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Religion as style

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 30, 2003

In a New York Times op-ed column, David Brooks points out that President Bush was once Episcopalian, then Presbyterian, now Methodist. Howard Dean was Catholic, then Episcopalian, now Congregationalist. Wesley Clark has identified with the Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, and now Presbyterian churches.

Brooks sees a lesson here, about orthodoxy in politics and faith:

So we have this paradox. These days political parties grow more orthodox, while religions grow more fluid. In the political sphere, there is conflict and rigid partisanship. In the religious sphere, there is mobility, ecumenical understanding and blurry boundaries.

That's one way to look at it. Here's another:

American political leaders today, as a class, have a remarkably superficial approach to religious faith-- perhaps because they put their ultimate faith in politics. If government holds the answer to every important question, then religious doctrines can't be terribly important, and confessional differences should be downplayed in the interest of sound public policy.

Today I'm wearing a plaid shirt. Yesterday I was wearing a blue shirt; the day before it was yellow. There's no real pattern to my selection of shirts, because, frankly, I don't take the issue very seriously. When a presidential candidate (Clark) says that he's a Catholic who goes to a Presbyterian church, I wonder whether he gives that question any more thought.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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