Sunday, July 30, 2006
Personal Asides: Why Do So Many Jews Vote Democratic?...
Why Do So Many Catholics Shun Bush Who Agrees with the Church on Social Issues?
Your Catholic church has the same problem Judaism has, Ariel Sharon told me more than a decade and a half ago after he spoke at a synagogue in Skokie as a leader in political exile (and who later addressed a luncheon at the Sun-Times). People who are little- or non-observant tend to embrace secularism as a substitute religionand secularism demands no sacrifice.
Neatly said. Compact. And today the fact remains that a heavy preponderance of Jews disdain to vote for Republicans despite the fact that George W. Bush, key GOP leaders in Congress and Ronald Reagan all support or have supported Israels foreign-defense policy with few reservations. Why is that so? Because, clearly, liberalismnot just secularismis for Americas establishment its civil religion. And liberalism now (not originally) demands no sacrifice.
Not that this Blog is in literal agreement with the draconian formulae of evangelical Christians who, applying the words of the Apostle John, have us all on the plain of Jezreel in northern Palestine arrayed in what Revelation 16:16 calls Armageddon. Revelation 15-16 describe seven angels who pour out seven bowls of the wrath of God upon the earth. The sixth angel pours out his bowl on the Euphrates, causing its waters to dry up, preparing the way for the Kings of the East.
At the same time, three demonic spirits go forth to prompt the kings of the whole world the whole world together for a battle of the great day of God the Almighty which takes place at Armageddon, generally thought to be the town of Megiddo, located between the western coastal area and the Plain of Jazreel. Like most of Revelation, the passage is difficult to interpret (Ive pondered it since young manhood). While literalists see it as a violent war of wars, a figurative interpretation argues that John is symbolically portraying the ultimate worldwide clash between sinful mankind and the forces of Christianity.
Thats how this Blog sees it, cognizant that Armageddon has placed a role in U. S. history, particularly in Chicago where in 1912 Teddy Roosevelt, accepting the Progressive party nomination for president, shouted: We march to Armageddon and battle for the Lord! He was referring to opposing both the conservative Republicans of William Howard Taft and the Democrats of Woodrow Wilson. (In that tangle, by TRs standard, the bad guys won and Wilson was elected).
Rather, many Christians believe in the historic and spiritual destiny of Israeland realists understand that Israel is the only democratic country of the Mideast, beset with forces on all sides that wish either its destruction or dissolution. It is fitting that the U. S. under Harry Truman co-sponsored the formation of the doughty little country. And for historic and religiously significant reasons (if not literally because of Revelation) believing Christians are prone to support it. Especially now when the Muslims have produced terrorists who are willing to die and kill others in the process including our own country.
Only the paleos and far-left, aligned mysteriously after so many years, see Israel as the great fomenter of problems for us. But secularists, those who are lukewarm, either believers in God or agnostics, tend to accept as their substitute religion, as Sharon said, the dogma of the mainstream media: for charity and love they substitute civil rights protection backed by law and equal treatment for gays. For foreign policy they will accommodate any challenge because to them the worst sentence that can be levied is deathdeath of themselves and their families since there is either no hereafter or the slight possibility of a God that is just due to evident injustices that befall many people on earth. Paleos (and I know them well) believe truly in God but feel, whether they choose to admit it or not, that Jews are the great fomenters of trouble and that they have been persecuted for reasons that generally, not always, lie with their own derelictions: either materialistically or residually as those who killed Christ.
To them our foreign-defense has been guided by a strategic coterie of Jews or Jewish supporters who have infiltrated both partiesmainly Republicans. Paleos truly are a misguided and often hatefully self-disguised people. Leftists rarely believe in God, have no religion, spurn it and see as their salvation the up-building of the perfect kingdom on earth, to whose dimensions the U. S. is woefully short: aggressive, imperialistic and swayed by Jews who favor the persecution of the innocent Palestinians. The warlike adherent of the religion of Islam is of no concern to them since they view all religion as folly anyhow. That takes care of the paleos and the leftists.
A great middle includes those of nominal religious belief but who are not observant and who have either covertly or officially substituted liberalism as their civil religion: civil rights laws, tolerance toward all practices notwithstanding their societal effect since there is no certainty, anger at those who believe in absolutes, those who believe the U. S. is, in fact, the culmination of John Winthrops City on a Hill that Reagan cited. No group better fits this designation than the owners and operators of The New York Times, which is the Sulzberger family, officially of Jewish adherence but who are citizens of the world, priding themselves on their broadmindedness, their ability to stand apart and survey foreign policy rationally, objectively: with no U. S. chauvinism, no Jewish chauvinism, no Christian chauvinismjust the ever swaying doctrines of civil religion.
They are a product of affluence, largely. And they will not change until and unless they feel the sting of either persecution or poverty or penalties or such severe challenge that they feel their survival is at stake. Then they will shuck their liberalism as civil religion and join those of us who believe in eternal verities. The Jewish Bible and New Testament are filled with examples of people who forswore old covenants and returned as penitents. Lets hope realization will come to these adherents of liberalism as civil religion before horrific occurrences.
Catholics are different, a group of whom this Blog can speak with personal knowledge. Most U. S. Catholics seem to accept the beliefs of the Church on a cafeteria basis, thanks to the willing acquiescence of liberal theologians, some liberal bishops, some liberal priests. This collection generally are over-aged, having been influenced in the Sixties. You can list them randomly as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Fr. Andrew Greeley of Chicago, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who just retired as archbishop of Washington, D. C., a flock of lesser bishops and auxiliariesall of liberal political and theologically acccommodationist persuasion.
They reflected their leader, el supremo, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. He was not just their lodestar but as one who had the best touch with the secular media along with the most influence in Rome was the most important prelate since Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York in the 1940s. Gifted with inherent Italianate skills of nuance, diplomacy, flattery and the iron fist in the velvet glove, Bernardin knew how to gain and wield clout. His rise in the American church was greased via his early role as a young priest as chief staffer of what was merely regarded as an impotent trade organization of bishops. This group he galvanized into a political force: the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Before the NCCB became powerful, U. S. bishops were on their own running their dioceses. Bernardin devised a rulebook and research with a large staff that molded institutional liberalism.
In his role, Bernardin applied the high arts of his colleague in ethnicity and temperament, Niccolo Machiavelli. He used the job in three ways. First, to gain familiarity with the lower level but important and on-the-rise monsignori in Rome. He had an ample travel budget and he winged often to Rome to sip wine and schmooze with them; to them he passed along advice on who were up-and-comers in the U. S. Second, in the U. S. he told his clerical constituents who were busily running their dioceses, that Rome wants this, Rome wants that. Third he duplicated the process in Rome saying that the mood of the U.S. was this and that. What Rome wanted and the U.S. mood required conformed exactly to the liberal ideology Bernardin held. He ruled supreme since Rome didnt check much with anyone else but Bernardin and the U.S. bishops didnt check often with Rome but relied on him.
Bernardins ideology had little theological relevance because unlike almost all of his fellows, he was reared in public, not parochial schools, and espoused the civil religion of liberalism without many absolutes except those that were pragmatically needed for him to carry out his work. This view tailored neatly with the prevailing civil religion of the U.S. media: no rough edges in foreign policy and accommodation to the Soviets in pressing for nuclear freeze no rough edges in U. S. domestic policy where the U.S. bishops signed off on Bernardins ideas for a bigger welfare state, support for higher minimum wages, environment protection, affirmative action in race, enhanced regulations over business: a miniature of the national Democratic platforms. The media rated him as a strong comer.
Thus to the media in the U. S. he was a progressive who lobbied against useless ancient traditions in Rome and in Rome he was a faithful translator of progressive attitudes in the U.S. Neither side caught on until later. It was a brilliant strategy which could have been authored by Machiavelli. Rome developed such confidence in him that it counted on him, as NCCB executive director, to pass on unofficial but highly influential recommendations for new bishops. The new bishops were, in turn, indebted to him and recommended him highly to Rome for advancement. To both groups, Rome and the U.S. bishops, he became indispensable.
When it came time for him to move on from his staff position, he rounded up enough support here and in Rome to get himself appointed archbishop of Cincinnati. On the death of Cardinal John Cody of Chicago, the media touted he was the logical successor which he became, a post which guaranteed him the red hat. There were serious secular media stories that he might be considered for the papacy, although by then his stratagem had been deduced by Roman traditionalists. Anyhow, cancer struck him down and soon he was gone.
But before that, he befriended liberal priests in this archdiocese, favored them, rewarded them and ignored the ones who followed the old authenticist tradition. The media loved him as he became the living archangel of negotiated peace with the USSR, of enhanced civil rights, higher wages, pressure on corporations for more benefits. He gave lip-service to anti-abortionism but having tied that issue to two others in what he called the seamless garmentnuclear freeze and anti-capital punishmenthe had guaranteed that Democratic candidates for office would score two out of three pro-life stands and Ronald Reagan only one.
He even had a stunning program for Jews. Taking a number of rabbis and key media people to Jerusalem, he made a speech that declared John the Apostle as either an anti-Semite (improbable since John was a Jew himself) or victim of bad biblical translation in his gospel where Christ argues with a subset of Jews. Not bad for one liberal lifes work. His theology was improvised, unlettered, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants but played well in Peoria and many places elsewhere: particularly with U. S. liberaldom. To say his theology, what there was of it, was secular is not to exaggerate. The last person who talked to him on his death bed and who was with him to the end was none other than Eppie Lederer known to the world as Ann Landers, the advice matron who had severely ridiculed John Paul II for his pro-life theology. And there is no gainsaying that for a time Chicago Catholics were stunned when, at Bernardins request, his funeral Mass was sung by an ad hoc group known as the Gay Mens Chorus.
The Bernardin civil religiosity in place of theology is alive and well in Chicago where priests in place have given a rough time of it to Bernardins successor, Cardinal Francis George who unlike his predecessor is a gifted theologian and philosopher with doctorates in both and is a shining exemplar of orthodoxy. And the people Bernardin appointed in his youth still reign in many dioceses of the country and have graduated in some cases to the cardinalate. Slowly under the teaching instruction of the late John Paul II and now Benedict XVI, the theological sense of orthodoxy is coming back. But much remains to be done. Cardinal McCarrick, while retired, still thrives and has led the fight against penalizing Democratic Catholic politicians who thumb their noses at Church dogma.
Other bishops are less skillful but not less liberal. Faulty and irresponsible teaching from the bishopric in many dioceses have conditioned American Catholics to a cafeteria concept that thinks warmly of all Catholic politicians, especially those with acceptable Irish names (Kennedy, Kerry, Daley et al) so these dissenters havewith the exception of Kerryhad little to fear from aroused Catholic constituents at the ballot box. But Kerrys failure to win a majority of his fellow churchmen has sounded an alarman alarm which the Democratic party, wedded to the civil religion of liberalism, hears but cannot heed. The Democratic party seemingly cannot shuck its social liberalism until its strongly nominal Catholic component realizes that to embrace the party of abortion and gay rights is anathema to the Church and all Judeo Christianity to the point where dissenters may be barred from receiving the Eucharist which to Catholics is essential for the inculcation of sanctifying grace without which they cannot be saved.