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The not-so-great schism

| Tuesday, February 16, 2021

We all sort of knew what we were getting into when we chose to attend a Catholic school. There would be some religion. But politics, too? Who knew we’d get so much of both? However, as the nomination of one of our faculty members — Professor Amy Coney Barrett — to the Supreme Court at a controversial time and by a controversial president thrust our university into the national spotlight, we have had no way to avoid talking about the two things we’re supposed to avoid talking about. The recent intersections of religion and politics on campus reflect a broader conflict that is playing out on the national stage at the moment. Religion and politics are on the minds of everyone nowadays, not just Catholic school students who had a professor from their university placed on the Supreme Court. America is diverging into the religious right and the secular left. As Notre Dame students — some religious, some not — we have to choose a side in this schism — or do we?

The right often derides the left as the godless party, devoid of faith and allegiance to a higher power. The left, on the other hand, is seeing the rise of a movement to reclaim religion, arguing that they are the ones who actually embody Christian (and perhaps other religions’) values. Basically, both sides are fighting over who gets to claim religiosity. Religion can be used as a lot of things — comfort, community, guidance — but if you are ever using it as a weapon, I assure you you’re using it wrong.

Any honest person must admit that if someone fully obeys Christian teaching, her beliefs and actions will not totally align with either the Democratic or Republican parties. Christianity does not fit neatly into any one political ideology or party, and the only way to place it into a political container is to distort it. God did not say, “Let there be light!” on the first day of creation and then, “Let there be the Democratic (or Republican) Party!” on the second. However, since faith is so big a part of people’s identities that it is likely to influence their politics, people of faith must simply choose which values they prioritize and determine which party best promotes these when they vote. For those in America who appeal to religion when it affirms how they want to act but disregard it when it is inconvenient for them, I have some brief words.

To the left: 

If you openly and actively despise Christian principles and teachings but refer to them to try to catch your political opponents in a “gotcha” moment, please don’t. It’s disingenuous. If the only time you invoke religion is as a weapon against conservatives, don’t invoke it all. Furthermore, countless Instagram posts are circulating nowadays with messages along the lines of, “You say you’re ‘pro-life,’ but what about the baby’s life once it’s born, the life of the migrant child, the life of the homeless man, the lives of people of color?” Since when are being pro-life pre-birth and post-birth mutually exclusive? I personally can point to many people who are staunchly opposed to abortion yet advocate for immigrants, people of color, homeless people and many other marginalized communities with persistence and zeal. The spite that some on the left exhibit toward traditional Christians and religious people in general plays a role in pushing these people to the right, making them think that the political right is the only place that offers them a home in U.S. politics, when they might otherwise lean left.

To the right: 

The left is correct to call out the hypocrisy of many conservative Christians in observing Christian teaching. If your biggest takeaway from reading the Bible is that same-sex marriage and abortion are wrong, rather than to go to the margins, welcome the outcasts and stand with the downtrodden, I don’t think we have been reading the same book. One of the most frustrating tactics of the right is to shut down valid criticism and avoid answering tough questions from the left simply because the left supports abortion rights. You can defend your beliefs about the sacredness of life from the moment of conception while also engaging in discussions about the crises of inadequate healthcare, white supremacy, addiction, homelessness and more in America. Moreover, there are in fact people on the right who claim to be devout Christians, yet belong to white supremacist groups and exhibit violence and hostility toward the Black, Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities. If you are one of these people or support them, you can keep the Republican title, but drop the Christian one.

The political right and left nowadays have turned to weaponizing Jesus Christ and the teachings of Christianity to impose their worldviews on the Christian faith in a way that affirms their beliefs and behavior. This must stop. God is a universal and timeless figure that does not belong to a specific side of 21st-century American politics, or a certain geographic region of the U.S., or a particular race. If you choose to make politics your religion, that is your prerogative, but don’t make religion fit into your politics, selectively celebrating certain religious principles that correspond to a set of beliefs you’ve come up with about the world while conveniently skipping over the ones that do not fit your desired outcomes. Religion can and should guide our political views as we weigh which party’s platform aligns more closely with our most important values, but religion — especially Christianity — does not belong exclusively to one political side. If we’re really honest, it belongs to neither. We may be heading toward a great schism in America between the right and left, but let’s leave religion out of this one.

Eva Analitis is a junior in Lyons Hall majoring in political science and pre-health. Even though she often can’t make up her own mind, that won’t stop her from trying to change yours. She can be reached at [email protected] or @evaanalitis on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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