By Diana Diamond
The uncomfortable downward slope toward more conservative Christian churchesUploaded: Jun 22, 2021
Our Christian churches in the U.S. suddenly seem be not only tilting to the right, but rather sliding down a hill to join with the conservative Republican right wing.
It happened last week in the Catholic Church, and in the Southern Baptist Church which had a battle for power, and even in many Southern and Midwest Evangelical churches who have climbed aboard the slide.
I am looking at the national, not the local scene, but even locally, I haven’t heard or read an outcry yet from Christian groups about this expanding conservative right, nor from any Catholic parishes.
As a Catholic, I feel I have a right to comment at least about my church, after reading articles in the NYT, WSJ, and National Catholic Reporter (NCR) on this topic. I was distressed when I heard Friday, June 17, that 73 percent of all the eligible voting bishops attending U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on drafting a document on rules for public Catholic officials to receive communion. If approved in early November, as it inevitably will be, it would disallow the second Catholic President of the United States to receive communion because he does not condemn abortion, one of the now-litmus tests for Catholics to prove they are real Catholics. To qualify, the bishops implied that politicians must believe in all the church’s doctrines, including the inherent suggestion that abortion is the biggest of mortal sins.
The hypocrisy and presumed righteousness of these conservative bishops is alarming Of course this new document being prepared is aimed at Biden – the committee that put this on the bishops’ agenda is composed of several Trump supporters. These majority bishops claim their decision to go forward with a draft document on the Holy Eucharist had nothing to do with politics, according to the NCR.
They were wrong. It had everything to do with politics and money put into their figurative pockets from an elite group of rich right Republicans (as described in the book, “The Power Worshippers” by Katherine Stewart) and by NCR.
These are the same elderly men who are against gay marriage and the LGBTQ community, who stood silently by for years doing nothing during the disclosure of the widespread pedophilia problem in the church (while they protected each other). These are the conservative men who never criticized Trump’s badgering – no, vitriol attacks against minorities, immigrants, who jailed the immigrants’ children seeking safety here, who paid of his female sex partners, etc.
These 73 percent, mostly older males, sat around a virtual table deciding whether a Catholic president who is prochoice can receive communion when the Church has taken a strong anti-abortion stand. They are the deciders, they declare. They were the silent ones during the Trump years.
Now, they attack Joe Biden, who is a n upright, decent, caring guy, a devout Catholic his entire life, and a man who wants to help the immigrants, the poor, and who supports women’s rights.
All that is not to say that there are some very good, caring bishops in this country. Unfortunately, they were the minority voters at the bishops’ conference.
The stand the majority bishops took is embarrassing, myopic, closed minded and politically driven. That t sounds neither moral nor pastoral., just hypocritical.
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I think the Southern Baptists are having an even more widespread internal problem. Their church is not only divided about its moderate vs. a more conservative stance, but also women’s standing in the church, race relations. etc.
As the NYT described it: “A newly empowered ultraconservative faction in the already conservative denomination is pushing back against a national leadership they describe as out-of-touch elitists who have drifted too far to the left on social issues. Mainstream Baptist churches and those on the far right agree that the convention’s results will serve as a referendum about the denomination’s priorities and could accelerate the fracturing of an already shrinking institution.”
At last week’s conference, the Baptists’ moderate candidate, Pastor Ed Litton, won by just 336 votes, or 4 percent of those casting ballots. That vote occurred after months of angry debate over race, gender and other cultural divides, with the gender issue focused on the rights of a man over his wife, among other things.
In some ways, the Baptists’ issues are akin to the Catholic majority bishops’ concerns. They worry about people dropping out of the church, so they decide the church should have a stricter approach and more rules. The Catholic church still doesn’t allow women to become priests or deacons, and also tells a woman through its stance against birth control and abortion, what she can -- and cannot do – with her individual body.
The Southern Evangelical, churches who, surprisingly to me, supported Trump and seem to continue to be Trumpian followers, are also dealing with whether they should become a more conservative church.
This move-to-the-right is becoming more pervasive influence in our society, both politically and now religiously. The combination of politics and religion could become a powerful – too powerful? – force in our country.
I am worried.
And as voters and churchgoers, I we must speak out. I don’t want to be a silent sheep, I want my Catholic bishops to know that I (and I hope others) object to their sanctimonious positions that our president, who is Catholic, should not receive Communion because he supports abortion. We have to hold our bishops accountable.