IDEMA: The misuse of religion in our politics

Feb 26, 2012


This tactic is especially horrifying when it comes from a Christian perspective, because Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire as an enemy of the state. Yet those who desire to wield the state’s power seem to forget history when it comes to their personal ambitions.

Using Jesus to attain votes betrays what he stood for, which led to his crucifixion. He stood beside the poor, the sick, the prisoners, the hungry, widows and orphans, and he warned his followers about the idolatrous power of Caesar and his puppet kings in the Herod family.

Perhaps an even more despicable political tactic is the use of religion by politicians to divide people. The Latin root of “religion” means to bind together. Yet religion seems so often to divide us. And when politicians do this on purpose for their own political gain, this is especially destructive to the Body of Christ if the political tactic is targeting Christians.

The latest wedge tactic concerns birth control. Some politicians want it banned, others want to make it difficult to purchase by women using their insurance. Birth control is often a necessity for health, it prevents abortions, and even most Roman Catholic women use it (80 or 90 percent I read somewhere).

Yet the outcry about having insurance policies cover birth control seems to come from predominately men — men in Congress, men running for president, and Roman Catholic bishops (who are all men).

In all the debates about this issue in the pews, in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail, were women brought into the discussion? It is very difficult for me to take seriously the pronouncements of Roman Catholic bishops on this subject when most were silent on the sexual abuse of children in recent history; and when they know little about what it feels like to make a baby, carry and raise it; or what it feels like to be raped, even by one’s own father. Then, for women to be told by male politicians and male clergy that they should — or must — have a child conceived by rape and incest simply makes these women a victim a second time.

One final point. The church is not the clergy; the church is the body of the faithful where each baptized member is just as important as any ordained person.

Women make up more than 50 percent of most churches, as proven by who attends each Sunday. So listen to them rather than, or at least along with, male clergy and politicians.

— By The Rev. Henry Idema, former pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven.



I couldn't agree more with your piece, Rev. Idema. I do take issue with your comment that "all the candidates are doing this, and neither political party is sinless in this regard". I believe the far-right extremists of the Republican party are by far the worst of the bunch when it comes to the misuse of religion in politics, and, in particular, this current group of Republican candidates, and I have come to this unfortunate conclusion as a moderate Republican for the past 40 years. Growing up during the 60's, I thought our society had already hashed out women's reproductive and health issues, its place within religion and politics, and subsequent control and marginalization of women through politics. To have so much attention during this Republican primary turned to the issues of contraception for example, and other women's social issues, is disheartening at best. It is successful, however, in taking the spotlight off the need for debate, ideas, and movement towards a growing American economy that can meet the demands of the 21st century.


Rev Idema,

You need to read your Bible. Somewhere along the history of canonization, you must have been consulted and then appointed the women's advocate. How funny, I cant find any scripture to back up your new world claims. Maybe the candidates are more biblical in their interpretation than a "Reverend". Also, lets not confuse the current administrations message with anything biblical or for that matter, Jesus' oft misunderstood teachings. Before you inject your ideas of Jesus's thoughts of how women should be represented, please find me a scripture that speaks to it. The new testament was busy, but not with the rights of women. It was too busy trying to convince pagans than trying to align popular Jewish customs regarding the rights of women. Although I agree with your thinking regarding women's rights, please don't represent that there is more than a charitable reference in the new testament regarding women.


"Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?" Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner on the Ten Commandments ruling, June 27, 2005

The preamble of the Constitution invokes the people of the United States. It does not invoke any sort of God

The Constitution forbids any religious test to hold office. A godless person is just as eligible as a godly one! (Article 6, Paragraph 3)


How about the miss-characterization of sin from the pulpit.


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