Friday, October 02, 2015

The agony of imposed silence

Mass murder done with guns.

The anguish of grief.

The frustration with the seeming intractability of the problem.

The handwringing and despair.

The liberal church, in particular, seems to become a caricature of itself. Its religious leaders make anguished and angry statements, some of them starkly poetic, ending in very earnest, yet very vague calls for something to be done. Is it the kind of institution where you would risk your life, your freedom, your time, your money to make our common life better? Does the church seem like a body that is able to create people's power and change things? Or do all of its prayers, and pious thoughts, and candles, and poetry, and righteous anger testify to its powerlessness?

Mass murder with guns is a bigger problem than "sensible gun safety" legislation, but such laws are a necessary step in stopping the slaughter.

And we know what must happen to make such laws real. But, under the rules that have been imposed on the church, we cannot say what needs to be done, and we cannot directly organize people to get it done.

The obstacle is the Republican Party. We all know that. For even the most mild gun control legislation to be passed, the Republican Party must be voted out of power, or so threatened with the loss of power that it chooses to break its dependence on the NRA.

No objective observer of politics in this country would deny the truth of that analysis.

But religious leadership sees itself as forbidden to say it out loud.

No wonder we are anguished. Silence has been imposed on us.

Religious leaders cannot tell the truth that they know.

A gun manufacturing corporation, under the present understandings of the law, can contribute corporate funds to a PAC that supports political candidates that protect its corporate interests. (Yes, there is supposedly some non-coordination between the candidate and the PAC, but that is pure fiction. We all know that.)

A church or a religious organization, on the other hand, cannot endorse a candidate, or even use its facilities to enable a political campaign.

The CEO of a corporation can endorse a candidate for office in a letter to the employees, but a minister, or rabbi, or imam, cannot endorse one from the pulpit.

Supposedly, this is because of the tax break given to churches, but all the tax breaks corporations receive do not limit their political expression.  The corporation may even selling its products to the government itself; it still has virtually unlimited freedom of political expression.

No wonder corporate leaders are not anguished by their powerlessness, but merely peeved because they don't always get their way without question.

No wonder, religious leaders have to resort to poetry and lofty language and vague calls for unspecified but doomed  legislation  to express in words the desires that they are not able to act upon.

Of course, I have said all this before, and maybe better. But it is so on my mind today.




4 comments:

Ellie Miller said...

Please consider taking part in the mid-December national vigil for all victims of gun violence. It will make a statement. http://decembersabbath.org/

Elisabeth said...

Tom, how very true...and thank you for saying this. Did you notice the parallel with Congressman Elijah Cumming's defense of Planned Parenthood? (Video available on Occupy Democrats) He carefully recites -- always forming a question -- all the corporations which have actually broken the law whose CEOs have not been called to testify before Congress. The same CEOs who receive millions in compensation, amounts never questioned by Congress. The same corporations who have never had their funding threatened by Congress.
I have no answers and I'm not very articulate...just frustrated by the same vicious circle.

Steve LaBonne said...

One might add to your comment, and to your anguish, that reactionary churches feel no such inhibition and yet never suffer the tax consequences that supposedly muzzle us.

Marlen said...

Precisely, Steve. Why not buck our supposed vocal powerlessness then launch a counter-suit if challenged? Tom, you articulate an argument I hadn't taken in before, which aligns with my growing alarm at the accelerating crumbling of our democracy. Wherein lies the role of the church in our emerging oligarchy?