09 June 2009

Is Obama a secret Nihilist? (That must be exhausting.)

Is Obama a Secret Muslim? The Role of Reputation in Politics | Porch Dog:

Furthermore, as I’ve already said on this blog, regardless of whether a president, in his private life is a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or “other” he (or she) is certain to violate more than a few of their religions’ tenets. That is to say, they will violate so many in the course of governing the country that they can hardly even be considered religious at all. Not only will they violate these tenets they 1) enter the profession knowing it will call upon them to do so and 2) they will persist in the profession even after they have done so and knowing they will be called on to do it again–which violates any reasonable standard of penance for their sinning. So unless we adopt a Weberian model of the suffering political martyr who condemns his own soul to Hell so that others don’t have to, we have to admit that politicians are never of the faith they profess.
Sadly, this is too true. It also encapsulates my deep suspicion of politicians that like to make hay out of their Catholicism.* (And no, not just the pro-abortion ones.)

Anyone with principals considering going into politics ought to think on this passage and either prepare a rebuttal or abandon their plans. And everyone who persists in thinking politicians have principals ought to similarly prepare a rebuttal or abandon their delusions.

* Not because it's wrong for Catholics in particular to do this, but because I'm personally most familiar with the tenets of the R.C.Ch. and because the Church spells out their tenets in a much more explicit way that do, for instance, the Methodists. On the other hand I remember reading some old letters of Augustine about whether it was proper for Catholics to be soldiers, the gist of which was that Holy men can fight the spiritual fight, but someone still needs to do the dirty work here on Earth. At the very best this should get us "political martyrs" who are begrudgingly shouldering the dirty work, not the self-aggrandizing let's-throw-inaugural-balls-with-red-white-and-blue-bunting-then-name-a-freeway-after-me cads we have now. Which in turn brings us right back to The Republic of Conscience in which "public leaders ... weep to atone for their presumption to hold office."


  1. I completely agree that its impossible for a politician not to be a part of laws/actions that go against his/her faith. However, this does not constitute a complete abandonment of the principles of faith. I believe that what needs to be discussed the necessary political relationship between natural law and human law (I am using Christian theological terms because those are the terms with which I am most familiar).

    John Courtney Murray, famous Jesuit political theologian of the mid-19th century, talks about the relationship between what we know to be true by faith and what is tolerable in his book "We Hold These Truths." Murray uses the example of pornography. A good Roman Catholic ethicist is against pornography because it violates the natural law of why sexuality was created. But what do we make of this in the light of the first amendment? Is a Catholic Congressperson who votes against banning pornography completely abandoning his/her values? Murray doesn't think so. Rather, the Catholic knows (hopefully) the natural law, but acknowledges that the laws of God and the laws of man are different.

    The same principle can be applied to the more serious principles. You mention abortion. While I do not like Nancy Pelosi's stance on abortion (or her general point of view towards everyone), I do not believe that her pro-choice stance is necessarily an abandonment of her faith. I believe that it is possible for some pro-choice politicians to believe that abortion, while against God's law, is tolerable in American public life.

    In the same way, A Catholic politician who leads our nation to a war that employs unjust weaponry (as all modern warfare does) is not necessarily abandoning his/her faith. S/he does not believe that life is any less sacred, but is making a choice to be pragmatic in a sinful world.

  2. Maybe political careers do not coincide with complete abandonment of faith. But I think knowingly entering into a position which will cause you to compromise your standards, and continuing in that position, says a lot about the relative importance someone puts on their career and their principles. Politics is, after all, just a job. I'm not prepared to cut a senator any more slack than I would a Muslim whiskey distiller or a Mormon brothel owner -- they aren't necessarily bad or faithless people either, but I sure know a lot about their priorities.