After a surprise victory in the Republican primary, Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell is officially on the ballot. O’Donnell, a staunch Tea Partier, is facing criticism for her religious beliefs … and opening the door, once again, for looking at the relevancy of a given candidate’s religion.
MSNBC seemed to have O’Donnell’s anti-masturbation quote on a near-continuous loop for a while. Jon Stewart used it for a laugh on “The Daily Show” — moments before pointing out that focusing on that topic would be dumb politics.
What did she say, back in the 1990s? Here’s the money line:
“The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So, you can’t masturbate without lust.”
Okay, let’s just get this out there. Masturbation is normal, natural, and something that pretty much everybody partakes in. I would have thought that an aspiring politician saying otherwise would be laughed off the proverbial stage … but of course, I’m not on a ..
… US Senate ballot and O’Donnell is, so maybe I’m way off base here. Maybe masturbation’s only bad if you admit to it.
Anyway, if you take the scripture literally, it claims that only men are sinning if they masturbate since Matthew 5:27-28 reads, “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
The official word from the Catholic Church on masturbation is pretty dire and sounds frankly ridiculous in the year of our Lord 2010.
“Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”
Most American Catholics disagree with one or more important elements of official Catholic doctrine — probably including this one. But even Catholics who object to the dogma don’t want to hear someone else show disrespect to the tradition as a way to score political points.
And, you know, this is a good point. Like I said, in most cases, show me someone who claims not to masturbate and I’ll show you a liar. However, it is arguably disrespectful to use a politician’s religious beliefs—however absurd they may seem—against them in terms of how they will act once in office (O’Donnell has recently gone on the political record as saying that partaking in masturbation is “not a matter for government”).
However, it’s at times difficult to differentiate the two. In fact, sometimes it’s downright impossible.
O’Donnell’s religion is fair political game when it would impact her governance. She started her public career, after all, as press secretary for the Concerned Women for America, which aims “to bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” What might that mean?
Abortion is the obvious issue, and here O’Donnell actually shows a tiny sliver of difference between her own position and the unyielding stance of her church: She’s willing to allow an exception if the life of the mother is at risk.
There are other governance-related issues where her faith is relevant: Her dismissal of evolution as a “theory,” for instance. And her support for abstinence-only sex education.
These are certainly matters of concern for the voters of Delaware. Simply put, is Christine O’Donnell capable of separating her own religious views from the wishes of her constituents?
Well, based on a recent speech at the Values Voter Summit, the answer is … uh, doubtful at best. Besides which, she needs a lesson in knowing what she’s talking about when referencing an allegorical work that has been clearly explained by its author.
[O’Donnell] quoted from C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the opening volume of the Narnia series. And she compared her political supporters with Aslan, the lion character that O’Donnell said represents God in the books (Lewis actually said Aslan was specifically a Jesus allegory). As O’Donnell renders the quote:
“Is he safe. Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
The Tea Party movement , she said, isn’t safe either. “But boy, it sure is good.”
Really? Her political base shares the power and unquestionable righteousness of the Almighty? She cloaked the current political situation in one other explicit religious metaphor:
“I think it’s a little like the Chosen People of Israel in the Hebrew scriptures who cycle through periods of blessing and suffering and then return to the divine principles in their darker days. It’s almost as if we’re in a season of Constitutional repentance.”
Really? Her political base has been chosen by God for eventual success?
It’s kind of hard not to judge you by your religious views, Christine O’Donnell, if you’re going to spout that kind of stuff.
Oh, and I guess I have to make note of the comparisons being made between the criticism being heaped on O’Donnell and the religious flak that Sarah Palin has taken. But to be completely fair to Sarah Palin, she did get a somewhat unfair reputation as a religious nut.
OK, OK, there was that Kenyan pastor who prayed, while touching the then-Governor, that God protect her from witchcraft before claiming that public schools are all about getting kiddos to worship Mohammed and Buddha — but on the record, Palin’s religion has been primarily Pentecostal (yes, that’s the same Assemblies of God group that is taking over my hometown’s abandoned movie theater) which, while not unfamiliar with faith healing ceremonies and that sort of thing, isn’t exactly about passing snakes around or violence-based exorcisms or whatever.
Me, I think it would be very hard to separate my personal feelings from what is best for the greater good, particularly as seen by my constituents. If I held strong religious beliefs that were tied to an organized religion (I currently practice “Katie Loud-ism,” which is basically based on my own relationship with God—He and I call the shots), this would be even more difficult to accomplish.
That’s not to say that some politicos aren’t able to do this. However, by and large these folks are less blatant about trumpeting their religious beliefs from the rafters (and the cynical part of me wants to add in here “for the purpose of garnering votes from the religious right”) as both O’Donnell and Palin seem to do.
What are your thoughts on Christine O’Donnell and the role that her religious beliefs—and statements she’s made in this regard—play in her capabilities as a U.S. Senator?