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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DIY Creed: Pelosi Edition

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to the Vatican, and the public rebuke issued in response, reminded many of the infamous appearance she made on Meet The Press last summer.

An appearance where Pelosi said the following:
I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose.
And this:
So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception.
While trying to make a pro-abortion argument from a Catholic perspective by arguing for contraception is, to say the least, bizarre, that is not the most troubling aspect of these comments. Neither is the fact that she is a Catholic who is conflicted about the issue (I would guess that there are many).

The troubling aspect of these comments is that Pelosi appears to believe she is free to alter or even negate the official teachings of the Catholic Church (and at least some of its history) to match her own personal beliefs. The notion that in order to be part of a larger group she should relinquish some of her individual beliefs, at least where they directly contradict the principles adopted and promoted by the group, doesn't seem to hold any sway. As a prominent national figure and a Catholic, Pelosi is an easy target for this critique. However, hers is merely one example of the widespread phenomenon of re-defining belief from the bottom up.

In his book The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart author Bill Bishop quotes Reverend Sid Hall of Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas:
"We have some Wic¢ans who are part of the congregation, and that works," Hall said. "When I take the Beliefnet.com test, I always come out 'neo-pagan,' so who knows."
While I don't doubt that there are Methodists that would find this union appalling, I am willing to guess there are at least a few Wic¢ans who would feel the same. How can you reconcile two mutually exclusive worldviews without destroying one or the other, or both? At some point, the removal of fundamental tenants renders a belief system unrecognizable. Continuing to refer to the modified system by some recognizable name does not undo the damage.

A Catholicism that supports abortion isn't Catholicism and a Methodism that incorporates witchcraft isn't Methodism. Wit¢hcraft that attempts to incorporate Christianity is an absurdity.

Given the examples of Pelosi and the Austin Methodists, one might be tempted to conclude that this practice of redefining established group beliefs to suit individual taste is uniquely American, but I suspect that it is common throughout the West.

A tradition that celebrates and promotes individual freedom is laudable. In these traditions, a person is free to believe anything he would like. He is also free to be a Catholic, a Methodist, or even a Wi¢can. However, this right does not include the power to redefine the belief systems of established institutions in order to hold on to cherished personal beliefs while still maintaining nominal inclusion in the larger group. If being a Catholic is important, then one should set aside personal beliefs that are at odds with Church teachings. If holding on to those beliefs is more important, then one should leave the Church. One should definitely not claim that the Church's teachings are something they are not for mere personal convenience.

The great thing about a free society is that you are free to have your cake and to eat it too. While you are eating it though, just don't try to tell us that it's broccoli.

2 comments:

johnny said...

I think that the phenomenon of a la carte religion is rampant today. Folks find a religion they like or go with the one they were raised with and start claiming faithfulness and if something conflicts with convenience they ignore it or try to rationalize it. In the grand scheme of things, however, it doesnt really make any difference which particular fairy tale you believe in. As long as those in power dont try to legislate using the tenets of their particular religion , i dont care if they worship grass and flowers but wholeheartedly embrace weed killer.

Jeremy R. Shown said...

Johnny

If you all you do is going around spraying everything with Round Up, should you really call yourself a gardener?