Travis Rowley: Politics & the Pope

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Posted this week on – a local progressive blog – was a commentary written by Steve Ahlquist, an atheist agitator from Cranston. Ahlquist’s post comes highly recommended by this writer, as it typifies and encapsulates the Left’s employment of political double-standards, Biblical ignorance, and garbling of the First Amendment.

In response to Bishop Tobin’s disappointment with Rep. Jim Langevin’s (D) recent abandonment of pro-life values, Ahlquist took issue with the Bishop’s “tendency to very publicly take Catholic politicians to task for their stand on reproductive rights” and his “bold assertion[s] of clerical power to control the votes of Catholic legislators on issues of importance to Catholic theology.”

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What amounted to a warning to Church leaders, Ahlquist’s post describes the Bishop’s political involvement as “religious bullying” and “religious extortion.” While Ahlquist explains that “Tobin has every right to publicly cajole or privately persuade legislators to vote as Tobin interprets God’s will,” he also believes that “the harder the Providence Diocese pushes Catholic legislators to forgo a multicultural and secular perspective in favor of Catholic theology, the more likely it is that voters will find themselves unable to be sure that Catholics can be trusted to hold public office.”

And here we discover it once again: Liberals praising freedom of speech, but still somehow finding cause for conservatives to keep quiet.

Pro-Choice is Pro-Life?

In regards to the abortion issue, Ahlquist writes, “What is clear from the disagreement between [Langevin] and the bishop is that the ‘pro-life’ position is not in any way the opposite of the ‘pro-choice’ position. In fact, the reality is that everyone, on either side of the reproductive rights issue, is pro-life. The only real disagreement is how we express our point of view through our political actions. Tobin and others who wear the pro-life label with pride love to tarnish those who believe in reproductive health care as being pro-death.”

It must be so nice to be a liberal politician. Even when you’re pro-choice, you’re pro-life. Even when you vote to authorize the slaughter of millions of unborn babies, your friends in the progressive media are somehow able to interpret you differently. You are simply someone who doesn’t express his pro-life “point of view through [his] political actions.”

No wonder progressives become so annoyed with the Church. Catholics have earned a reputation for confronting such self-delusion and equivocations.

Progressive Inconsistency

Ahlquist’s primary error concerns his leftist prejudice over what constitutes a religion – still not grasping that religion is simply a worldview, often accompanied by a philosophy and set of moral beliefs that instruct a society’s culture.

In this sense, isn’t liberalism – “a multicultural and secular perspective” – a religion? Hasn’t liberalism grounded itself in moral precepts, constantly obsessing over the evils of racism, sexism, and homophobia? Oh yeah. And capitalism?

Isn’t liberalism planted in the assumption that the world is divided into two groups, victors and victims? Doesn’t liberalism regard collectivism as an issue of morality and justice? Doesn’t President Obama speak often about being your “brother’s keeper” (Book of Genesis)? When asked if he was “calling for the redistribution of wealth in society,” Obama’s spiritual advisor Jim Wallis responded, “Absolutely, without any hesitation. That’s what the gospel is all about.” For some reason, however, the Left considers all of this to represent acceptable occasions of the state being influenced by religion.

The same inconsistency occurred when liberals found Obama’s longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to be preaching anti-American Marxism from his Chicago pulpit: “No, no, no! Not God bless America! Goddam America! That’s in the Bible! For killing innocent people! Goddam America!”

And I don’t recall seeing Ahlquist’s scathing rebuke of the RI Council of Churches – a local socialist front-group – when Reverend Harry Rix was attempting to convince Rhode Islanders last year that Jesus Christ would have been standing tall with Occupy Providence.

Demonstrating the hopelessness of separating religion from government, Ahlquist himself accidentally invoked the New Testament in order to influence public policy. He did this with a complete misinterpretation of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees who asked Him, “Tell us, therefore, what dost thou think: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” Jesus famously responded, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites?...Render…to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22)

Ahlquist embarrassingly concludes, “In other words, separate church and state.”

Or we could listen to actual Biblical scholars who understand that Jesus, “knowing [the Pharisees’ wickedness,” sidestepped their trap by forcing them to consider what precisely doesn’t belong to God – and then to decide for themselves how to deal with the oppressive Roman government.

The main point here has little to do with Ahlquist’s Biblical illiteracy. The point is this: Considering the Left’s proposed absolutism when it comes to the “separation between church and state,” how could Ahlquist possibly consider anything that Jesus Christ ever had to say to be of any political importance?

The First Amendment

Ahlquist goes on to ask, “Under the conditions Tobin wants to impose on Catholic office holders, how could anyone who disagrees with Catholic theology concerning marriage equality or birth control reasonably vote for any Catholic?”

Good point, Steve. But how could anyone who disagrees with liberalism concerning abortion reasonably vote for any liberal Democrat? Don’t pro-abortion groups make a habit of informing the voters as to how politicians vote on pro-choice legislation? Don’t a multitude of issue-oriented organizations undergo such political ratifications? Aren’t pro-life Democrats often held accountable during Democratic primaries?

Why is this not considered to be “religious extortion?” Why must political endorsements be reserved for those associations that ignore the issue of God? Because the First Amendment tells us that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion?” That’s it?

Wouldn’t it be entertaining to send modern liberals back in time, and watch them try to tell abolitionists and civil rights leaders that they weren’t allowed to invoke the Bible or Christian teachings in order to justify their positions, because that would somehow establish a national religion?

Clearing the Battlefield

Behind the Left’s pop-culture impression of religion – that it represents mindless superstition and a rejection of science – is the reality that, if God was removed from its study, the Catholic Church could easily be mistaken for a remarkable 2000 year-old think-tank, one that tracks down sociological truth more impressively than any secular institution.

So why is the Church being considered for forced political irrelevance? Because it also has informed opinions on the nature of God?

Ahlquist warns that Langevin’s Catholicism could “eventually cause him to compromise his duty as an elected official,” and he defended voters who may reject Catholic politicians based on the fact that they may not “act in the best interests of our country and our citizens, but only for what is in the theological interests of the Catholic Church.”

But isn’t it an elected official’s “duty” to do what is right and just? Why does Ahlquist assume that Catholicism fails to measure up? Because it’s a “religion?”

Why must Bishop Tobin’s opinions be mocked as one man’s mere interpretation of “God’s will,” while self-righteous liberals escape such ridicule? Why must the teachings of the Catholic Church be referred to as “theological interests” rather than “well-conceived values and principles”?

And shouldn’t Ahlquist formulate some sort of argument against “Catholic doctrine,” rather than assume its inherent inconsistency with “the best interests of our country?”

Ahlquist’s commentary on the Bishop’s political activity is not only demonstrative of the Left’s confusion and vacillation over the “separation of church and state,” but it can also be boiled down to a classic progressive attempt to clear the battlefield of ideas. Rather than having to debate the Church, Ahlquist prefers to have it silenced and disqualified as a legitimate political voice.

Travis Rowley ( is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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