The 19th-century Abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the Catholic Church's involvement in Poland's Solidarity movement are but some of the many projects inspired by religious conviction that have benefited humankind.
But the connection between religion and politics has not always been for the good. Even though the cover story in a recent issue of Time is about Jack Abramoff and sleaze on a monumental scale, it also contains many insights about the connections between religion and corruption.
Starting with Abramoff himself: To gain the confidence of an Indian council running a casino that was in trouble, he identified himself as an Orthodox Jew and that Jews, like Indians, have suffered. Then he proceeded to cheat the tribe out of millions of dollars.
Tom DeLay, the congressman tied to Abramoff, brags of being a born-again Christian and is so pro-life that he characterized stem cell research as akin to tearing a human body from limb to limb. Taking Evangelical Christians on junkets to new settlements in the Israel territories, DeLay declared himself a “born-again Jew”, an action that was sure to inflame Palestinians as well as appeal to ultra-conservative Christians and Jews.
DeLay and his former chief of staff and pastor, Edwin Buckham, prayed together at work. Buckham oversaw a political operation known as DeLay Inc. that collected from contributors and helped fund DeLay's favorite causes.Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, was DeLay's link to anti-gambling activists who unwittingly helped Abramoff's Indian clients by preventing other gambling businesses from getting government approval.
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Sanctimoniousness is disgusting enough, but when calculated to achieve political or personal gain, it is worse than blasphemous.
As Jesus said, “…on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Mt 23:29).
Jack A. Hobbs