religion can be used as a lot of things. it can be used as a way to bring seemingly disparate people together. it can be used as a mode of transcendent conversation. it can be used as a way to connect thousands of years of generations of people and to bring hope to people who might otherwise feel hopeless. certainly, it can be used for many, many great and noble things.
but it can also be used in very dangerous and divisive ways.
so is the case between senator patrick kennedy and roman catholic bishop thomas tobin. in an increasingly public dispute, it came out a few days ago that the bishop informed the senator that he would refuse kennedy communion due to his pro-choice stance.
religion, indeed, as a weapon.
the catholic church takes one of the hardest lines against abortion than any other denomination or religious group. their teachings have been very clear concerning this issue, and there’s actually been a bit of a precedent set for this type of religious/political denial of one of the most sacred and personal sacraments.
rather than getting into all the details of this particular scenario (which you can find here), i wanted to explore our current religious/political climate that had led to this type of conflict.
it’s worth stating that i am pro-life. i oppose abortion, the death penalty, war, economic disparity and unattainable/unjust healthcare disparity. all those things are equally important to me. equally. abortion isn’t the trump card. i find abortion one of the saddest realities of our society, but no more sad than a war that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent (or even not-so-innocent) people for the gain of a nation.
so where do we draw the line at where/when we use religion as a political weapon?
senator patrick kennedy supports abortion. he is refused communion.
what about the soldier who kills all the inhabitants of a small village in the name of the united states of america? is he refused communion?
what about the entrepreneur who profits at the expense of others? is he refused communion?
what about the person who pulls the switch on the electric chair in a state-sanctioned killing? is he refused communion?
these are all issues of sanctity and value of life, so where do we draw the line?
but it isn’t just these issues of life. if we take seriously that god doesn’t weigh one sin differently than another, then we run into other majors problems.
what about gossip? what about reckless sexual activity? what about lying? what about gluttony? what about alcohol abuse? which of these are or are not denied communion?
every single week, bishop tobin and thousands of other clergy serve communion to their congregants—congregants who do all the aforementioned listed things: gossip, lying, abuses of all sorts, etc.
bishop tobin: serve senator kennedy. serve the killer and the gossiper and liar. and remind them all that when we partake in the body and blood of jesus, we acknowledge the reality that those sins were wiped away by that very broken body and spilled blood.
religion can be used for so many beautiful and healthy things. but not as a tool of political coercion or punishment. when religion is hijacked and used as a weapon of politics, it leaves everyone a prisoner to a tragic abuse.