Saturday, March 22, 2003
The religion variable.
Peter Steinfels examines the results of the Pew Forum poll on how Americans' religious beliefs affected their support or opposition to war with Iraq. Two key findings: "a major gap exists between outspoken national religious leaders and the more circumspect clergy members in the pulpits" and "the impact of religion and religious leaders on an issue like Iraq is modest, limited to about 10 percent of the population."
Steinfels says that the gap between the almost uniform opposition of denominational and ecumenical leaders and the more cautious comments of parish ministers may indicate that local religious leaders are more aware of the real moral, political, and military ambiguities of war. (Either that, or they know that their congregations are divided on the issue and don't feel like taking sides.) He also observes that the low number of people who report that religious leaders have a significant impact on their own views doesn't really mean that religion is insignificant in how people make up their minds. "Most religious groups advocate moral principles about using military force, like the notion of a just war, that require complicated, informed judgments about political and military factors. If believers turn to news reports, political commentators or party leaders for assessments of those factors, is that really an alternative to shaping their views on the basis of religious beliefs, or is it simply a necessary part of putting those beliefs to work?"
Politicians and media commentators make a bigger impression on people than their ministers, Steinfels observes, because "ordination does not necessarily better equip one" to answer the fundamental political questions.
Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 March 2003 at 1:19 PM