24 settembre 2008

The Rise of the “Religious Left”

By Kimberly Zenarolla

The annual conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the world's largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion, was recently held in Washington D.C. This meeting brought together thousands of religious academics to discuss issues ranging from bioethics to scriptural studies. Expecting a diversity of opinion, I was surprised to find such a decisive slant towards heterodoxy. Several sessions were held on homosexual “queer theory” and there was even a session entitled “Watch out Roe! Religion and Reproductive Freedom.” Many panelists spoke of the need for a more vocal presence in the media from the so-called “religious left” which approves of such things as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and normalizing homosexual relations. In order to offer an alternate view to traditional Judeo-Christian morals, this movement attempts to distort religious values, twisting them to promote a culture of death.

In one session there was unanimous approval of embryonic stem cell research from every panelist. One member on the panel, a Jewish ethicist who also holds a prominent role at a major biotech company, scolded the other panelists for referring to “therapeutic cloning.” She warned that, hereafter, no scholarly publications that she edited would print this term, and instead, the new term “somatic cell nuclear transfer” was to be utilized. She explained that the term “therapeutic cloning” was disingenuous since no therapies had yet come from this technology. After speaking with a scientist on the panel, he confirmed that the motivation behind this had much more to do with the term “cloning” than “therapeutic.” With a wide majority of the public opposed to cloning, biotech firms are cloaking once unthinkable technologies in scientific jargon to deliberately cause confusion. And then it seems they are paying off “ethicists” to affirm the deceit.

An illustration of this deception in practice is the recent passage of an amendment to Missouri’s constitution forcing taxpayers to fund therapeutic cloning. Of course, in the $29 million ad campaign supporting the amendment (funded primarily by the state’s most prominent biotech firm, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research), scientists and celebrities argued that this amendment had nothing to do with human cloning. They explained that invoking the claim of cloning was only a scare tactic from the other side to hold back promising therapies to suffering patients. One commercial showed a pastor supporting this amendment because it might possibly “save lives.” This attempt to confuse people by redefining terminologies and then passing off such destruction of human life as the proper Christian response is subtle and duplicitous. This common strategy to discredit a unified religious response supporting the sanctity of human life is often seen in the halls of Congress where all manner of “religious” clergy are regularly called upon to testify in favor of embryonic stem cell research and other such atrocities.

A second, and even more insidious, approach of the “religious left” is to downplay the horror of abortion and other attacks on innocent life by emphasizing issues such as the death penalty and war. One such group that is working to shift the Catholic vote away from its focus on ending abortion is Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good which recently distributed a booklet entitled “Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics.” The booklet questions whether it is possible for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

They respond:
Many “prolife” candidates talk a good talk on ending abortion but don’t produce results. On the other hand, there are candidates who don’t believe in making abortion illegal, but who support effective measures to promote healthy families and reduce abortions by providing help to pregnant women and young children. Catholics must look at a candidate’s position on other life issues. Can one really claim to be “pro-life” and yet support the death penalty, turn a blind eye to poverty, and not take steps to avoid war? Our Church teaches that the answer to this question is “no.”

While at first glance, this statement might appear to be accurate, there is a subtle move to equate the horror of abortion with the death penalty and war. In the 2004 document Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion to which this voting guide refers, Cardinal Ratzinger declares:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

The shrewd tactic of encouraging Catholics to vote for candidates “who don’t believe in making abortion illegal” and elevating “other life issues” such as the death penalty and war over the deliberate destruction of innocent life in the womb is emblematic of this new “religious left.” This unorthodox Catholic group distributed millions of these brochures to Catholic parishes across the country and boast that they helped change the Catholic vote in several states in this most recent election.

The “religious left” is attempting to co-op “social justice” as its mantra, turning such concerns as the “right” to abortion and the requirement to pursue all scientific technology even at the expense of nascent human life into matters of compassionate, religious justice. In appeals to the “common good,” they are hoping to fool the American public into believing they represent true religious values. The threat of this “religious left” will likely increase in the upcoming election as forces gather to secure the votes of the religious majority in America. We need to be on guard against these and other attacks on human life, especially the ones coming from within the Church. All attacks on human life are antithetical to religion and cannot be justified or trumped by any other issues. While we must work together to fight injustice and promote a true culture of life that includes caring for the poor and promoting peace, we must always remember that our first priority must be to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us who have no voice of their own.

Source: an excellent website, www.cephasinstitute.org

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