Pastoral versus Ideological Church and State

Speaking of religion, as we did yesterday, I’ve been mulling over a column by E.J. Dionne that I read a couple of weeks ago, because I think it has application to what I will (somewhat grandiosely) call the human condition.

Dionne is a Catholic, and he was examining the differences between the approach to that religion of two other Catholics–the Pope, and Steve Bannon.

Bannon believes that “the Judeo-Christian West is in a crisis.” He calls for a return of “the church militant” who will “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity,” which threatens to “completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”


  1. Great post today! The religious hard liners have been driving people away from their religion – myself included. I came to recognize that man-made religion is just a set of rules and an attempt to control others. Invoking God’s name in their demands to follow their bigotry and hatred is nothing less than evil. Maybe they actually worship satan. The bottom line is that no one needs man-made religion to have a personal relationship with their God.

  2. SEE HB 1024 in IN House. Our state “representatives” just passed a bill allowing religious practices (Christian I suppose) in our public schools (it also mandates the school corporations make provisions for allowing religious students to address their schoolmates and schoolmates to opt out of attending, and on and on, etc). The Indiana lawmakers have clearly lost touch w reality. Children are supposed to pray in school AND it’s ok carry firearms into schools. If that’s not a working definition of insanity, I can’t imagine what is. This passed the House 83-12 w the Speaker voting in favor. The extremists are in control of our legislature.

  3. The greatest surprise for me is that Bannon is – or claims to be – Catholic. Judaism and Muslim religions have been around much longer than Catholicism and Christianity and the militant (violent, deadly) actions of Christians throughout history is known to those of us who have paid attention. It is not only religious history but ancient and current historical fact that religion and money are welded together and the basis for all wars.

    All religions are a belief system; Atheism is also a belief system so I include it with the subject of “religion” which is the crux of problems throughout the world today. The supporters of science and evolution vs. science deniers are a major part of the problem…this is NOT new.

    “If these “true believers” simply found comfort in their certainties, it wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, many of them feel impelled to impose their particular certainties on everyone else. Compromise becomes impossible–you don’t compromise with evil, and those who hold beliefs or opinions inconsistent with theirs are by definition evil.”

    Those “true believers” not only “feel impelled to impose their particular certainties on everyone else”; they are willing to deny civil and human rights of others and/or kill to enforce their certainties and need our tax dollars in this country to accomplish their goal. The Trump/Bannon presidency is leading the charge; supported by their jointly appointed cabinet members and partial sitting administration with their court jesters Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway keeping it all in the media.

    I am not looking forward to the expected lies in the public appearance by Trump tonight (I refuse to call it the State of the Union Address) but I am afraid to NOT watch. This is a major need-to-know lie session and we all need to see for ourselves the attendance and response of the Democratic party…whatever their religious beliefs may be.

  4. Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer is as relevant today as ever. (It’s still a “Best Seller” on Amazon.)

  5. From Nancy: “The bottom line is that no one needs man-made religion to have a personal relationship with their God.” Because humans created gods to explain “the human condition”…I don’t understand what you believe. There is a ‘God’ apart from man-made religions. JoAnn, the Jesus story is older than the Mohammed story.

  6. Bannon is a fear mongerer and a Catholic. Being a Catholic is fine and a matter of personal choice but being a fear mongerer in order to change the world order on the secular side of things is not fine. He is mixing church and state with his blather about “destroying the administrative state” and coming up with a “New World,” which are constitutional no-noes.

    Strangely, religion as properly practiced in a democracy can be a bulwark of freedom as those who are religious understand that we are to have self-government by vote of the people and not by papal or preacher decree. Thus understood, religious people can have an impact on good government for the better with their “help thy neighbor” and “welcome stranger” moral views as projected to the secular side of their duties as good citizens. Bannon and right wing preachers have political motives for their pretended concern for their flocks and are to be resisted in favor of those who practice a social gospel. It is to be noted that Jesus talked little about the hereafter and a lot about helping the poor and downtrodden, the lepers and those who had violated the moral codes of his time. Indeed he was the first advocate of keeping the church and state in separate compartments, as in “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Politicians and clerics – take note.

  7. Wayne, I don’t understand what you believe, there is no “god”and the Jesus story is just that, a story. Lets run a DNA test to see who his father really was.

  8. One of my favorite songs as a kid was “With God on Our Side” by Bob Dylan It describes pretty well how we were all taught. I haven’t been inside an elementary school classroom in a long time, but I would guess it hasn’t changed much.

  9. Wayne; thank you for that correction. My research showed that both Christians and Muslims believed in Jesus. Muslims believe he was a holy man (also my belief) but not the route to Allah (or God). I was surprised to learn in earlier research that Muslims believe all humans are born Muslims; they can only change religion when they reach adulthood and those who choose different religions are infidels. While I do not adhere to the Muslim religion, I find this decision-making is more believable (except for that infidels part) than the Christening of babies when parents dedicate their lives to Christ for them and decide which religion they will be long before they have an understanding of any religion. The Jewish tradition of boys and girls, that age 13 is the age of accountability is a decision-making time for them after much study. But only study of the Jewish religion which is not really providing an option.

    I’m almost 80 years old and still confused by it all; have my own spiritual belief system which works for me. It is NOT one I force on others but will share and I deeply resent having other religions forced on me; especially by laws based on one man’s (Pence) belief in one of the hundreds of different sects of Christianity or Bannon’s militant control. I am interested in learning about other religions and have studied some of the different forms of Christianity. I believe there is some form of “higher power”; but do not believe it is creationism, I follow the ongoing scientific study of evolution…and devolution of life.

    “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”? Trump is going to continue killing them with increased pollution.

  10. The book “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins helped me cross over to atheism and helped me stop questioning myself and my “faith.” Reading that gave me permission to let go of what I had learned and believe what I believe in my heart. That if there was a god, he sure was a nasty hateful god to cause so much suffering in the world and not do anything about it. Those that wanted to go to heaven and praise a god for eternity was something I wanted no part of. No thanks, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That’s what I believe. Of course, I was surrounded by people that couldn’t complete a sentence on any subject known to man without invoking their lord and I realized how much of a cult it was.


  11. Hello Aging Girl. Are you in AZ. yet? I hope so. I have and have read Richard Dawkins’ book and reread it from time to time. His writings only re-enforced what I had begun to think while in Korea in 1952-53. I will post the titles of one or two other books that might interest you when I come back on line and see your name. Have a great day. Irvin BAA

  12. AgingLGrl:


    That is “Tax Reform” that I could get behind and support. At the very least, they should be charged user fees for police and fire protection.

  13. A former pastor at my church once preached on the very same subject, but he warned that tests and questions of faith are not to be feared. Our religion will be weaker if we fail to wrestle with its meaning for us.

  14. Thank you Sheila for a wonderful post.

    As a student of Buddhism for the past 10 years, which predates all three of the Abramhamic religions, I have found peace with “not knowing”….after all it seems not even science can yet tell us the “absolute” facts of the beginnings.

    A sense of belief in something greater than oneself, and an appreciation of other ways of knowing, often bring humility and openness to other’s ways of seeing life and the world….or so I have found.

  15. Irvin – Hi there. post the names of the books now please. I’m not in AZ yet. One more week and I will probably be offline for several days during the transition so post them and I’ll make a note of them. I need to renew my library card so hopefully, they can be found there too.

    David F – User fees – that’s brilliant! It won’t happen in our lifetime. But then again, I didn’t think that states would legalize MJ or same sex marriage either. Who know! But I doubt it will happen in the next four years.

  16. It seems to me that much of the current state of the electorate can be understood through two paradoxical words: freedom and power.

    Freedom as promised by our Consitution is delivered by limiting the power of government plus democratic elections. What Trump promised in order to defeat both parties was less limited power to specific groups of voters over others. He used nationalism to defeat Constitutionalism by redefining what America is and who Americans are.

    White Christian heterosexual born here rural males are entitled to more power over others. That power comes at the expense of the freedom of all others.

    The founding fathers are undoubtedly whirling dirvishes in their graves watching their carefully crafted gift to the world being dismantled.

    Can the American Dream ever again be?

    While I’d love to be wrong I don’t see the path. Not that we shouldn’t fight the long fight ahead to salvage what we can but like relationships, once trust is broken both here and over the rest of the world restoring the faith that it’s built on will take a miracle.

  17. Pete:

    When historians look back at this era, assuming there are still some around to look back, and study it, I think it will be viewed as one of those “transformational” epochs of human history.

    Just as in the days when automobiles replaced horses and wagons as the principle means of transportation, or the invention of the steam engine, electricity and light blubs, or Henry Ford’s modern factory assembly lines that augured in a mass migration of workers from the rural areas to cities, technology is, once again, changing the world in ways that can’t be fully appreciated yet. History teaches, for those who care, that such periods of time are usually accompanied by great economic upheavals in which there are clear winners and losers. Those who are young enough and who are willing to learn, adapt and change to meet the needs of the new economic realities will eventually prosper, while those who can’t or don’t will be left behind.

    How this period of economic upheaval plays out and what direction it goes is now, regrettably and unfortunately, in the hands — small ones at that apparently — of a man who doesn’t give a hoot about history or anyone but himself, and Bannon/Pence who see an opportunity in the upheaval to force their religious beliefs on everyone. I don’t think that necessarily means there isn’t a path back to rationality. But that outcome is, IMO, by no means a foregone conclusion at this point.

  18. David F, nicely said.

    From many things that I’ve read I believe the collapse of our growingly dysfunctional system and culture is inevitable. I think that this past election hastens it, however may prolong the transition while oligarchs freely profit from the collapse at the expense of all others.

    I believe the beginning of the collapse is now a couple of years away and the end of it is a century away, maybe a couple.

    I wish that I was here to see what we become.

  19. “Thou shalt have no other God but me,” sounds like something that might have been said by Fake President Donald Trump. There’s an element of arrogance in many religions. An element that leads parishioners to worship a God’s physical feats (which cannot be duplicated by humans) instead of his mental ones (which can be duplicated by humans, especially if the humans work together).

    A person’s religious beliefs and associations should not be dictated by some boneheaded politician who has a belief he knows what’s best for everyone.

  20. Hello Aging Girl. Here are two books that I really like… Letters to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne. You might also like The Life and Death of Planet Earth by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. This last one is about the evolution of the earth and what the end might be like. Realistic. Enjoy It is science so don’t let it make you sad. Hope to hear from you fairly soon. Irvin BAA

Comments are closed.