Separating Church and State… Again
by Mike Trivella | University of Notre Dame
Have you ever noticed that the comments beneath articles on CNN dealing with politics and religion are always filled with so much anger and polemic? One can only hope that the people who write in these blogs do not constitute the moderate majority of Americans, because if they do, then our country as a whole is headed for disaster.
Over winter break I was reading an article about how many of Rick Santorum’s political views are influenced by his strong Catholic faith, and how he is not as mindful of separation of church and state as his Catholic predecessor JFK was. Scrolling down to read the comments on this article, I was sadly unsurprised to see the words “ignorant,” “mindless,” “Godless.” and the like being thrown around like a baseball on a pleasant spring day. Of course, a lot of the people who were throwing around these words were atheists, but a lot of the bloggers were of other Christian denominations. You would think that in the twenty-first century Americans would be a little past this type of hate-filled rhetoric, but that’s seemingly not the case.
There are two main problems that I find present in this specific case, the first one being that people who do not adhere to religion use way too much polemic when speaking about their beliefs and the beliefs of others. In the age of forced political correctness, it is generally looked down upon to speak of your religious beliefs to others, lest you want people to think that you are trying to convert them. I can see why it’s no longer apropos to do so, in a way; people naturally do not like being told what to do or believe in. If anything, religion (or at least Christianity) is something that one can come to embrace only after inner reflection and debate.
However, on these blogs people condemn the ridiculousness and hatred they find in religion, and how whoever adheres to it is a) completely stupid and, therefore, b) not worthy of holding political office. It is hypocritical to say that one cannot project their religious beliefs on you, and then do the same thing to them. Religious debate is a two-way street, or as my friends back home would say, “It’s all fun and games until someone makes fun of (insert meathead football player’s name here).”
Perhaps more disconcerting to me as a Catholic was the amount of intra-Christian hatred displayed by the comments on the blog. I still don’t understand why people think that a Catholic president automatically means the Pope is going to take over the United States. Although he may look like Chancellor Palpatine at first glance (as my friend and devout Catholic Nate Steele once observed), the Bishop of Rome has more important things to worry about, such as promoting the Kingdom of God as preached by Jesus Christ. The problem with us Christians today arises when we try to establish a physical Kingdom of God here on Earth. The Kingdom of God is not an actual place with a golden gate guarded by Saint Peter; it’s a state of mind. Living in the Kingdom of God is to help an elderly neighbor dig himself or herself out of the driveway after a snowstorm. Living in the Kingdom of God is to donate money to a charitable cause, or better yet volunteer for a charitable cause. Living in the Kingdom of God is to live one’s life trying to be a steward of the earth and towards your fellow man. The Kingdom of God is all of these things, but it is certainly not a political entity.
I understand that it is hard to keep religious beliefs and political views separate. It has always been a very blurry line between morals and the law, and sometimes we are unable to accept that something we see as moral is, in fact, illegal. However, as Christians we must also keep in mind that Jesus Christ is probably the most apolitical figure in the history of mankind. When asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to the Romans, Jesus replied, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17). Even Jesus’ most passionate adversaries, the Pharisees, were amazed at the wisdom of this statement. Separation of church and state was good enough for Jesus. It should be good enough for us, too, regardless of what any one person believes.Mike Trivella is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Majoring in Accounting and minoring in Philosophy, Mike splits his time between classes, working out with friends, balancing debits & credits, pondering the true essence of the universe, and as always watching the New York Football Giants.