The Catholic Thing
Christians Need Not Apply? Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 05 October 2011

Christians who spar in the political arena have grown accustomed to being pounded by secular ideologists who deny the spiritual and look askance at most traditional moral constraints. Though we have taken punches, we are still standing.  But the secularists’ latest offensive to eradicate all traces of our Judeo-Christian heritage from American society is, in my judgment, most disconcerting and may be the knockout blow.

Secularists have moved beyond dismissing Christians as anti-intellectual and anti-rational.  They are now publicly ridiculing them and questioning their fitness to participate in public life.  They portray religious beliefs as nothing more than superstitions, old wives’ tales, or legends, and claim anyone who believes such drivel is balmy. Is it any wonder, then, that agencies like HHS now think they can ride roughshod over the conscience rights of individuals and religious institutions?

For example, Washington State University history professor Matthew Avery Sutton warned in a New York Times op-ed that the public must beware of crackpot Christian candidates who believe in the Second Coming and Armageddon. Catholics must be on the suspect list because we hold that “Christ ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, from thence he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Such people, the professor fears, are out to harm or destroy President Obama because “not since [F.D.] Roosevelt have we had a president of charisma and global popularity who so perfectly fits the evangelicals Antichrist mold.”  Sutton is convinced that in 2012 apocalyptic anti-statists will accuse Obama of preparing the nation “for the Antichrist’s global coalition.”

And they call believers delusional.

Then there’s New York Times editor Bill Keller, who demanded in the paper’s magazine that Republican presidential candidates be asked tougher questions about their faith.  The 2012 primary season “offers an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life – and to get over them.”

Keller wants candidates who belong to religions “that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans” to receive the same level of scrutiny as those who believe “space aliens dwell among us.”  To prove he is open-minded, he concedes all organized religions have “bizarre baggage.”  “I grew up believing,” he wrote, “that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.”  (It’s fashionable in certain secular salons to refer to Catholics as believing in a kind of cannibalism.)

    The Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friburg (1975)

Because presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann allegedly belong to “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity” and Rick Santorum is a practicing Catholic, Keller raises “concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.”  Hence, he demands that every presidential candidate be asked if they place fealty to “some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country.”

If people are to be judged unfit for public life because they hold that God’s law supersedes man-made civil law then most of America’s most revered leaders would have been declared unfit.  Here’s a sampling of American icons who would have flunked the Keller test:

  • Thomas Jefferson, who justified the American cause for separation from Great Britain by arguing the “laws of nature and nature’s god” entitled them to independence.
  • Alexander Hamilton, who argued there is a higher law than human law that is “written as with a sunbeam … by the hand of Divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
  • George Washington, who at his first inauguration declared, “it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being, who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect…”
  • John Adams, who wrote that “our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people.  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

Let’s not forget Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln who invoked God’s law in making the case against slavery.  And what about the aforementioned Franklin D. Roosevelt who demanded that the Nazis’ hierarchy – who violated no existing German civil laws – be punished “for atrocities which have violated every tenet of the Christian faith.”  Was he unfit for office because, based on his faith, he judged such people guilty?

Finally, was Martin Luther King out of line for insisting, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. . . . An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the natural law.”

The new and growing secularist tactic being employed to marginalize religious influence is ridicule.  Bill Keller gives a back-handed slap to the Mormon religion of presidential contenders John Huntsman and Mitt Romney by referring to it as a faith many “have been taught is a ‘cult’ and that many others think is just weird.”  Mainstream media has mocked Governor Rick Perry for holding a prayer gathering in Houston and urging Texans to fast and repent.

We have reached a turning point in public life. If Catholics do not join with others and stand up to this secular barrage and effectively articulate, as our Church is well equipped to do, that faith and reason march hand in hand, policy positions based on religious principles will be banned from public discourse, Christian politicians will be assigned to the fringe of the political spectrum, and all believers will be dismissed, by the mere fact of believing, as cranks.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic Voter.

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Comments (19)Add Comment
written by Pierre Lebègue, October 05, 2011
Whenever I go to the United States I enjoy the religious behaviour of many Americans. And I am glad to check that you, Americans, according to the motto printed on your banknotes, still trust in God. May I wish that your "priest-eater" (bouffeur de curé) politicians learn a little more of and think more about History before they take arms against religion.
written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, October 05, 2011
Often, I am afraid, we find ourselves in the position described by Mgr Ronald Knox, when he observed that “good Christian people who do not relish an eccentric spirituality find themselves in unwelcome alliance with worldlings who do not relish any spirituality at all.”

Listening to some of our fellow-Christians, one cannot but feel a certain sneaking sympathy for Bishop Joseph Butler of Durham’s stern rebuke to John Wesley, “Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing” As Wellington said of the Peninsular army, “I don’t know about the enemy, but by G- they frighten me!”

Knox explains: “"Basically it is the revolt of Platonism against the Aristotelian mise en scène of traditional Christianity. The issue hangs on the question whether the Divine Fact is something given, or something to be inferred. Your Platonist, satisfied that he has formed his notion of God without the aid of syllogisms or analogies, will divorce reason from religion”
written by Manfred, October 05, 2011
When the State had to finally step in to protect its citizens from the sexual predations of Catholic priests, I can assure you the game changed irrevocably. The Church was insisting these actions were sins. It was the State which insisted they were CRIMES and they put these predators in prison. If the State had not stepped in, THE PREDATIONS WOULD STILL BE GOING ON. Now, do we want to associate ourselves with crack-pot "Christian" religions? Have you ever read the Book of Mormon? Is any sane Thomist looking forward to The Great Rapture? The lunacy which followed Vat II and Assisi I and II which suggested "one religion was as good as another" has marginalized us and we will not likely be credible again. Our bishops cannot even deny Communion to pro-abort and pro same-sex Catholic politicians! We have only ourselves to blame.
written by Ray Hunkins, October 05, 2011
Excellent piece but I disagree with your conclusion that "secular ideologists" are in the process of delivering a "knock out blow". I think there is abundant evidence at hand that just the opposite is happening. The knock out blow is a counter-punch and it is being delivered by people of faith. The fundamental mistake the secular left has made is to see the United States as consisting of the East coast and the West coast and the population as sympathetic to the message and goals of the elite left. They forget what and who is between those two coasts. There is a fundamental shift underway that bodes ill for the secular ideologists. It is the result of the great lurch to the left brought about by the triumphant forces of the secular progressives in recent years and the reaction to that lurch by ordinary every day Americans. Thanks to people like you and your colleagues at The Catholic Thing and other new, non traditional and traditional journalistic outlets, the people are being educated. One could say, "we have crept up to the precipice and looked into the abyss and we don't like what we see." There is an America, a traditional and religious America, between the coasts. I agree with Barack Obama that the people who live in this part of the Country cling to their religion and yes, their guns. I disagree they are "bitter". It is these folks who will lead us out of the wilderness and the march is already underway.Thanks are due the secular ideologists for waking a sleeping giant.
Thanks also to you for a thought provoking essay.
written by Martinkus, October 05, 2011
It would help if our bishops would spend more time teaching the entire country about the relationship between Faith and Reason, the relationship between Gospel and culture, and the right philosophical anthropology--and less time trying to promulgate the liberal analyses and prudential judgments of their liberal staff members.
written by Tom T, October 05, 2011
I am sadly afraid I have to agree with Manfred. We have only ourselves and our bishops to blame. Mixed messages come all the time from the USCCB. One recent example was the article sent out to diocesan newspapers across the country by the Catholic News Service a division of the USCCB. It profiled Secretary of Labor H. Solis as a model Catholic politician while ignoring her 100% voting record as congresswoman in Calif.where she even opposed partial birth abortion restrictions, as reported in Catholic Culture (Sept 2). Add to this the story from the New York Times that stated and I quote "It was befuddling to gay rights advocates: The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with authority and reach to derail the same-sex marriage bill seemed to shrink from the fight. As the marriage bill hurtled
toward a vote, the head of the Church in New York left town to lead a meeting of bishops in Seattle. He did not travel to Albany or deliver a speech in the final days of the session. And when he did issue a strongly worded critique of the legislation-he called it "immoral" and an "ominus threat"
it was over the phone to an Albany radio show." Now add to all this a Bishop Hubbard of Albany and member of the USCCB who allows Gov. Cuomo, prochoice, pro gay marriage, divorced with a live in girl friend to the delight of the liberal press to recieve communion in the Cathedral where he shakes his hand coming out of Church. Anybody remember the white priest who gave a sermon impersonating Hilary Clinton in Jerimiah Wrights Church where Obama attended for 20 years?
He is still heading a parish in Chicago. With leadership like this it is no wonder we are where we are. Pax
written by Michael, October 05, 2011
I suggest a visit to any library. You'll find a plethora of writings by our Founding Fathers regarding a faith in God, His providence, His inspiration for the writing of the Constitution, etc. America is a nation founded on Christian principles. If you read the writings of our Founders, you will learn it is undeniable.
written by Brian A Cook, October 05, 2011
What about Rushdoony? I have read much about the Dominionist movement and its architect. Many people are genuinely concerned about being ruled by a very strict interpretation of Mosaic law.
written by Thoms C. Coleman, Jr., October 05, 2011
Dear Manfred and Tom T: While I share your outrage and the sins that intensified the worlds' hatred of the church founded by the Savior on the Rock of Peter, I must point out that these attacks on all things Catholic or spiritual were well under weigh long before the sex abuse scandal came to light. Ever since the US academic world, including large parts of the Catholic college world, became atheist occupied territory, Americans have been told that the only way to demonstrate their inclusion among the elect is to renounce the faith of thier fathers. Please dodn't be so dismissive of those who susepct that the anti-Christian powers that be are preparing the nation for the Antichrist's global coalition. Our government is now attacking the Cathoic Church in Poland for promoting "homophobia," and while our military chaplins are told today that they MAY preside at seme-sex "wedding," it is likey that they will soon be required to do so or resign.The reason why so many pro-abort Catholics have been appointed to high positions is so that eventually the government can point to them as the "good Catholics," while the govenrment accuses the true Catholic of loylalty to a foreign power.
written by Achilles, October 05, 2011
Certainly one of the intellectual hallmarks of our age is an horizontal leveling out of all ideas, peoples, cultures etc... See the French Revolution. Every sector of society is infected with this slothful intellectual fallacy. The pubic schools and multi-culturalism, the UN you name it. The Church is the last place this can happen. Vatican II documents on Ecumenism do not say that all religions are the same, it is clearly stated that the Catholic Faith is the One True Faith and the only supernatural means to salvation.
Again, you have mistaken appearances for the thing itself. There are countless that call themselves Catholic that have been taken by these poisonous ideologies, Mother Church Herself? Never, "the gates of hell will not prevail against her."
Your own ideology has forced you to see things through tinted lenses. After seeing the SSPX response yesterday to the Vatican's offer, I am disconcerted that pride may be an unrecognized root problem that will prevent reconciliation. The Fr. was mentioning numbers and power and it was a little scary.
We must recognize that in this valley of tears, troubles are coming, we shall only overcome through and with Christ, not by the power of our own intellects. We are in a crazy time that requires us to unify, not to separate further.
The pedophile scandal? Primarily an illustration of the disordered nature of homosexual acts. If it were not for the state we would not have handled it? Are you sure about that? You seem a little myopic Manfred. What percentage of priests are active homosexuals or non active homosexuals? One is too many, but do you even know?
There is no doubt that Satan is wreaking havoc within Mother Church, but is the answer really prideful and self-righteous dissent? Separation? Sounds to me like more playing into the hands of the devil.
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Kevin, October 05, 2011
This is what comes of Christians giving their votes to two parties whose pretense of respecting Christians' views and values doesn't even pass the straight face test. Things have continued in the same direction in the US for the last 50 years, regardless whether it's Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum in the driver's seat, with only minor cosmetic changes depending on party. A certain definition of insanity comes to mind. Part of the problem is that too many Christians are non-Christian in their thinking. Some vote to continue the holocaust of abortion and call it compassion or conscience, and others prefer a Randian "limited government" approach that is merely social Darwinism applied to economics. In both cases we are affirming profoundly un-Christian views of the relative worth of people vs. material wealth. Maybe if professing Christians started thinking and voting as Christians we would find ourselves a supermajority that even the secular fundamentalist bigots in the media couldn't silence or dismiss. Or maybe we will just stay mentally lazy and keep getting used and abused by Democrats and Republicans.
written by Hans Moleman, October 05, 2011
What appears new since 1960 is that the Protestant - Catholic fault line has shifted. Now it is all Christians (and believing Jews) who appear too exotic and insanely credulous to be taken seriously in the public square.
And those who attack them as such no longer fear being labelled as the bigots they are.

For several centuries, the secular relativists have attacked Judeo-Christian truths while proclaiming themselves as friends and defenders of "true" religion.

Now, the veils and pretences have fallen away, and the haters of Judeo-Christian truths have bared their fangs in the open. Has their been this much open hatred of Christianity since Nero's day?
written by enness, October 05, 2011
I would not flatter Obama with the title of AntiChrist -- he's not *that* slick. There are chinks in his facade. From time to time he loses his temper a little to obviously; and look at that approval rating!

Mr. Marx: I dare you to get to know me and then say to my face that I am "afraid of the dark." Faith has overcome more fears than you will ever know. So, just try me. :)
written by Manfred, October 06, 2011
Mr. Marlin should forget Keller and the Times. Keller is merely stating what the voting public knows. Many Republican donors were crushed when Christie withdrew as they know the present field is not electable, many because of their false and bizarre religions.
written by Thoms C. coleman, Jr., October 06, 2011
Manfred, You say that "Keller is merely stating what the voting public knows." Does that mean that you and the rest of the voting public KNOW that the Eucharist is not the Body and Blood of Christ? False and bizarre religions? Three still in the race are Catholics! Rememeber that last time around people voted for an ahderent of the false and bizzarre religion of Jeremiah Wrightism.
written by Tao Wrangler, October 06, 2011
Yes, legendary advocates Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln did appeal to God’s law in making the case against slavery and Martin Luther King did marry moral theology with world-class preaching and charismatic leadership to achieve advances in civil rights.

But none of the current crop of republican candidates have evidenced any comparable ability to invoke god's law as a basis for policy in a way that seems both articulate AND sincere.

I think they would be more credible and effective if they simply spoke up for what they believed without cloaking it in transparently feigned piety.

P.S. Those of us that have lived, and gone weekly to church, in Texas for the better part of a century are always amazed when one of our wear-it-on-my-sleeve-when-its-convenient psuedo- Christian Governors like Perry is credulously embraced in a national political contest by Christians that, while constituting a majority of the populace, are desperate for a leader to lead them from a perceived marginalization by an increasingly secular society.
written by Thomas C. coleman, Jr., October 06, 2011
To the One Who Wrangles with the Tao and others who feel themselves qualified to judge the sincerety of others' Christianity: Where did you get this marvelous charism? No, none of the foks on the GOP are perfect, but none of them would be forcing Catholic employers to provide contraception or finance abortions with public money, or do all in their poweer to make America accept homosexuality and promote the idea that only good Christians are those who endorse abortion and sodomy, or try to undermine chruches in other countries that don't accept America's immorality. I belive that party loylaty is for facsists and communists, and I didn't swtich to the GOP unitl 1992 when the party that I thought the natural home of Chrsitians would not even allow one pro-life speaker to address its convention. I resolved then to refer to it as the Abortion Party, and I ask people who claim that they are offended if they follow a philosophical system according to which their right to not be a offended trumps another's right to life? I tell them to sit up all night trying to answer that question and pciture a partial birth abortion. And please don't think that the Abortion Party is more likely to keep America out of war or abolish captital punishment. It is arguable that the reason why we have a president who is bent on the moral ruin of this country is precisely because so many Catholic leaders cannot shake thier emotional attachment to the Abortion Party and its empty promises to end poverty.
written by Tao Wrangler, October 07, 2011
To Thomas so bountifully blessed with the mini-charism to judge who is, and who is definitely not, entitled to judge:

Last time I checked, it was the teaching of the Church that we all employ God’s gift to us of reason in making all manner of choices.

And no doubt you recall from your reading of Scriptures that Paul repeatedly called upon Christians to be on guard for the hypocrites that deposit themselves in, and make use of, our ecclesiastical communities.

And just a couple of weeks ago in Freiburg the Holy Father reminded us that sometimes even conscientious agnostics may be closer to God than “false believers” in our midst.

So, I hope that, upon reflection, you may try to be a bit more understanding of those of us that think maintaining some reasoned skepticism about the current slate of DEM/GOP candidates has a strong grounding in the tradition and teachings of the Church.

But, now that I understand you’ve been consistently committed to the GOP for almost two decades now (notwithstanding, as you say, “party loylaty is for facsists and communists”), perhaps you could share with us your views as to which of the GOP candidates is, or at least seems to you, “both articulate AND sincere”. [From my perspective the only one that seems to meet those criteria is Rick Santorum, but I haven’t bothered to check him out since I don’t think he’ll be a factor in the contest.]

P.S. I was able to decipher from your comments that you now cleverly refer to the Democratic Party as the Abortion Party.
As you know, in the most recent (2011) Pew Survey, 52% of Catholics polled said abortion should be legal in all or most cases (compared to only 34% of white evangelical protestants).
In light of those findings, do you have you have a new clever nickname for the Catholic Church ?

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