Last week, Faith in Public
Life asked Rick Santorum if he agrees with the Catholic teaching that public
policy should include a "preferential option for the poor." He appeared to be
unfamiliar with the concept.
The interface of Jewish and Christian theology has always been vexing. Partly this is because of the intrinsically incommensurate realities of the two faiths. And partly it has been because of Christian interpreters' uncritical practice of supersessionism, which has been combined with political power that is used in controlling and abusive ways.
During his only visit to America, theologian Karl Barth in 1962 visited three prisons: Bridewell House of Correction in Chicago, San Quentin in California, and Rikers Island in New York. He called Bridewell “Dante’s inferno on earth” and said it was a contradiction of the wonderful message on the Statue of Liberty. Barth wondered aloud why theologians weren’t denouncing the deplorable conditions in American prisons, calling out Reinhold Niebuhr in particular (Jessica DeCou, “The First Community: Barth’s American Prison Tours,” in Karl Barth and the Making of Evangelical Theology, Eerdmans).