First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the efforts of some religious leaders to influence U.S. voters as Election Day draws closer. Of particular interest was this clip from Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, who issued a remarkable warning on video this week: voting for Democratic candidates he disagrees with, Paprocki said, puts voters' salvation "in serious jeopardy."
As Brian Tashman explained:
In the Catholic Times, the official newspaper of the Springfield diocese, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki uses the manufactured controversy about mentioning “God” in the Democratic Platform to argue that the Democrats are hostile to faith, and went on to attack Democrats for endorsing gay rights and opposing the criminalization of abortion. He said those two planks demonstrate that the Democrats “explicitly endorse intrinsic evils,” while noting that he has “read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.”
Paprocki concludes with a warning that while he is “not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against,” backing the Democratic Party may put your eternal salvation at risk: “a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”
It's worth noting that federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt religious institutions from intervening in campaigns for political office, which is no doubt why Paprocki said he isn't telling people how to vote. That said, warning Catholics -- many of whom support reproductive rights and marriage equality -- are putting their souls at risk if they vote in ways Paprocki doesn't like comes close to the legal line, if it doesn't cross it.
For what it's worth, threats like Paprocki's don't appear to be having much of an effect this year, as many Roman Catholic voters embrace a more progressive vision -- a Pew Research Center poll found President Obama leads Mitt Romney among Catholics, 54% to 39%. The margin is larger than Obama's advantage over John McCain four years ago.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Last week, a scandal rocked a 17,000-member Oklahoma megachurch, where five employees reportedly waited two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in a campus stairwell, allegedly by a church worker. This week, the story became even more serious as additional victims came forward (thanks to reader R.P for the tip).
* The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer thinks President Obama might be the Antichrist, but he's not positive. "It's too early to say," he told his radio audience this week.
* In Congress this week, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) introduced a resolution intended to "reaffirm the importance of religion in the lives of United States citizens." Unfortunately, Fincher's measure, in apparent opposition to the separation of church and state, includes a series of inaccurate historical claims.
* And a piece of ancient papyrus that suggests Jesus had a wife was rejected this week as "a clumsy forgery" by the Vatican. The church's official newspaper ran an editorial this week calling the fragment "a fake." However, AnneMarie Luijendijk, associate professor of religion at Princeton University, said she concluded that the fragment, made famous by Harvard Professor Karen King, is an authentic, ancient text, written by a scribe in antiquity.