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Monday, September 28, 2015

Religion fest 2015

by digby

I wrote about last week's religion fest for Salon today:

Last week was one for the political books. The Pope brought his message about the need to help the poor and deal with climate change to America, apparently leading Catholic Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas to boycott his historic speech to a joint session of Congress. At the same time, the evangelical activist community held its annual Values Voter Summit featuring many of the GOP presidential candidates who once would have been excited to celebrate the pope’s visit but were instead rather sullen and unhappy about his apparent desire to talk about that Jesus fellow and his message of love and tolerance instead of policing the sexual habits of women and scolding gay people for being gay.

And right in the middle of all this, the Speaker of the House abruptly resigned his seat because he was about to lose his office at the hands of extremists who want to shut down the government in order to destroy Planned Parenthood. Oh, and of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Dr. Ben Carson spent the week doubling down on his contention that Muslims must renounce their religion in order to prove they will follow the constitution — which says there must be no religious test for office. It’s been a memorable week for religion in American politics.

Indeed, the pope’s visit was received with ecstatic excitement by Catholics, the news media and a good many Democrats of all faiths. Catholics are always happy to see the Pope, for obvious reasons, but this one is particularly accessible and has such a serene and open demeanor that it’s even more thrilling than usual. This visit seems to have been a tremendous success among the faithful. The news media are excited because they must believe the pope’s visit is a ratings grabber since they’ve been covering his every movement from the moment his plane set down at Andrews Air Force base. Hours of watching planes on the tarmac of various airports and convoys of official vehicles is evidently something the viewing public has been hungry to see. And finally, Democrats are happy because this Pope is addressing their concerns during a political campaign in which the issues of inequality, climate change and poverty are front and center of their agenda. (And they are undoubtedly relieved that the Pope didn’t harp on the issue of women’s rights.)

The Pope’s visit was good for everyone but Republicans, many of whom are Catholics themselves and have spent the last few decades cultivating a Religious Right movement that merged many of the issues in common with the evangelical protestant and conservative jewish communities in America. There was a time not very long ago that the Catholic Church hierarchy was so openly biased in favor of the Republican Party that the American bishops wanted the Pope to excommunicate presidential candidate John Kerry for being pro-choice. I have written before about the growing schism in that coalition and it’s never been more obvious than during this past week. As Catholics all over the country were making pilgrimages to catch a glimpse of the pope, Jeb Bush, a practicing Catholic, found it necessary to distance himself from the pope on climate change, declaring that “he is not a scientist” (actually, he is) and “put aside Pope Francis on the subject of any political conversation,” which is wishful thinking on his part. Democrats still await the Bishops’ call for his excommunication for failing to follow the Pope’s teachings on climate change.

It was fascinating to watch the Values Voter Summit try to deal with the Catholic deviation from the Republican path. Neither Jeb Bush nor Carly Fiorina attended citing “scheduling difficulties.” In Bush’s case it makes sense that he would schedule something else since everyone but the money boys find him to be squishy on all their issues. Fiorina made a big mistake since this group is extolling her for her relentless Planned Parenthood lies and she could have expected to get a very warm reception. (They admire a politician who is blatantly dishonest for their cause. It shows commitment.) The rest of the candidates mostly ignored the fact that the pope was in the country at all, which could never have been anticipated a few years ago. It appears he is officially no longer welcome on their team.

There's lots more at the link: Boehner! Rubio! Carson! Religious tests for Muslims! It was a hell of a week.