Thursday, October 16, 2014

Render to Tobin the things that are Tobin's...

I'm not a theologian, but it occurs to me that Bishop Tobin, who has been making national headlines for suggesting that Catholic voters in Rhode Island vote for Mother Teresa (or not at all) instead of voting for either of the two pro-choice candidates for governor could have looked to Jesus when giving advice on religion versus politics. Specifically Mark 12:17, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Jesus crafted this answer to what amounted to a trick question from some shifty Pharisees and Herodians who asked if it was permissible to pay taxes with coins emblazoned with Caesar's image, a man who had declared himself a God. This could be a problem for many observant Jews, because the first of the so-called "Ten Commandments" decrees there is but one God, and that false idols are sinful.

If Jesus said, "don't pay your taxes" that would have been a crime. If he said, "I don't see a problem with Caesar as God" that would have undermined his religious authority. Cleverly, Jesus worded his answer to neatly differentiate between the secular and religious, in essence saying, "you have a civic and a religious duty" and that the two are separate.

Hence, it could be argued that Jesus here invented the handy idea of separation of church and state, later expanded upon and put into practice by Roger Williams when he helped found Rhode Island as the first government, anywhere in the world, to enshrine church/state separation and liberty of conscience into law.

So there's a tinge of irony here as a bishop from Rhode Island has become so caught up in mixing politics and religion that he is actually recommending abstaining from voting altogether or wasting a vote on a dead woman, though buried in Tobin's original essay is a third option, not much reported. One could vote for the "lesser of two evils," who in this case turns out to be the Republican candidate.

Does Tobin have any allegiance to the Republican Party? Turns out he's a very public member. I guess you can't stand up for the principles of church/state separation when you don't actually believe in them...

1 comment:

  1. Good thing you're not a theologian. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.