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Sacramental Politics

Religious Worship as Political Action

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Brian Kaylor

Religion and politics have often been called taboo topics for polite dinner conversation, but in political campaigns and religious services, the two often mix. This book looks at how religious worship remains embedded with inherent political messages and behaviors, showing that conflicts between church and state exist not just in the public arena, but in each sanctuary and house of worship. To explore this religious-political tension, the book first examines more obvious examples of worship as political action, such as when candidates speak during church services or when political parties hold prayer services at party events. The initial analysis acts as a foundation for the idea of worship serving a political purpose, and is followed by analysis of non-partisan and less obvious political worship services. Religious sacraments (such as baptism, confirmation, communion/mass, and confession) function as key moments in which religious participants pledge allegiance to a power that resides outside Washington, D.C. or statehouses, thus highlighting the alternative political messages and space carved out through worship.
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Chapter 6. Religious Worship as Inherent Political Action

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RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AS INHERENT POLITICAL ACTION

During the 2012 presidential campaign, several states with Republicancontrolled statehouses and governor’s mansions attempted to push through substantial election law changes to, most notably, require photo IDs. Critics argued the laws would disenfranchise poorer and urban voters who did not have government-issued IDs like a driver’s license, thus preventing groups that leaned Democratic from voting in crucial swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (as well as other states like Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas). Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder led the charge in criticizing the laws as discriminatory and used the power of the Justice Department to block some of the laws from being enacted before the 2012 election. During a May 2012 speech before a gathering of the Conference of National Black Churches, Holder condemned state voter ID laws. Emphasizing the importance of voting, he argued that “of all the freedoms we enjoy today none is more important or more sacred than the right to vote.”1 If voting is sacred, then it must be protected as a key democratic rite.

Holder hardly stands alone in his assessment of voting as sacred. During the 2012 campaign, liberal pundit Bill Press blasted those who would “consider rolling back the clock on the most sacred civil right of all, our right to vote.”2 ← 187 | 188 → Similarly, Democratic U.S. Representative Marc Veasey of Texas argued, “The right to vote is sacred and must...

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