Religion: manipulative political weapon
October 11, 2012
This past Sunday I was at my grandma and grandpa’s house in northern Minnesota enjoying the beautiful fall weather. I decided to attend the Saturday evening service with them at the local Catholic church. I was raised in a Methodist family and confirmed in a Methodist church, but when I go up to the lake, I usually attend the Catholic service with my grandparents.
When I walked into the church lobby, it was impossible not to notice the obnoxiously large pile of “Vote Yes to the Marriage Amendment” signs that were sitting in the middle of the open space. Although the sight seemed both odd and inappropriate to me, I didn’t question it as I followed my grandparents into the pew.
The service seemed to be going normally until the sermon began. Conveniently, the message of the sermon was about how marriage was designed by God to be between one man and one woman. It was also mentioned that homosexual marriage is a sin and goes against the Catholic religion.
As if this message wasn’t enough, the priest went on to say that women were created solely to be “companions” to men and that it is a sin for a woman to get an abortion under any circumstance. As a woman who is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, I was both appalled and offended by the priest’s message.
After the sermon, the deacon led the congregation in prayer and spoke directly about the marriage amendment that will be voted on in Minnesota this November. He prayed that Minnesotans would make the right decision to “preserve the tradition of marriage.” When the rest of the congregation replied to this statement with the traditional response, “Lord, hear our prayer,” I found myself standing in silence.
After the service, I thought about what religion and faith mean to me. I believe that both religion and faith are designed to enrich peoples’ souls and give them the strength to overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them. Faith is meant to keep peoples’ hope alive and is what allows people to push forward, even in the face of impossible feats.
After I had defined these terms, I became even more frustrated with the experience I had just had. Instead of using the service to feed the human spirit and instill a sense of hope in the congregation, both the priest and the deacon used religion as a manipulative political weapon.
Although there is supposed to be a separation between church and state, in today’s society these two institutions are merging together. The deacon explicitly referenced the marriage amendment in his prayer and there were strong connections to this same amendment in the sermon.
Essentially, the congregation was told that voting “no” to the marriage amendment or making the decision to get an abortion are violations of the Catholic religion and that in order to be a “true Catholic,” one must vote “yes” to the amendment and be pro-life. This example demonstrates how religion can be used against people in order to manipulate them into holding specific views on a political issues.
This problem is not limited to just the Catholic religion, but rather, spans across all religions. It is now easier than ever for religious leaders to use religion as a tool to mold peoples’ views and opinions. By guilting congregations into believing that they are not true members of a certain religion unless they hold specific views, it causes religion to harm people instead of make them stronger, thus defeating the purpose of being religious.
While religion is thought to feed the human spirit, we now live in a different time. It is terrible to think that something as powerful as faith is being used as a manipulative political weapon that knows no boundaries. As the line between Church and State disappears, religion will continue to be used as a tool to manipulate unsuspecting people for political purposes.
Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.