A Forced Marriage of Church and State
The Obama administration is seeking to achieve a forced marriage of Church and State, a loveless arrangement that has been attempted before.
During the Middle Ages, the political power advantage most often lay with the Church. Such was the power of the Church that pope Gregory VII forced Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV to stand in the snow and to kneel before the pope begging forgiveness as an act of penance for defying the Holy See.
But this time, the power advantage lies with President Obama and the executive branch, not the Catholic Church. This time, the scene resembles Henry VIII's successful challenge of the Church when he defied the Pope, discarding his wife Katherine of Aragon, marrying Anne Boleyn, seizing the monasteries in 1537, confiscating the Church's wealth and declaring himself head of the Church of England.
The result was the toppling of the supremacy of the Church and the establishment of the supremacy of the state.
In like manner, the Obama administration is asserting the primacy of its own political/religious weltanschauung, a garbled pastiche of radical secularism sugar coated with liberation theology, a paradigm which now seeks marriage of church and state-advantage to the state.
It has arbitrarily demanded that all Christian institutions provide health insurance policies which cover abortifacients, sterilization and the "morning after" pill. By so doing, it has completely gutted the First Amendment and has attempted to subjugate the Church's carefully crafted and centuries-old tenets of faith to state doctrine.
As during the time of Henry VIII, the Church and State are now to become one, with the state's religious/political viewpoints reigning supreme. The carefully wrought differentiation between the two and the guarantees of religious freedom America once knew are dangerously jeopardized.
The President and his allies have been able to promote the potential union of church and state for a number of reasons. But the chief means of achieving their dangerous enterprise has been the clever utilization of an exoskeleton of supra-constitutional agencies and institutions, a gigantic bureaucracy which is not answerable to the electorate, but instead to the executive branch. Bureaucratic rulemaking is now grabbing power for state. The advent and implementation of the Health and Human Services Affordable Care Act has granted the president unparalleled means of asserting state authority over religious institutions.
Formerly restrained in some measure by presidents who had at least a minimal understanding of and respect for the Constitution, the full use of the bureaucracy for nefarious purposes only awaited a president who regarded the Constitution as a relic of the past and an obstacle to his goals for fundamentally transforming America.
Such a man has risen to the presidency; and such a man has made it clear he regards the Church as presently constituted and constitutionally protected as unilaterally subservient to the almighty state. He has made it abundantly clear that the power of the state is to be uninhibited by constitutional restraints, in order he achieve goals foreign to the prevailing national ethos, which is still largely conservative and Christian in nature.
We are seeing the culmination of a decades' long and tireless campaign to expel free and varied Christian discourse from the public square, Christian symbols from public spaces and Christian mores from public institutions -- except for the occasions in which our President gives homilies at the annual Prayer Breakfast, serving up rehearsed liberation theology along with the bacon and eggs.
All organizations now are to sing from the same statist hymnbook.
But the state could not have attempted subjecting all Christian institutions to state power unless the Church had exhibited philosophical and theological weaknesses which have encouraged the state's predations. The Catholic Church, along with most Main Line denominations, has indulged in a long flirtation with leftist leaning liberation theology. It has been in bed for decades with theology which has incorporated socialist and Marxist doctrines and tactics.
Theologians such as Gustavos Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest whose well meaning concern for the poor led him to develop a theology interpreted through the eyes of the downtrodden, was to find his theology was quickly co-opted by socialist/Marxist terminology and action, personified but not limited to leaders such as Father CamiloTorres, who preached the need of revolution for implementing radical changes in economic, social and political structures.
The goal of the radical liberation theologian is anti-hierarchical and seeks to remove power from the rich, redistributing monies and power among the poor. Torres, along with other Catholic leaders, including Pope Paul VI, severely critiqued the free market economic system, regarding it an inherently oppressive. Sin was redefined as a social rather than personal act; and redemption was seen as societal rather than individual -- a view our president shares.
Essentially, the core tenets of Latin American liberation theology as interpreted by the American thinker James Cone and President Obama's former pastor, the infamous Jeremiah Wright of "God damn America" fame, are the beliefs of our current president and his allies, though the emphasis is much more on the socialist/Marxist praxis than on the biblical admonitions concerning personal and unforced charity to and compassion for the poor.
But the other result of the influence of liberation theology has been that the Catholic Church now has a large leftist contingent which is anti-free market, pro socialist/Marxist, and pro-state. This radical contingent is in alignment with the president's plan for social change, including as it was and is to be effectuated through the Health and Human Services Affordable Care Act.
Encouraged by Vatican II, which sought to allow more power to the laity, many American Catholics were and are pushing for radical societal change which would disestablish existing hierarchical orders and institutions -- including, ironically, those of the Church itself. But while a large contingent of the Church has been leaning left on economic and some social issues, most retained conservative stances concerning other social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, abortifacient birth control measures, euthanasia and sterilization.
Now the Church knows that for this administration, splitting the conscience into two competing and inherently irreconcilable world views isn't possible. The Church must choose either to hold fast to her conscience and to maintain her religious freedom or be absorbed by the state's socialist agenda.
Essentially, the church is caught on the horns of an irreconcilable dilemma of her own making; namely, an attempt at a syncretism of the theologically irreconcilable. The leftist socialist/Marxist tenets of liberation theology which the church has increasingly absorbed views the human being as essentially material and salvation as societal change -- change which is to be effectuated by force of revolution and state power.
On the other hand, the Church's adherence to pro-life values, the sanctity of marriage; her stance against euthanasia, the value placed on all human life from conception until death, her dedication to religious freedom and freedom of conscience indicate her devotion to the idea that human life is ultimately, chiefly and eternally spiritual.
Human beings, the Church has always believed, are deeply flawed but ultimately redeemable through repentance for sins and faith in the salvific work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The latter belief being, of course, the ultimate and ineradicable; the absolutely foundational premise of the church throughout its two thousand year long existence before its theology was partly hijacked by contemporary Marxist/social and economic analysis and practice.
Reconciliation of the two world views is impossible. Briefly put, it is impossible for the Church to Christianize and baptize a world view which is inherently atheistic and materialistic.
The Church, by taking on the impossible and erroneous task of spiritualizing and obliquely or openly advocating and effectuating the premises of socialism and Marxism, has left itself wide open to the present situation in which she finds her core spiritual values challenged and usurped by the state.
The church has in times past reached an impasse when attempts at syncretism have proved impossible, as the Reformation showed and the current situation in America shows now.
But thank God the Church, even when in the grip of philosophies alien to her ethos, has been prone to outbreaks of Christianity which recover her ancient and estimable two thousand year old heritage.
Thank God for the earnest rebellion of men and women of conscience, then and now. Certainly the church needs spiritual rebels similar to Martin Luther, John Calvin and others who stood up and rebelled against the corruption of the Church's core values and doctrines, with results that reverberate to this day.
May such spiritual rebels rise up, and may the Church be victorious against the current onslaught of the State.
As in the long run, she always has been.
Fay Voshell is the recipient of Princeton Theological Seminary's Charles Hodge Award for excellence in systematic theology. She is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.