On Faith: Is voting a religious act or purely political?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 1, 2010 — 5 Comments

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke both recently characterized voting as a moral act with spiritual consequences. The pope said that “decriminalizing abortion is a betrayal to democracy,” since he believes the procedure denies rights to the unborn. Burke called voting a “serious moral obligation” and added that Catholics “can never vote for someone who favors absolutely what’s called the ‘right to choice.'”

If Catholics largely disregard the church’s teaching (the 2008 Catholic vote for president went to pro-choice Obama), does what the pope says matter? Is voting a religious act or purely political?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

“Most Pagans love democracy and voting, why shouldn’t we? Pagans invented it! Whether you place the start of “people power” (Demos Kratos) with ancient Athens, or cast further back to parts of India, Mesopotamia, or various indigenous societies, few can deny that the concept and practice of democracy originated in pre-Christian minds and societies (just ask the Founding Fathers). By contrast, the Catholic state of Vatican City is a sacerdotal-monarchical state, with the Bishop of Rome at its head. The president of the Pontifical Commission, the leader of the city-state’s legislative body, is appointed by the Pope, not elected by citizens or chosen by representatives. Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, was able to thrive and become the world religion it is today thanks to the rulers of an ever-increasingly less republican Roman Empire in decline and the patronage of European monarchies after the Empire’s collapse. I say this not to demonize Christians or Catholics, only to point out the current irony of the Pope deciding what a “betrayal to democracy” is when he himself does not participate in one.”

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters