Boehner’s Ominous Beginning

John Boehner?s brief opening remarks as the new Speaker of the House were ominous in their religious insensitivity. In the first minute of his speech, after some thank-you?s and applause, he referred to his Catholic Church?s practice of the imposition of ashes on the first day of Lent, which signifies human mortality. (It is also a ritual observed by Anglicans, Episcopalians and others, which Boehner did not mention. Lent, incidentally,  begins on March 9 this year.)

On the face of it the reference is quite impressive. Here a powerful political figure declares openly an awareness of his mortality. Who cannot applaud such humility? On the other hand, the reference exhibits a tin ear. Boehner?s Catholic religion is after all a powerful religious minority in the context of simmering religious wars both at home and abroad.

Leaders of Boehner?s own church, including popes, have publicly castigated Islam. Our own troops in the Middle East have been supplied rifles whose scopes are inscribed with Bible verses, which is suggestive of killing Muslims for Jesus. Both the country and the world are a tinderbox ready for religious war, and the new Speaker of the House signals in his first minutes of office that he is a devout Catholic, one of the parties in that strife.

This is not to criticize Boehner for his personal religious devotion, but it is to criticize him for calling specific attention to it in his first few minutes of his term of office.

Now suppose the new Speaker were a Muslim, and suppose his first remarks referenced the edifying character of the Hajj to Mecca. Would this not be considered offensive to non-Muslims, if not alarming?

Or suppose the next Speaker of the House were an Evangelical Christian, and he or she made reference to the edifying nature of having been saved at an Evangelical revival meeting. Would this not sound a note of alarm among all those who are not Evangelicals?

If the Speaker of the House were a Jew, would it not be divisive – at least – to make reference to the daily study of the Torah?

There are some important points of agreement that all the major religions of the world share. They can and do speak generally with one voice on such matters as the requirements of justice and equity in human society. If leaders of the nation opt to cite religion publicly, they would do well to emphasize these points of common ground. This might help defuse some of the current urge to religious competition and strife.

The American revolutionaries who founded this country were virtually all escapees or children of escapees from religious persecution and religious wars in Europe. With one voice they sought to keep organized religion out of the political and governmental arena. While our founding fathers espoused important religious values such as justice and equity, and even publicly acknowledged their belief that God commanded that such values be sustained, they assiduously kept religious organizations and movements out of the political and governmental arena. They were wise to do so. They knew what we seem to have forgotten, that religious organizations almost invariably dream of universal  domination and control.

Speaker Boehner sounded a sour note in his first few minutes of office in signaling that he is a faithful member of a minority religious group, and one that is currently picking a fight with Islam. The innuendo is ominous.

RAYMOND J. LAWRENCE is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at: raymondlawrence@mac.com



More articles by:

RAYMOND J. LAWRENCE is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at: raymondlawrence@mac.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro