The following is an abridged version of a chapter in Fr. Charles Curran’s newest book, The Social Mission of the U.S. Catholic Church: A Theological Perspective, which will be published in early January by Georgetown University Press. This text originally was given as a lecture sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Oct. 28.
The strategy for ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan is unfolding.
An intense military campaign to force the Taliban to negotiate is taking place. Operations to control the situation in the nearby mountains of Pakistan have started. President Obama wants to end the war by the end of his first term.
The popular opposition and lack of enthusiasm for the U. S. engagement in Afghanistan is similar to three other major post-World War II military involvements: Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
The United States no longer wins wars; that ended with World War II. Settlements are now negotiated with the goal of protecting U.S. interests. These were to a degree, accomplished in Korea and Vietnam. In the case of Iraq, it is still debatable.
Afghanistan might imitate the geo-political factors that terminated the fighting in Korea. In the election year of 1952 there was a highly attractive candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who sensed the opportune time for ending the struggle. Will similar factors come in to play in the election year of 2012?
The broad outlines of the 2010 midterm elections, if not the magnitude of the Republican victory, were evident months ago. Two key indicators pointed the way.
Editor's Note: In the lead up to Nov. 2's midterm elections, NCR ran profiles of three congressional races that we thought captured the mood of the electorate this election season and showed the issues and pressures candidates faced. See: Emotions run high: Anti-incumbent mood imperils Democratic fortunes. To bring that series to closure, today we report the results of those three campaigns.
Pennsylvania 8th Congressional District
Fitzpatrick vs. Murphy
In a race that epitomized the electorate’s turn from concern about war to worry over the economy, Republican Mike Fitzpatrick easily won what was supposed to be a tossup race against Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat who has represented suburban Philadelphia’s Bucks County for two terms.
In a bitterly fought rematch The Wall Street Journal dubbed “The Fight of the Irish,” the two Catholic attorneys competed to show voters who would return prosperity to Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District.
WASHINGTON -- As Democrats conduct a grim postmortem on Tuesday's elections, some liberal leaders say one diagnosis is already clear: the party's outreach to religious voters was lifeless from the start.
SALT LAKE CITY -- For a man who evangelized foreign leaders and taught Sunday school while U.S. president, Jimmy Carter has some strong words for what he sees as an “excessive melding of religion and politics.”
And it began, he said, with the denomination he called home for more than seven decades: the Southern Baptist Convention.
“It’s now metastasized to other religions, where an actual affiliation between the denomination and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party is almost official,” Carter said during a stop here to promote his new book, White House Diary.
“There are pastors openly calling for members to vote a certain way,” the 86-year-old ex-president said. “That’s a serious breakdown in the principle of separation of church and state.”
Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, left the Southern Baptists in 2000 after the denomination’s long shift toward conservative politics and new doctrinal statements that are, in Carter’s view, more creed-based and anti-woman. But the couple remain Baptists and worship at Maranatha Baptist Church when they are home in Plains, Ga.
The approach currently taken by the U.S. bishops to changing the law on abortion -- giving it a preeminence above all other issues that Catholic voters might consider -- is flawed on four counts, argued Fr. Charles Curran during a lecture Oct. 28 in the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, where he teaches.
Curran, a controversial theologian who ran into trouble with church authorities earlier in his career for challenging church teaching on artificial birth control and other social issues, did not dispute church teaching about abortion in his talk. Instead he argued that various approaches to the law are acceptable under Catholic teaching.
PBS broadcast a six-part documentary series earlier this month titled “God in America.” It comes from the award-winning producers of “American Experience” and “Frontline.” (Full episodes are available for free online at PBS.org.) A review of the series in Religion News Service called the show “an intense exploration of the complex dynamics that animate a nation that is both deeply religious yet without an official religion.”
Sarah Palin once pursued politics out of a religious sense of calling, and considered her choice as vice presidential candidate by 2008 GOP nominee John McCain part of “God’s plan.”
But now, as the midterm elections loom and Palin positions herself as the heroine of the Tea Party, Palin has become less vocal about the faith that propelled her onto the political scene.
“She’s not even talking much about her Christian faith as a whole, much less as a Pentecostal Christian,” says author Stephen Mansfield, who charts Palin’s journey through religion and politics in a new book.
As she stirs the Tea-Party pot at rallies across the country ahead of the midterm elections, the former Alaska governor occasionally refers to freedom as a “God-given right” or people with special needs and the elderly as “God’s gifts.” But her speeches tend to focus more on the economy and small-government populism than faith or social issues.
Mansfield, who has also parsed the faith of George W. Bush, President Obama, Winston Churchill and others, says Palin’s faith was nonetheless key to her swift political ascent.
It’s time to stand up for government’s essential role in serving the common good and challenge the anti-government fervor of Tea Party activists. If you’re looking for a bold champion of economic justice who rejects the movement’s infatuation with unfettered markets and hostility toward government, start with the spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics around the globe.