The following is a guest post written by the Interfaith Alliance’s LEADD Fellow, Drew Ruggles.

The recent little fracas that has surrounded Speaker Pelosi’s statements on Meet the Press about the disagreements in the Catholic Church about when life begins is just one window into what is bad about using religion for political purposes.

“As an ardent, practicing Catholic, [abortion] is an issue that I have studied for a long time,” Pelosi told NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who had asked her when life begins. “And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know.”

In an interview with FOX News on Tuesday, Archbishop Donald Wuerl said people need to reflect more before they start talking about church doctrine. He also issued a statement calling Pelosi’s explanation of the church’s abortion stance “incorrect.”

As long as politicians tout their faith as credentials to get votes, and as long as religious leaders use their theological authority to try to control politicians and voters the integrity of religious institutions is going to be undermined.

One person stated in response to the Fox News article on this issue, “If Pelosi wants to join a regional Christian church that… espouses her views on abortion there are several that would welcome her in the San Francisco area.”

In essence if you don’t like what your religious leader is saying move to a different community that has a platform closer to your own.  A practitioner’s relationship to his or her tradition often isn’t that simple, and it shouldn’t be that simple.  This is the view of an individual reader, and not Fox News, but it reflects a broad assumption that religions are just social and political blocs.  The varieties of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., are qualitatively not like the Republican or Democratic parties.  They are intergenerational living traditions that cannot be reduced to policy positions and opinions.

It is a gross cheapening of the two thousand year tradition of Roman Catholicism to reduce its essence down to its position on abortion or to use it as an identity badge to get votes.

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