Religious Freedom: Christian and Necessary
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 20:7-9

America has a civic axiom: never mix politics and religion. It’s one of those two-handed ideas.

On the one hand, the adage makes perfect sense because religion is rooted in revelation and revelation is amenable to neither verification nor argumentation; it’s a matter of faith. Politics is the art of the compromise; how do we compromise about what we believe to be God’s will!

On the other hand, religion, by definition, is the foundation of people’s understanding of life and their dream of what it should and can be. It guides their decisions in ways both conscious and unconscious. It puts them in harmony with the Creative Principle of the universe. People simply cannot put aside their religion when reflecting, conversing or voting on political issues. To say that they can misunderstands religion. It’s a major element in politics whether we want it, like it, or acknowledge it.

The best way to handle the situation is to accept it. We can then agree on the practical necessity of not forcing our religion or its perspective on others – after all, even God doesn’t do that. We can also admit that standing for and working seriously for a value doesn’t mean that the value has to be or even should be written into civil law. Without general agreement on the goodness of a particular law, it’s better not to make it. Finally, we can recall that the first expectation of our religion is love which doesn’t exist without respect. That love applies to those who disagree with and resist what we want.

There’s another consideration to keep in mind. We can’t deny that God is the source of all truth and that to ignore God’s is the height of foolishness. The problem is that religion, and our religion in particular, has, at best, a spotty track record when it comes to recognizing, interpreting and responding to God’s word. Radical humility is never out of place when we think we are speaking God’s mind.

Religion and politics will always have a messy interface. Honesty about the situation is a good place to begin the discussion.