The press has reported that Michele Bachmann
went to Law School at Oral Roberts University
where she studied law based on the Bible and
not on English Common Law. Catholic priests
do that too. They go to the seminary and study
Canon Law. But they don't run for President
saying that any laws not based on the Bible
are invalid. I'm in favor of keeping the religious
distinct from the secular. One can outlaw divorce
religiously and condemn people to hell for it.
But governments can do as they please. People
can choose. It's called Free Will. That's a
basic tenant of Catholic Canon Law. If you wish
to end up in hell, that is your choice. Good
Obtaining salvation is not a matter of differences
between Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant
teachings. It's a regional thing. People in
the south go about earning their salvation differently.
They roll around on the ground, they play with
snakes, they abstain from intoxicating liquors,
they spend hours being happily harangued by
preachers who then pull in tons of money after
scaring those poor people to death. Catholics
are more systematic and logical. They are happy
with an hour's service and a 10-minute homily.
Leave church early to beat the traffic. Perform
the correct rituals, ring the right bells and
salvation is yours. Guaranteed.
When I grew up in heavily Catholic Carroll,
we had a large house on Main Street. It was
on the corner. One block south on the corner
was a small Assembly of God Church. It could
not have had more than a few dozen members.
We pretty much ignored them. But once a year,
they had a tent revival in back of the church.
They went through the neighborhood and knocked
on doors and asked everybody to come to the
revival. Of course, nobody did. One neighbor
decided to go see for himself. He went and peeked
inside the tent during their revival service.
He saw them rolling around on the ground. So
they were forever branded the "holy rollers"
in Carroll. I have no idea who any of these
people were. We did not associate with Protestants
if we could help it. There were not many of
them in town, anyway. My family was suspect
as we had Lutheran kin, out of town, of course.
My grandmother was raised a Lutheran by her
Danish immigrant father. She met my Irish Catholic
grandfather at a teacher's meeting as they both
taught in one-room country schools. They got
married. Whoa! In 1913, Catholics and Lutherans
were like oil and water. They did not mix. But
love prevailed. The Catholic priest married
them at home and refused them the nuptial blessing.
The Lutheran minister did not appear at all.
My grandmother remained Lutheran until her step-mother
died in 1936. Then she converted, much to the
consternation of her Protestant cousins. This
anomaly did help my mother's piano teaching
business. Most of the Catholics sent their kids
to the nuns for piano lessons. My mother sent
my brother and me to the nuns as a peace offering.
But lots of Lutherans sent their kids to my
mother for piano lessons, even though she was
more expensive than Celia Elgroth across the
street from St. Lawrence Church. Having those
Lutheran relatives up in Ida County was good
Oral Roberts got his start as a radio preacher
who could cure people. He encouraged listeners
to put their hands on the radio and receive
the blessings of him and Jesus. Later he told
people to put their hands on the TV. I don't
know if he ever cured anybody or not. We Catholics
depended on the new drug of penicillin. Whenever
my brother or I got the sniffles, it was straight
to Dr. Leo Kuker for a shot of penicillin.
It greatly disturbs me that candidates like
Michele Bachmann think that the Bible trumps
the Constitution. Many people came to America
seeking freedom OF religion, many others for
freedom FROM religion, especially from the established
church. It would appear that Michele Bachmann
wants to establish her church and its beliefs
as the law of the land through bills she and
her supporters will attempt to pass in Congress.
I conclude with my favorite prayer: "Oh
Lord, I can handle Satan, but please, sweet
Jesus, save me from your followers!" CV
Gary Thelen is a native Iowan who taught
high school French and Spanish in the Des Moines
Public Schools, served in the U.S. Army during
the Vietnam War era and worked as a clerk in
the Iowa House, as a cruise ship speaker and
as a political activist.