As the recent situation with Catholics and pro-choice politicians illustrates, theology impacts politics in many ways. How should this interplay be handled by the leaders of the political and religious realms?
As best as I can understand it, Francis W. Porretto says that religious leaders should refrain from imposing theology that might influence politics (emphasis his).
A lawmaker faced with such a moral challenge has nowhere to hide. He must be explicit about his reasons for his positions, both moral and legislative. He must be willing to weather the storm from both the opponents and the proponents of the dubious practice. Sometimes, that one issue will be enough to sink him; the electorate hasn't got much taste for the sort of analysis that leads to a bifurcated position such as that.I agree that a religious leader shouldn't use his power to attempt to directly affect politics, but I disagree that any action that makes a lawmaker's job more difficult is morally unacceptable.
But it is a lawmaker's sworn duty to argue and vote as he deems best for his nation. That's the burden of office. That's the price of its prestige and perquisites. For anyone to make that burden worse in an attempt to coerce the lawmaker into changing his position against the dictates of his conscience is deplorable. It is morally unacceptable.
A theologian should interpret theology without any concern for the effect his interpretation has on politics. He should focus simply on what is true and what is false. Continuing this example, if the Catholic Church thinks it's wrong to serve Communion to pro-choice people (or even just to pro-choice politicians, or to people with red hair, or whatever) then they should prohibit it and do what they see to be right, regardless of its popularity or political impact.
Most religions, including Catholicism (although I'm not a Catholic), are revealed -- that is, God tells us about himself and how to relate to him, we don't make it up ourselves as we go along. How we want to relate to God is unimportant, as are the effects we want religion to have. (This is all predicated on a belief in the revealed truth. If one believes that man creates God in his own image rather than vice versa, one most likely feels free to change God's preferences according to his own whim.)
If God were to command everyone to become a vegetarian on pain of eternal damnation we might not like it, but our complaints would have no bearing on the truth God had revealed. Cattle ranchers might object to the sudden loss of business, and the economy might struggle with the change, but none of those would invalidate God's command. A religious leader's responsibility is to tell people what God expects from them. Listeners can believe the revelation or not, accept it or reject it, but no human action has any effect on the truth. A revelation that is particularly hard to accept may result in people leaving the religion, and Jesus faced a similar situation. (As it so happens, this passage is directly related to the revelation of communion. Read earlier in the chapter for more details.)
John 6:60-69When Jesus taught something that was difficult to accept, many of his followers decided to leave. He then asked his twelve disciples if they intended to leave also, and Peter's response is the only rational reaction to revelation. If you believe God has revealed something, it doesn't matter if you like it or not. Where else can you go?
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Religious leaders need to pass on God's revelations, regardless of the consequences. Each individual, and each politician, can then decide for himself how to respond, and when it comes to politicians each voter can decide whether to elect him or not.