Friday, January 02, 2015

Steve Scalise and His Catholicism

So much has been swirling through my head the last couple of days about Steve Scalise.  I am still trying to process it all and collect my thoughts.  There is just so much about this situation that bothers and concerns me.  I'm likely to post more on this in the future, but one of the things that I want to comment on now is the repeated reference by Scalise to his Catholic faith and its unequivocal stance condemning racism.

The reference to one's religious faith as a moral identity marker, especially among conservatives, is nothing new.  But so often, folks who trot out their faith and wear it on their sleeve are the very people who use this as a bludgeon against the rest of us believers who are reluctant to use their faith in such a ham-handed way.

The reason why I, at least, am cautious about bringing up my religion as a baseline argument for social policy is that I find myself often at odds with my faith's position on a wide variety of social issues.  People like me are often accused by religious purists (and I would consider Scalise to be one of these purists), of being a Cafeteria Catholic, because I don't buy they whole package deal of Catholic teaching on all social issues.

But here we have Steve Scalise using Catholicism as a measure of his morality when it comes to the social problem of racism.  If we were to believe Scalise, we should understand that when he says he abhors racism because his Catholic faith instructs him to do so.  But here's the rub:  the Catholic faith also instructs him to support a living wage, to oppose the death penalty, to condemn the intrinsic evil of torture.  But Scalise doesn't adhere to what Catholicism demands of him in these instances.

Now, it's fine if Scalise himself is a Cafeteria Catholic, rejecting the guidance and instruction of his faith and church on such matters.  Who am I to throw stones here?  But what I would suggest is that Scalise be a bit more humble and equally cautious in using a knee-jerk reference to his Catholicism to prove he is not racist.  It's just not believable.  Perhaps he is a "Cafeteria Catholic" in this regard, too; and speaking to a racist hate group, with a wink and a nod, because he relies on their votes, tells us as much.

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