To provide political cover, and, serving to further confuse an already hyper-complicated, issue, liberal female members of religious orders are trotted out to support the congressmen who voted for Obamacare. This has now become a mainstay of the debate, meant to shut down all conversation. Sister has spoken!
On this particular pre-Election Day call, Sister Bertke was coming to Dahlkemper's defense. "The false advertising that is taking place is morally wrong," she declared. It's hard to take all the scare tactics about how the right wants to create a religious state seriously when such a massive expansion of the state was passed behind the polyester skirts of liberal nuns.
But even those who retain a residual fear of conservative religious values should be able to join in a moment of agreed bipartisan outrage over Minnesota Democrats' recent mailings in a state-senate race, showing a man wearing a priest's collar and an "Ignore the Poor" button. They are protesting a particular candidate's refusal to denounce some of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget cuts. Instead of having a debate over policy, they have chosen to jump out of the bushes and shout, "Boo!" They're hoping that terrifies voters enough to vote Democrat.
When the health-care legislation passed, there was also the voice of the body of Catholic bishops of the United States (not typically known as an arm of the Republican Party), and an outspoken group of traditional religious sisters that had something to say about the dangers of the legislation. Those voices were drowned out though by a Democratic majority in Washington, liberal special-interest groups, trade associations, (including the Catholic Health Association), and a willing media.
The upside to this all is what you saw during the (still ongoing) health-care debate: an acknowledgement that religion absolutely plays a role in the lives of Americans. As Carl Anderson points out in his important new book, "Beyond a House Divided," most of us share many of the same values, despite the divide politics and culture frequently suggest exists among us. Further, as Anderson writes, "The American consensus on religion's role in the public discourse is not just a national mood, it's a fact founded in American history." We cannot afford to expunge it. We should not co-opt it. We should embrace it in the most honest and transparent of ways. In God we trust. And for political prudence, we pray.