It’s not just the Catholic bishops. The Southern Baptist theologian and leader Richard Land says that Baptists should be prepared to go to jail as an act of civil disobedience to the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. In an op-ed, Land wrote:
Our Baptist forebears died and went to prison to secure these freedoms. It is now our calling to stand in the gap and defend our priceless First Amendment religious freedoms.
Similarly, Ross Douthat shows why the standard liberal view, as articulated best by Kevin Drum, that this issue only matters to the Catholic bishops because everybody else uses contraception shows an incredible lack of understanding about how religious belief actually works, at least within Catholic circles. Excerpt:
But of course [Catholics who don’t use contraception] aren’t the only Catholics who have objected. Here Drum glosses over the complexities of religious faith and practice, which ensure that many Catholics’ relationship to the teachings of their Church is more complicated than a simple “agree or disagree.” There are Catholics who accept the Church’s view on contraception but simply don’t live up to it. There are Catholics who respect the general point of the teaching while questioning its application to every individual case. (My sense, elaborated here, is that the current pope has some sympathy for this perspective.) There are many American Catholics, as Daniel McCarthy noted in a perceptive interview recently, who are neither devout nor dissidents — Catholics who practice their faith intermittently, drifting away and then being tugged back, without having any particular desire to see its teachings changed to suit their lifestyles. And then there are Catholics (and this is a large category) who do explicitly dissent from Church teaching, but who also don’t want to see secular governments set the rules for what Catholic institutions can and cannot do. These are people who have been particularly vocal in the current debate (to their great credit), and their voices undercut the entire Drum thesis. If this issue a matter of conscience only for the “formal hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” then why is the White House taking so much criticism from Catholics with a reputation for disagreeing with the hierarchy — from Commonweal Catholics andNational Catholic Reporter Catholics, from famous Catholic liberals like E.J. Dionne and Chris Matthews, Catholic Democrats like Tim Kaine and Bob Casey, Jr., and so on? The answer can’t be that they’re all afraid of the bishops, since we’ve just established that most Catholics don’t agree with the bishops on this issue. Something else is going on here.
Southern Baptists have no problem with non-abortifacient forms of birth control. And yet you have one of the top Southern Baptists in the US saying the question of religious liberty raised by the Obama administration’s HHS move is so great that it’s worth going to jail over. Something else is definitely going on here.
Kevin Drum and his fellow liberals are suffering from a lack of imagination and empathy. As a Christian, I believe sex outside of marriage is wrong. I don’t engage in it, and I morally disapprove of it. By their logic, I should also approve of, for example, anti-sodomy laws. But I don’t. Not everything that is wrong should be outlawed. Similarly, Team Drum should understand that it makes perfect sense to disagree with the Catholic position on contraception — as most Americans do — and still believe that the government has no business forcing the Catholic Church, or any religious organization, to fund something it finds abhorrent.
Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur.
Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience—that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.
Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.
Terry Mattingly observes that the (secularist) media is still not grasping the other side in reporting this issue:
My point is not that the “religious liberty” camp should be covered and the “birth control” arguments ignored. In fact, I will say this again: There is no way to cover this story without hitting the birth-control angle and hitting it hard. There is no way to cover this story without covering its political angles.
From a journalistic perspective, this is not doctrine vs. politics. It’s both-and. This is not “religious liberty” vs. the sexual revolution. It’s both-and. The journalistic framing in this story must take seriously the line (currently) coming out of the White House and the voices of observant Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, evangelical Protestants and others who believe that the U.S. government is trying to punish those who refuse to edit centuries of tradition and law in order to conform to Caesar.