February 3, 2011

When One Group's Ascendency Must Prevent Another's

Justin Katz

It's fascinating to hear people who wish to radically alter the law and culture by any means necessary and silence their opposition attempt to explain why the other side is the home of oppression and closed mindedness. One specimen of the genre, oddly not apparently online, comes courtesy David Adams Murphy.

After introducing his subject as a response to Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin's "anti-secularist blather," in a prior op-ed about Governor Lincoln Chafee's apparent aversion to public prayer, Murphy explains the First Amendment as intended, in part, "to keep any one faith from having ascendancy over another in government." How this is to be accomplished — that is, how the worldview of a majority of Americans (whatever that might be) is to be suppressed so as to give it equal weight to the worldview of a minority — he does not detail. Instead, Murphy elides all evidence that the Founders were religious believers, some of whom stressed the importance of religion if a democratic republic could hope to survive. He then whips out the secularist's cheat-sheet list of Christians' improprieties and atrocities.

Finally, Murphy presumes to declare Tobin's true purpose:

Why does the bishop call for religious influence on government? Because he desires a power to influence he doesn't deserve, but nevertheless enjoyed over Governor Chafee's nitwit predecessor. The unelected leader of this diocese, selected by the pope (who is nothing less than a bureaucratically appointed monarch), seeks to form public policy from his pulpit, dictate laws that conform with his interpretation of scripture, and doubtless funnel public monies to his church's coffers.

Doubtless. Of course, the fact that some sort of prayer has been a tradition long preceding Governor Carcieri does not come up for consideration. It would be far too much to expect the likes of Murphy to ponder the significance of the fact that a religion's political power, such as it is, derives mostly from its ability to persuade voters that its assessment of reality is correct and applies to a particular issue in such-and-such a way.

Murphy's central concern is clearly to disallow Christians to bring their religion to the table for public debate or even, one can justifiably suppose, into the voting booth. He therefore must paint their spiritual leaders as power-hungry descendants of barbarians and dictators and stir up the specter of insidious corruption in the modern day.

If Mr. Thomas Tobin, resident of Rhode Island, were Murphy's actual target, his string of vitriol and hostility would be manifestly inappropriate. One can conclude, therefore, that it isn't the bishop himself that Murphy fears and loathes, but the electoral majority that might agree with him. David Adams Murphy's declaration of "disgust" points mainly at the rest of us, and his insinuation is that we, his fellow Rhode Islanders, are mere op-eds or homilies away from burning witches and Joan D'Arc. We must be stopped. We must be prevented from hearing the seductive lure of clerics who ask us to acknowledge that political leaders are only human beings in need of guidance and humility about the extent of their authority.

In other words, Murphy's tones are those of the totalitarian, not Tobin's.

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Who is this Murphy? He sounds like the Leftist terrorist wannabes on this forum.

One can tell by his use of invective and his lack of reasoned points that he has nothing worthwhile to say, merely the same string of adolescent wisecracks and insults that typify the Left today.

Posted by: BobN at February 3, 2011 9:54 AM

Yesterday, the projo put out a call for married people under 35 who were raised Catholic but did not get married in the church. I can't wait to see the article that comes out of the response they get! It will probably be published around the time of the ssm debates/passage.

Posted by: Swazool at February 4, 2011 9:38 AM

So Projo is publicly looking for quotes that they will cherry-pick to fit their pre-written article?

Is that what passes for journalism to you? If so, why do you support blatant propaganda?

Posted by: BobN at February 4, 2011 2:23 PM

One can be Catholic and choose to get married outside the church. Just get a nondenominational minister, like I did. I married a non-Catholic, and wanted to avoid the hassle.

Posted by: bella at February 5, 2011 2:42 PM

It's fascinating to hear oneself quoted out of context and one's unspoken--indeed, UNTHOUGHT--convictions/intentions being divined by some self-styled mind-reader. Anyone who cares to read the FULL text of my letter to PRO JO may do so here:

I'm disgusted that the Providence JOURNAL, after slavishly quoting all but verbatim Bishop Tobin's attacks on our new Governor, would then grant him 1/4th of its editorial page to further spew (and put a psuedo- intellectual, faux-Constitutional Originalist spin on ) his anti-secularist blather ["Has Rhode Island Lost its Soul?" PROJO 1/12/11]. As a relative newcomer to this state--and to the faith of my ancestors--I demand equal time, place and space to refute him.

It's quite obvious that the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment was intended, as the Bishop points out, to protect religions from government interference; but it was also intended to keep any one faith from having ascendency over another in government. The Founders had witnessed, sometimes first-hand, the wretched results of Government By Religion, whether in the oppressive bigoted theocracies of Puritan Massachusetts and John Calvin's Geneva, the corruption in Richeleiu's France and the Borgias' Italy, or the murderous hysteria in the wake of the Lisbon earthquake, that resulted in thousands of so-called heretics burnt at the stake in the name of Jesus Christ. Their role models in forging our Republic weren't the Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican churches(all of which happily endorsed hereditary monarchies and the exploitation of serfs by nobility, all in return for authority at court), but the representative governments of pagan Athens and Rome...which came into being without the aid of Christian doctrine, having preceded the birth of our Saviour by centuries. And they had learned from Edward Gibbon that Rome fell only after it adopted Christianity as its one sanctioned faith. Nor does one need to look back centuries to recall how Church leaders have abused their influence on the State(though the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre, the Salem Witch Trials, and the "Children's Crusade" all remain object lessons for our time against dominance of the Secular Government by the Church, as do Jeanne D'Arc's martyrdom and the Crucifixion of Jesus): think of the Concordates the Papacy formed with the Fascist governments of Italy, Spain and Portugal, which then rewarded them the coveted status of Official State Religion. Or Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson holding Midnight Full-Cloak services for the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s. Or the shameless anti-Republican stance the Irish Church has maintained since 1847, keeping perverse common cause with the Anglican oppressors of Catholics in Ireland.

Why does the BIshop call for religious influence on government? Because he desires a power and influence he doesn't deserve, but nevertheless enjoyed over Chaffee's nitwit predecessor. The unelected leader of this Diocese, selected by the Pope(who is nothing less than an bureaucratically appointed Monarch) seeks to form public policy from his pulpit, dictate laws that conform with HIS interpretation of Scripture...and doubtless funnel public monies to his Church's coffers. Governor Chaffee has quashed that hope, and now Tobin rages at this supposed iniquity.

He asks "Are we creating a secular wasteland, bereft of any spiritual or religious influence? Is that how we want to live?"I think most of us in Rhode Island have no desire to live in a state run by rosary-sporting emulators of Cotton and Increase Mather, the likes of whom Roger Williams fled to found this colony; Certainly not in a Roman Catholic theocracy like Franco's Spain, where every church throughout the country rang a Mass in August 1945 for the soul of Adolf Hitler. I agree with the Bishop that "a little spritual humility would go a long way in restoring the confidence and moral quality of our community." He should try practicing some himself. Look to your own soul, Thomas. And if you want to live in a country ruled by religion, try Saudi Arabia.

Sincerely yours (In Christ, NOT Ceasar), David Adams Murphy

Posted by: David Adams Murphy at July 26, 2011 6:24 PM

Above you will find no "denial" of the Founding Fathers' religious faiths--merely an assertion of the fact that with the exception of a few certifiable nut-cases like my ancestor-by-marriage Sam Adams( a virulent anti-Catholic who wanted the new Republic to invade Quebec and convert its citizens to Protestantism at musket-point), they were NOT believers in government sponsored sectarianism or civil law based on Scripture. Nor will you espy any desire to "radically alter the law and culture by any means necessary and silence their opposition. " I have no desire to silence Tobin or any of his parishioners, and they are in NO danger of being silenced. People have every right to bring whatever convictions or lack of same into the voting booth and I am very glad of that. I wished merely to point out that a well-connected cleric was being granted ample forum to indulge his own petty spite in the guise of piety.Perhaps you are projecting your OWN totalitarian impulses on a foe...but I don't want to fall into the same rhetorical trap that you have.
In any case, I am a Christian. How "good" or "true" a Christian is clearly CHRIST'S to say, not you. And I too am a proud Citizen of Rhode Island. And MY Freedom does not equal YOUR slavery, much as it may annoy you. Surely heterosexual marriage can hold its own in a free marketplace. I fail to see why government belongs OUT of our pocketbooks, gun collections, and Churches, but IN our bedrooms. I welcome any explanation of that paradoxical belief that seems rife among so-called "conservatives" today. All the very best, David Adams Murphy

Posted by: David Adams Murphy at July 26, 2011 6:46 PM
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