Evangelicals, Catholics are Strange Bedfellows


Sweet Jesus in a go cart, these wacky Republican primaries sure enough make for good drama. And strange bedfellows. First, Washington insider Gingrich gets the nod from avowed outsiders Cain and Trump.

Next up, button-down Mormon Romney is brought to you by Kid Rock, the rapper who on occasion throws down with rock drummers and Waffle House patrons.

But the cake-taking odd couple has to be Megadeath front man/evangelical rocker Dave Mustaine and his crazy love for Rick Santorum.

Shared allegiance to semi-theocracy aside, it’s hard to conjure up a more unlikely pairing than a born again (but still f-bomb-dropping) head banger and a Catholic Glenn Beck in a red sweater vest. (Honestly, if you can make a lick of sense out of that one you must wear aluminum foil hats and bark at full moons.)

In a sane world, this tandem would be a hoot. We’d laugh it off as yet another Republican election year sideshow. But if you were watching last month as the burgeoning evangelical-Catholic alliance put the brakes on common sense contraception, you’re not laughing.

Led by an enclave of conservative Catholic bishops – and a significant number of likewise conservative Protestant leaders who have historically been silent on the issue – the opponents of government-mandated contraception coverage for religious employees notched a church-state win: in the wake of a veritable tidal wave of Catholic-evangelical outrage, private insurers will still be required to provide the benefits, but those women who work for religious organizations will enjoy no such guarantee. Progressives should not underestimate the portent of this outcome. The new precedent is that if a solid hard-right religious coalition can be assembled, a Democratic administration will waffle. Add enough sympathetic, election-year congressional pressure to the mix and it will even back away.

These events alone should trouble us. But even more troubling is that the president is himself on the religious ropes.

Witness Obama’s February address at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he told the gathered that he starts each morning with prayer, reads the Bible and invites pastors to pray with him in the Oval Office. Clearly the president has included in his damage control strategy a public defense of his own faith and practice – a move that probably swayed few but most certainly opened a new line of attack that Santorum (the perfect and freakishly timely personification of Catholic-evangelical convergence) has brutishly but effectively exploited.

For the time being, many on the right wings of America’s two largest and most influential faith communities are reading from the same playbook. For them, religion is not just religion. It’s the new politics.

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Raleigh, N.C. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2012


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