ONE DOESN'T NEED Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction to see the frightening potential of theocracy. In this issue, writer René Ostberg tells a chilling story of a malign collusion of church and state — in this case, the Irish Catholic Church and the newly formed Irish state of the 1920s. Together, the two institutions acted as morality police, imprisoning women and girls for the “crime” of becoming pregnant out of wedlock — as Ostberg puts it, “for transgressing Catholic Ireland’s moral and class codes.” More than 10,000 Irish women and girls were incarcerated in so-called Magdalene laundries run by Catholic religious orders with state funding, the last of which wasn’t closed until 1996.
In her article questioning the “divine right” of gun ownership, Sojourners’ editorial associate Liz Bierly looks at how a fringe Christian ideology has influenced the discourse of gun proponents, transforming debate on the Second Amendment to “an article of faith in religious nationalism.” In both cases, public policy has been detrimentally affected — and people harmed — by inhumane, unbiblical interpretations of Christian theology. The proper response will always be rooted in the love ethic of Jesus — and a humble suspicion by his followers of entanglements with power.