another definition).  

  • P J Evans

    Non-Catholics are not bound by the rules of the Catholic Church, any more than non-Methodists are bound by the rules of the Methodist Church. And churches should not be trying to force their rules on people who are not members. (For that matter, they have n0 way to enforce those rules on their own members when they aren’t actually on church property. This is called freedom of religion.)

    Planned Parenthood is not a religious organization, and they don’t actually practice political advocacy in the form of trying to get laws passed that favor them. They’ve been getting a lot of flak from politicians who are willing to have the sentence before there’s even been a trial, though.

  • EllieMurasaki

     The Catholic Church considers abortion murder.  It cannot, by its
    tradition and theological positions, stand idly by if fetus’s are being
    murdered.

    And yet the Catholic Church has never to my knowledge threatened a soldier, a politician, or a voter with denial of the Eucharist for participating in, helping start or continue, or supporting a war. People are murdered all the time in war.

  • BrokenBell

    The Catholic Church considers abortion murder.  It cannot, by its tradition and theological positions, stand idly by if fetus’s are being murdered.  It cannot do anything but push for legislative protection of the unborn.  I always point out that if one is to truly understand the abortion issue, put in any other event of genocide (Armenian, the Holocaust, Rwanda); that is how the Church views such a struggle.

    Wait, but… That’s not true? I mean, the Catholic Church isn’t actually doing much to stop abortions, last I checked. They’re doing plenty to try and stop abortion from being legal, but that’s not even remotely the same thing. If their position was one of prioritising abortion first and foremost, even if that means taking some hits on less pressing issues, then they’d be doing things that actually reduce the abortion rate. Encouraging better sex education, for a start. Supporting rape awareness and prevention, perhaps. I’m not saying that they should hand out free condoms at Sunday Mass, but maybe they could put a little less focus on how evil and abhorrent contraception is, at least until number of unintended pregnancies drops a bit? Sure, they don’t want to contribute towards a slightly more sex-positive world, but shouldn’t that be, like war, or the death penalty, a relatively inconsequential price to pay if the alternative is a markedly higher rate of baby murder? 

    But they’re not doing anything like this. Rather, while they pay lip service to abortion being the equivalent of genocide, they simultaneously support attitudes and policies that have the practical effect of making abortion more likely. Which leads me to being somewhat skeptical about their claimed view of abortion being an atrocity of Nazi Holocaust proportions. 

    Well, that said, I’d already raised an eyebrow at the idea that the Catholic Church is guided by a hard set of moral rules that they can’t help but follow. This is the same church that supports rapists within its ranks, uses its power to silence and denigrate victims, has a history of obfuscating investigations from outside judicial systems, and is currently cracking down hard on nuns and priests for being too liberal, yes? I’m not exactly convinced, to be honest. Rather, it seems somewhat more likely that the Catholic Church is guided by a number of old men who’s foremost priority is protecting their own power and privilege, and would probably be more than happy to have a different opinion (or should that be “find a different message in scripture”) on abortion, if they thought it could further entrench their authority. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Actually, having any group that wants to influence politics pay taxes sounds pretty fair to me. 

  • Lori

     

    How would one go about staying “entirely” out of politics, especially
    regarding issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage that many
    churches have strong positions on?

    It’s not at all difficult to avoid lobbying. The church can preach doctrine all it wants, preachers and other church officials can’t use their offices to tell members how to vote or to organize political demonstrations.

    I’m sure some churches would find the restrictions at least somewhat frustrating. I really don’t give a crap. If you’re going to call yourself a church and effectively take money from the government in the form of a tax exemption then you need to keep out of politics.

      It is contentious within the Catholic Church over whether to deny the
    Eucharist and discipline public figures who dissent from Church teaching
    over abortion. 

    IMO, that’s between the Church and the individual in question until the Church makes a big showy deal out of it. Then it’s politicking and they need to cut it out. Would this annoy the Church hierarchy? Virtually certainly. Do I care? Not at all.

    I’d be more sympathetic if they were also using the threat of denial of the
    Eucharist to discipline public figures who dissent from Church teaching about other issues, like war and the death penalty. That never comes up because the whole discussion is driven by politics, not doctrine. Unless they want to pay taxes on all that property and all that money they need to cut it out.

    Furthermore, what about other non-profit organizations that seek to
    influence politics; would they have to make the same decision?

    Yup. If you want to lobby then you need to register as a lobbying organization and play by lobbyist rules. If you want to be tax-exempt then someone else needs to be doing the lobbying.

    I know that this would cause some difficulties for some non-profit groups who get a lot more sympathy from me than the big churches do. I consider that unfortunate, but the way things are I also consider it necessary.

    Churches who insist on being the religious wing of the GOP = the reason we can’t have nice things.

  • Shane

     So what happens when church doctrine inevitably crosses over into the “political”, as Catholic doctrine inevitably does?  I suppose your answer would be “tough, that’s their business”, but such religious organizations cannot separate certain political actions from theological doctrine.  I cannot help but be slightly alarmed, as this would entail certain forms of discrimination against churches that have highly developed and uniform doctrines.

    As to the death penalty and war; while I certainly share your frustrations on the matter of Catholics going against Church teaching on the matter, abortion does represent the greatest evil currently happening in US society, simply due to the fact it is legal to kill an unborn child, and it happens on the frequency of several hundred thousand a year.  That takes precedence.  Furthermore, the death penalty and war (in general) do not represent an always and everywhere intrinsically evil action, even though the Church has condemned both for a while.  Abortion is intrinsically evil. 

    I would also take some contention to your claim of churches being the religious wing of the GOP.  The USCCB has generally embraced political positions advocating for the enhancement of the welfare state, amnesty and compassion for illegal immigrants, the abolishment of the death penalty, the critiquing of US foreign policy, and the like.  The main reason it is seen to be a “wing of the GOP” is because it will not and cannot give any sort of support of someone who advocates for the killing of the unborn. 

  • Lori

     

    So what happens when church doctrine inevitably crosses over into the
    “political”, as Catholic doctrine inevitably does?  I suppose your
    answer would be “tough, that’s their business”, but such religious
    organizations cannot separate certain political actions from theological
    doctrine.  I cannot help but be slightly alarmed, as this would entail
    certain forms of discrimination against churches that have highly
    developed and uniform doctrines. 

    Church doctrine can be whatever it is and can be taught. There would be no problem with a priest preaching a sermon in which he lays out the official Church position that life begins at conception (in all it’s illogical glory).

    What he can’t do is wrap it up by saying anything remotely like, “And that’s why you have to vote for Bob Anti-choice on Tuesday”.

    I’m not going to get pulled into an abortion debate with you because that’s off-topic. Suffice to say that the contention that abortion is somehow unique among Church doctrines or that the only thing the Church can do in the face of it’s anti-choice doctrine is get involved in politics is itself political.

     

    I would also take some contention to your claim of churches being the
    religious wing of the GOP.  The USCCB has generally embraced political
    positions advocating for the enhancement of the welfare state, amnesty
    and compassion for illegal immigrants, the abolishment of the death
    penalty, the critiquing of US foreign policy, and the like.  The main
    reason it is seen to be a “wing of the GOP” is because it will not and
    cannot give any sort of support of someone who advocates for the killing
    of the unborn.    

    Not to put too fine a point on it, bull. The main reason that it seems to be a “wing of the GOP” is that the political positions it actively advocates for are all right wing. When it comes to the compassion for the poor and for immigrants, or being against war or the death penalty there are priests and nuns doing yoeman work, but from the hierarchy it’s all talk.  It’s only when the issue shifts to abortion and generally waging the war on women or denying civil rights and protections to LGBT citizens that the institutional Church puts some teeth in it’s “doctrine”. That’s politics.

    The Church can teach whatever it sees fit. If it wants to continue to be tax exempt it needs to stop politicking.

  • Shane

    I do share some of your frustration at the USCCB seemingly disjointed political commitments (Though I wouldn’t say that they are without teeth, simply that in large part glossed over by everyone).  I would have dearly liked the bishops to say (a la William Cavanaugh) about the Iraq War: “Hey, this doesn’t meet the Just War criteria, American Catholics are sitting this one out.”  I also don’t think you give proper due toward the Church’s work combating prejudice against illegal immigrants; Bishops have spoken at rallies, held vigils, and written and worked against unjust discrimination laws (Look at what they had to say about Arizona’s law).   

    Furthermore, I think we are still diverging on this contention:  I don’t think one can pull Churches (And religion in general) out of politics, nor do I think it is desirable, simply because notions of politics mesh, intertwine, and overlap with what is dubbed “religion”. 

  • P J Evans

     I don’t think one can pull Churches (And religion in general) out of politics, nor do I think it is desirable

    You know, not that many years ago, politicians didn’t touch religion in campaigns. It wasn’t necessary to be seen going to the ‘right’ church; they didn’t assume that their church was the Only Way that people should follow. I guess that was before you were born, though.

  • Lori

    I also don’t think you give proper due toward the Church’s work
    combating prejudice against illegal immigrants; Bishops have spoken at
    rallies, held vigils, and written and worked against unjust
    discrimination laws (Look at what they had to say about Arizona’s
    law).  

    I think I’m giving proper due. Did the Vatican send someone to oversee priests and nuns who haven’t spoken out loudly enough against discriminatory laws? Have the Catholics on SCOTUS been threatened with denial of the sacraments if they vote to uphold the Arizona law? No? Funny that.

    By definition if everyone glosses over something it doesn’t have teeth. When it comes to putting teeth in it, the USCCB’s political commitments aren’t disjointed at all. They’re consistently Right wing.

      notions of politics mesh, intertwine, and overlap with what is dubbed “religion”. 

    Everyone’s morals are entwined with their politics. That doesn’t mean that churches can’t avoid lobbying.

  • Akedhi

    Abortion is intrinsically evil. [citation needed]

  • Shane

     Catechism of the Catholic Church #2270-2275

  • EllieMurasaki

    Catechism of the Catholic Church #2270-2275

    Awesome, you’ve proven that Catechism-following Catholics consider abortion intrinsically evil. I’m not Catholic. Tell me why I should consider abortion intrinsically evil.

  • Lunch Meat

    The main reason it is seen to be a “wing of the GOP” is because it will not and cannot give any sort of support of someone who advocates for the killing of the unborn.

    Which just demonstrates the problem with having a litmus test for who the church will support politically. What if there were two choices for President: a pro-choice candidate, and a candidate who advocated for the killing of everyone who was already born (except for pregnant women)? That’s a ludicrous example, of course, but by your own logic, the church would HAVE to support the latter candidate. Another example: What if the church had a limited amount of resources and had to choose between stopping abortions and stopping child rape? Wait, that’s a real example, and they made the wrong choice. Your litmus test allows that and other evils because you refuse to admit that sometimes things are not black and white. We were not made to follow laws; laws were made to serve us. Sometimes what seems to be evil has to be allowed for the greater good.

    All that aside, you are free to have your own litmus test for candidates. But the church has enormous power over people, in that it can pressure its members to do what it wants through fellowship, the Eucharist, etc. It’s not fair to give the church power over non-members by letting it pressure members to use their vote against us. In a democracy, only the people [should] have power. Not religions, not corporations, not political parties. Just each of us with our one voice.

  • Shane

     Again, the notion of the unencumbered self that is at the heart of most forms of democracy I find idiotic.  People are not free-floating, they are formed by traditions; Liberal democracy represents just as much as a tradition as any other.  People existing apart from the tradition that formed them don’t exist.  We all have contexts.  On this I am very much a Hauerwasian.  Also, to your original question of that, you fundamentally misread my point:  Both candidates would unacceptable from a Church point of view, and because one will be elected (Barring a third party candidate), I would dearly hope the Church got onto drafting something like a Barmen Declaration right quick.

    You also speak of strong utilitarian sentiments; I’m not a utilitarian, and I very much doubt utilitarianism can be a position consistently articulated by Christians.

  • Lunch Meat

    It’s not utilitarianism. It’s moral relativism (gasp! I said the R-word!) It’s okay to lie to Nazis, and sometimes abortion can be a good thing. Calling any action “intrinsically evil” is either a tautology (such as murder, which is generally defined as evil) or it shuts down your critical thinking and ability to reason morally. I believe God gave me my ability to think critically, and I’m going to use it.

    And you misread my point. As I said, I gave a ludicrous example. But “pro-life” candidates advocate for evil things all the time, and in general the Church makes a choice to ignore that because they’ve decided abortion matters more than anything else. They may think abortion is the most evil, but again, once they’ve decided that they lose their ability to objectively evaluate everything else.

  • Shane

     That’s not moral relativism; nor is it utilitarianism.  For your example of lying to Nazi’s, I would say it is wrong to lie to a Nazi if they were seeking something that wasn’t morally wrong (For example….where to buy milk).  But if they asked “Where are the Jews hiding”, lying to them is the appropriate moral response, because the responsibility for asking the immoral question and the lying that it entails falls on the Nazi. 

    And yes, in American and Western society, there is no more current pressing moral problem than millions of unborn fetuses being killed.  That’s how the Catholic Church views it, and there is no wiggle room.  However, the Church should do all it can to oppose the death penalty, euthanasia, poor treatment of immigrants, racism, and war.  It has a moral duty to oppose all those things.

  • Lunch Meat

    Moral relativism, as I understand it, means that what is right differs in different situations. Turns out that’s not wikipedia’s definition; whatever. It’s still not utilitarianism, and whatever it’s called, it’s still a position that I as a Christian hold quite comfortably.

    However, the Church should do all it can to oppose the death penalty, euthanasia, poor treatment of immigrants, racism, and war.

    1) Do you think the Church is doing all it can to oppose those things? 2) If the Church must oppose abortion, what do you say to the fact that in countries where abortion is legal and they have better sex education, social safety nets and access to birth control, the rates of abortion are far lower? Do you think the Church’s political actions are really the best use of its resources?

  • hapax

     

    But if they asked “Where are the Jews hiding”, lying to them is the
    appropriate moral response, because the responsibility for asking the
    immoral question and the lying that it entails falls on the Nazi.

    So why doesn’t the responsibility for choosing an abortion fall upon the person who makes that choice?  Why does the Roman Catholic Church feel that they can take that responsibility from her through coercion?  Why is moral suasion and argument insufficient?

  • Eminnith

    yes, in American and Western society, there is no more current pressing moral problem than millions of unborn fetuses being killed.

    If that’s what the Roman Catholic Church believes, and that is why they encourage pious Catholics to support candidates with otherwise horrible moral platforms – candidates who support unjust war, torture, letting the hungry starve, and the like – all so that abortions will be prevented…

    … why in the name of all that’s good and holy are the Catholic hierarchy not out in the streets handing out free contraceptives to all they meet? Yes, yes, they believe contraception is bad – but they believe unjust wars are evil enough to be condemned as well, and yet they support candidates who claim to be against abortion even if those candidates are supportive of other injustices. Since supporting the war in Iraq has no relationship to prevention of abortion, and the usage of contraception demonstrably PREVENTS abortions by preventing pregnancy, there is no good reason why good Catholics should not be supporting the lesser evil (contraception) in order to prevent the greater one (abortion).

  • aunursa

    If that’s what the Roman Catholic Church believes, and that is why they encourage pious Catholics to support candidates with otherwise horrible moral platforms –

    Has the Catholic Church expressed or provided support for specific candidates?

  • P J Evans

     They sure haven’t spoken out against candidates like Santorum, who was perfectly willing to take choices away from people because the Church doesn’t like allowing those choices. (And some members of the church hierarchy were willing to speak out against Paul Ryan’s budget.)

  • aunursa

    My understanding is that supporting or opposing Santorum, Ryan, or any other specific candidate could jeopardize the Church’s tax-exempt status.

  • P J Evans

     Only for liberal churches. Somehow the conservative churches are never hurt or even looked at funny by the IRS. (They haven’t said anything that could actually be construed as ‘supporting or opposing either Santorum or Ryan. But they did say that Ryans budget wasn’t following Church teachings.

  • Lori

     

    My understanding is that supporting or opposing Santorum, Ryan, or any
    other specific candidate could jeopardize the Church’s tax-exempt
    status.

    Yeah, that’s totally why they didn’t say anything. Funny how concern for their tax-exempt status hasn’t stopped more than one Bishop from instructing priests to read letters from the pulpit telling congregants to vote against marriage equality bills and also hasn’t stopped many of the priests from doing as instructed.

    Strangely, the Catholic church is not facing loss of their tax exempt status. Such a shock.

  • aunursa

    Funny how concern for their tax-exempt status hasn’t stopped more than one Bishop from instructing priests to read letters from the pulpit telling congregants to vote against marriage equality bills and also hasn’t stopped many of the priests from doing as instructed.

    Because the clergy did not advocate for or against a specific candidate.  And the IRS has concluded — quite reasonably — that their advocacy for legislation is not a significant part of the Church’s overall activities.

  • Lori

     

    Because the clergy did not advocate for or against a specific candidate. 
    And the IRS has concluded — quite reasonably — that their advocacy
    for legislation is not a significant part of the Church’s overall
    activities. 

    They did advocate a specific position on a specific piece of legislation. As for whether or not their lobbying is “significant” we’re back to the start of this discussion. “Significant” is open to interpretation. No one is ever going to say that lobbying is a significant’ part of the Church’s overall activities, whether it is or not. Things can, and have, gone differently for  smaller, less powerful, “weirder” churches.

  • Tonio

    Here’s Fred four years ago explaining that the problem is not “religious beliefs” in arguing for public policy, but sectarian beliefs:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/05/01/a-timely-conversation-from-1958/

     

    the usage of contraception demonstrably PREVENTS abortions by preventing
    pregnancy, there is no good reason why good Catholics should not be
    supporting the lesser evil (contraception) in order to prevent the
    greater one (abortion).

    And there’s no secular argument behind the Church’s opposition to contraception, just sectarian claims about ensoulment and divine purposes for procreation. Anyone who indeed believes that reducing abortions is a moral imperative should support not only access to contraception but also better sex education so women have the tools and information they need to control their fertility. And should also favor better support for women who do want to give birth. It’s about addressing the reasons why some have abortions. Making abortion illegal, and coercing women with mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods – those aren’t about reducing abortions, they’re about punishing women who don’t want to be mothers, as if that in itself was deeply morally offensive.

  • EllieMurasaki

    those aren’t about reducing abortions, they’re about punishing women who don’t want to be mothers

    And forgetting about all the women who are already mothers and can’t, for whatever reason, deal with another child.

  • aunursa

    “Some” is not a standard and neither is  “substantial”. In practice it means that the IRS decides what is and is not acceptable based on politics.

    The IRS offers quite a bit of information to help explain the standard…

    Political Campaign Intervention by 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations – Educating Exempt Organizations
    Published Guidance on Political Campaign Activity of 503(c)(3) Organizations
    FAQs About the Ban on Political Campaign Intervention by 501(c)(3) Organizations

  • Lori

     

    The IRS offers quite a bit of information to help explain the standard and its application to specific situations … 

    And yet they still don’t apply the law equally and fairly, so that information is not getting the job done.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I take it you disagree with this policy that allows [501(c)(3)] organizations to engage in some issue advocacy?

    The organization(s) under the Planned Parenthood umbrella that engage in political instead of religious/educational/social-welfare activities (and it should always be an either-or, politics or one or more of the others) should not be tax-exempt, if that’s what you’re asking.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon
  • Shane

     I always thought that was probably the best introduction to the best game of all time.  Of course, I’d still like an account of what constitutes as influencing politics (Specifically regarding to the Church disciplining public figures and politicians).  Then we get on a Deus Ex love discussion.

  • aunursa

    So then you would prohibit a pro-environment non-profit from advocating for legislation that protects the environment?  You would prohibit a women’s advocacy non-profit from in any way supporting an initiative to protect women against violence?  You would prohibit a health advocacy non-profit from voicing support for legislation designed to educate low-income residents of the dangers of smoking and fast food diets and the benefits of regular exercise?

  • Lunch Meat

    So then you would prohibit a pro-environment non-profit from advocating for legislation that protects the environment?  You would prohibit a women’s advocacy non-profit from in any way supporting an initiative to protect women against violence?  You would prohibit a health advocacy non-profit from voicing support for legislation designed to educate low-income residents of the dangers of smoking and fast food diets and the benefits of regular exercise?

    Um, there’s more than one kind of non-profit. 501(c)(4), for instance. I worked for one of them. They definitely work for legislation. So, your questions are pointless, distracting and misleading.

  • aunursa

    I was responding to the opinion that all non-profit groups should be prohibited from any political activity or relinquish their tax-exempt status.

    Yup. If you want to lobby then you need to register as a lobbying organization and play by lobbyist rules. If you want to be tax-exempt then someone else needs to be doing the lobbying.

    I know that this would cause some difficulties for some non-profit groups who get a lot more sympathy from me than the big churches do. I consider that unfortunate, but the way things are I also consider it necessary.

  • Lori

     

    So then you would prohibit a pro-environment non-profit from advocating
    for legislation that protects the environment?  You would prohibit a
    women’s advocacy non-profit from in any way supporting an initiative to
    protect women against violence?  You would prohibit a health
    advocacy non-profit from voicing support for legislation designed to
    educate low-income residents of the dangers of smoking and fast food
    diets and the benefits of regular exercise? 

    I already answered this. Yes, I would be fine with saying that lobbying, even for causes I agree with,  has to be walled off from tax-exempt non-profit work. It’s not that difficult. Major non-profits already do it.

    I think this whole issue could be greatly simplified by taxing the churches, but that’s not going to happen so we need to address it another way.

  • Emcee, cubed

    And Commandment 4 of the Church of Pastafarianism says that jarred spaghetti sauce is intrinsically evil. What is your point?

    (My point being that the Catholic Church doesn’t get to define what is “intrinsically evil” for the entire world.)

  • Shane

    I’ll agree to disagree on that.  But neither can others say “You have no right to use your religious beliefs to articulate public policy”.  I’m not a Rawlsian.  

  • Lori

    But neither can others say “You have no right to use your religious beliefs to articulate public policy”. 

    I think I see the problem. You don’t seem to know what lobbying means.

  • Lunch Meat

    Everyone’s morals are entwined with their politics. That doesn’t mean that churches can’t avoid lobbying.

    Exactly. Traditions exist and they have power to affect us. You can’t avoid that. No matter what else I believe or do in my life, I will always be influenced, for better or worse, by the beliefs with which my parents raised me. But the difference between morals/traditions and the church is that the church is run by people. When people claim the authority of my morals and traditions, and use that power to abuse others, that’s wrong. When someone claims my religion to tell me I’m going to hell unless I support something morally repugnant to me, that’s wrong. When someone claims my religion to bully people into voting away my rights, that’s wrong.

  • aunursa

    When someone claims my religion to tell me I’m going to hell unless I support something morally repugnant to me, that’s wrong.

    Why?

  • Lunch Meat

    When someone claims my religion to tell me I’m going to hell unless I support something morally repugnant to me, that’s wrong.
    Why?

    Because it’s religious bullying.

  • aunursa

    When someone claims my religion to tell me I’m going to hell unless I support something morally repugnant to me, that’s wrong.

    I don’t belong to your religion.  But others have told me that I am going to hell unless I believe in something that I don’t believe in.  Is that bullying?

  • EllieMurasaki

    others have told me that I am going to hell unless I believe in something that I don’t believe in.  Is that bullying?

    Whatever gives you the impression that it might not be?

  • aunursa

    The idea that someone warning me that God was going to send me to hell unless I take a certain course of action — the idea that I was being bullied never crossed my mind.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Somebody tells you, do this or else a really big person whacks you repeatedly with a really big stick, and that’s somehow not bullying?

  • aunursa

    Somebody tells you, do this or else a really big person whacks you repeatedly with a really big stick and that’s somehow not bullying?

    Someone tells me: take route A, because if I take route B, I’ll be going through a very dangerous neighborhood and will surely get mugged.  That’s not bullying.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not analogous situations, either–there’s no moral dimension to route A vs route B, and there is always, always a moral dimension to ‘do this and you’ll go to hell, do that and you won’t’.

  • aunursa

    What’s the moral dimension to a choice between “believe this” and “don’t believe this”?

  • Tonio

    It’s more like “If you take route B you’ll get mugged, which will be your just desserts for taking that route.” I don’t know if that’s bullying but it’s very humanly offensive. If there are any theologies about hell that don’t brand the concept as a just punishment, I’m not familiar with them. The idea that anyone who holds the wrong belief deserves to suffer for eternity is not even remotely just. The person advising against route B should condemn the muggers, or at least volunteer to accompany the person while carrying a defensive weapon.

  • aunursa

    I do not recall anyone telling me that I deserve to suffer for eternity for not holding the correct belief.

    Rather, suffering for eternity is the unfortunate consequence of my not holding the correct belief.

  • Tonio

    They don’t need to say it. First, deservedness is inherent in the concepts of heaven and hell, since the theology assumes that every act and decision by the god is a just one. Second, if the people warning you about hell really believed that you didn’t deserve it or that hell was an unjust concept, it would be reasonable for them to voice this belief. Their failure to explicitly condemn hell as unjust is disappointing, to say the least. What you describe is more like they’re warning others of some natural calamity, and we shouldn’t treat them as if they’re doing that. Has anyone tried challenging them directly? Something like, “If you believe that your god will sentence me to hell, do you think the god is justified in doing so? And if so, why?”

  • Tonio

    Hell seems like the theological equivalent of concern trolling, such as the claim that the outrageousness of gay pride parades enables homophobia.

  • aunursa

    The people warning me do believe that hell is a just concept.  They believe that everyone deserves to go to hell.

  • Tonio

    That’s almost like excusing a suicide bomber because of his death wish. It doesn’t matter what the people warning of hell believe about themselves. What matters is what they believe about others and how that belief influences their treatment of others. Lunch Meat has an excellent point about abuse of power.

  • Tonio

     I doubt that really believe that.

  • Tonio

    Sorry, I mean I doubt they really believe that.

  • Lori

     

    The idea that someone warning me that God was going to send me to hell
    unless I take a certain course of action — the idea that I was being
    bullied never crossed my mind.

    It has apparently escaped your notice, but it’s not all about you.

  • aunursa

    It has apparently escaped your notice, but you’re not the referee.

  • Lori

    It has apparently escaped your notice, but you’re not the referee.

    That wasn’t “refeering”. If you don’t know that, that’s you’re problem.

  • aunursa

    Sure it was.  You were deciding that my response “was all about me”.  Which would be a ridiculous conclusion to any rational person who was following the discussion and reading it in context.

    Shame on you.

  • Dan Audy

    Are you actually capable of reading?

    You said

    the idea that I was being bullied never crossed my mind.

    Which is a entirely self-centered statement that implies that your personal experience should be a universal one.  Lori called you out on it which is not refereeing but pointing out that you are being a jackhole by discounting anyone elses experience.

  • Lunch Meat

    I don’t belong to your religion. But others have told me that I am going to hell unless I believe in something that I don’t believe in. Is that bullying?

    As I said, I’m talking about people in my religion, and specifically people of authority in my religion* (which I thought would be obvious in context). When someone who has authority in my church and over my peers threatens me with loss of salvation, communion, or community, unless I fall in line with the prevailing beliefs (especially when those beliefs are not specifically biblical), then they are abusing their power to control me, and they are bullying.

    *Of course, it’s arguable whether there should even be people with power in Christianity, but that’s another story.

  • aunursa

    I understand how threatening you with loss of communion or community constitutes bullying.  Those in authority have control over those parts of your religious life.

    What I don’t understand is how threatening you with loss of salvation constitutes bullying.  Those in authority have no control over your salvation — only God does.  Expression of their belief does not change your salvation status.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Because the clergy did not advocate for or against a specific candidate. 
    And the IRS has concluded — quite reasonably — that their advocacy
    for legislation is not a significant part of the Church’s overall
    activities.

    If that isn’t the most weasel-wordy nitpicky way of skating by I’ve ever seen.

    Tax lawyers whose job it is to exploit loopholes ought to be jealous of the way these fellas can slice and dice definitions.

  • aunursa

    Sorry you don’t like it, but them’s the rules.

    If you want to change the current policy, you’re certainly free to contact your representatives and ask them to have Congress instruct the IRS that any single instance of political advocacy for or against a single piece of legislation should cause an organization to lose its non-profit status.

  • Lunch Meat

    What I don’t understand is how threatening you with loss of salvation constitutes bullying. Those in authority have no control over your salvation — only God does. Expression of their belief does not change your salvation status.

    Obviously I believe that only God has control over salvation. But I wouldn’t be in the church I’m in if I didn’t trust the people in authority, at least on some level, to have knowledge of it.. It causes serious doubt and pain to hear the people you trust and, in some cases, love (such as family members, for another example) tell you that what you’re doing is so morally terrible that you deserve hell.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The use of public condemnation of Hell, however  much it may be irrelevant to the condemn-ee through lack of religious faith (i.e. I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell therefore cannot truly be threatened by it), is often intended as a public condemnation in order to marshal social forces against the condemnee.

    That is to say, it is a form of bullying by signalling to people who share similar beliefs that open season has now been declared on those being condemned and that there are people who will therefore sympathize with discrinination against QUILTBAG people or the like.

    This cuts both ways, unfortunately, but it is a truism that an unpopular act is often made more palatable if the person who wants to do the act believes that they are being supported by others, especially powerful people – Abu Ghraib being one of the most egregious examples in recent memory.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X