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Religion and Politics

By E. Claude Gardner

religion, articles, christianity

Molly Dawidow who is an American citizen presently living in Poland with her husband, evangelist Mike Dawidow, gave the following report of Vice President Al Gore's visit to Warsaw in the spring of 1993:

This past month marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In summer of 1940, walls were constructed around parts of Jewish quarters of Warsaw and Jews from all over the Third Reich were ordered to move within the designated area. Three years of unimaginable horror and terror ensued ending in an armed revolt in April 1943 in which a few thousand of the remaining Jews heroically defied Nazi arms and tanks until finally crushed four weeks later.
People have worked relentlessly these past fifty years to perpetuate hatred against all Germans and keep alive the memories of injustices inflicted upon them as a people until it sometime seems that a permanent veil of gloom settled over this nation in 1939 daunting us yet today. Sometimes I wonder if it would not be better to forgive and forget or at least let the next generation get on with life without burdening them with the heaviness of all this malice and bitterness. In Warsaw you can hardly turn a corner without encountering burning candles and fresh flowers under a plaque which reads 'On this spot on (date) the Hitlerite criminals killed (number) Polish (Jewish) men, women and children.' Even on the brightest spring day with lilacs blooming, traffic bustling, and carefree children playing all around, the ghosts of the victims of Nazi horrors seem to be groaning out of the sidewalks. Eight hundred thousand Warsaw civilians died in the war-not counting the Jews who were temporarily housed in the Ghetto before being shipped off to the gas chambers. There is hardly a block in the downtown area which was not a place of execution.
For the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, dignitaries from around the globe convened in the Polish capital this past month. Vice President Al Gore represented the United States of America at the ceremonies and laid a wreath at the new Holocaust memorial. I am ever proud of the American delegations at times like these, riding in long shiny Cadillac limousines flying the Stars and Stripes and accompanied by good­looking Marine guards in smart uniforms with impeccable parade drills. However one incident occurred which disturbed us no little.
Unlike representatives from other nations, our Southern Baptist Vice President alone chose to accompany Polish President Lech Walensa to his morning prayers and participated in a Roman Catholic Mass honoring 'Mary, Queen of Poland,' kneeling before her altar and sticking out his tongue to receive the 'Holy Eucharist' from the Archbishop of Poland. The service was televised nationwide on prime time news. What Al Gore as a person does religiously is no business of mine or the American or Polish people, but when he represents the United States of America in a foreign country, I think he should investigate and weigh any political messages he may be sending by participation in a strictly religious service-especially in a new democracy which is struggling to define the meaning of separation of church and state.
Right now in Poland there are bills up for approval by the Sejm to make Roman Catholicism the state religion. These laws would give the Catholic church even more power in government and control of education, social services, and civil matters as well as greatly restrict freedom of religion for any non­Catholic groups. In view of this, I feel that Vice President Gore's actions were unquestionably ill advised and imprudent.
And is it not rather inconsonant for the representative of a nation which does not even permit a Christmas Nativity Scene or the singing of Christmas carols in public schools to participate in an official capacity in a Roman Catholic mass while on a mission to commemorate the death of millions of Jews? May God have mercy on us all!

Published April 1996