Monday, August 18, 2008

religion and politics

There's an old story about when GK Chesterton was first offered a newspaper column. Supposedly his publisher told him he was free to write about anything he wanted, as long as it wasn't religion or politics. Chesterton is said to have responded, "There is nothing else worth writing about!"

I'm really looking forward to reading Archbishop Chaput's new book, Render Unto Caesar, because its subtitle "Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life" has been somewhat of an obsession of mine for some time now.

As such, the last couple of days have been pretty interesting for me. First, of course, there was the forum involving Senators Obama and McCain at Saddleback Church. I won't go into it much here, but the First Things blog has an interesting comparison of four world-class medical doctors' (from such places as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School) answers to Pastor Warren's question of when human life begins--they all say at conception--with Obama's response, "Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

Then, this morning, The Denver Post ran a pretty interesting column about faith-based initiatives by Jim Towey, who ran the White House office that deals with these from 2002-2006. It's worth a read, but I'm still kind of unsure about exactly how I feel about the government funding faith-based groups that provide community services. I don't think there's necessarily a separation of church and state issue involved, but I worry about the strings that might come attached to such aid. The old rule of thumb, "With government money comes government control" has a lot of truth to it, and I worry that some groups will lose what makes them effective--the fact that they're based on something beyond self-interest--while others will be forced to get out of areas still needing service because the state forces them to violate their beliefs (see, for example, Catholic Charities of Boston's response to state mandates requiring them to allow homosexuals to adopt children).

I talked a while back to our local state senator, whose kids are all homeschooled, about potentially providing vouchers for homeschooling parents. He strongly felt that tax credits would be a much better system because, frankly, he doesn't trust the government not to tie too many strings to money given more directly to parents. This, coming from a state senator, really gave me something to think about.

No comments: