Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Religion and Politics, Politely Discussed

I kind of gave up writing on politics on this blog a while ago with only occasional tips of the hand as the spirit moved me.  Part of it was personal, the irritation I felt was not worth the time it took to craft pieces.  Part of this was, I did not wish to fall into snark, it wasn't me.

But we're one year from the election and so, I return to the fray not to tear down candidates, but with a plea for all my readers, particularly those who are Catholic and hold their faith dear.  Vote.

The world as always, sets up a false dichotomy: help the poor/end war and save the unborn.
We must act. But that begs the question: when we vote, how can we, how should we, if our vote would be informed and guided by faith?   Poor, war, and the unborn shall always be with us.  How do we weigh this?  How do we choose?

What we must do with our vote, is view it as the starting point of our witness in public life, not the exclamation point that only need be dusted off every four or two years. 

So if you must vote for the DNC for any reason guided by your conscience, say, trying to improve the lot of the poor, you must remember not to overlook the unborn or justify overlooking them by the fact that the GOP at least pays lip service to not paying for or enabling the killing of children in utero.  You have the challenge to pray for the end of abortion, to be a witness to life from natural beginning to natural end, and to encourage the leaders that come from your vote to do the same.  It's hard to go against seemingly popular will and objecting to a law of the land, but it is the essence of what we are called to be; to speak out for the defenseless, the speechless and the helpless, not because it is easy but because it is right.

Likewise, if you vote for the GOP, you cannot rest, pat yourself on the back as a good little Catholic and be content with the status quo.  There are people who will be less served, who need you now to show that you will extend yourself for the least of these, just as much.  You will also need to hold the elected officials feet to the fire to care for the sick and the poor in a just and ethical manner. You must work for peace. You must stay involved and invested in peace, seeking it in your lives and those around you to start. You must also pray for peace and fast for peace with the same fervor you hold for hoping that all human life will be considered precious.  And you must surrender some of that autonomy you cherish, by giving of your time to those for whom autonomy is either not possible at this point, or a dream they haven't yet reached.  You must serve the poor, the needy, the homeless and the sick.  You don't get credit for this, you just get to do it because it is right that you sublimate your time for them.  It is part of being Catholic, to surrender all to follow; and that surrendering begins with little surrenders, done via service, done via generosity, done via time. 

No one gets a pass.  No one gets to say, I did my part, I did enough, I do enough.  We have to remember, whatever we've done, is always baseline, it is only expected.  We cannot love beyond God's love or sacrifice beyond God, we can only hope to approach and improve our imitation of God's love.  This is probably making lots of people uncomfortable.  Politics do that, but Catholicism, living Catholicism, should do that even more.  To be Catholic is to be uncomfortable except in the presence of the sacrament or receiving one. Our hearts and minds should be restless, until they rest in Thee. 

In this country in particular, we have allowed political blinders to limit our vision of the other, to divest our faith from our politics or to switch our political allegiance for our faith.  It is a poor substitute, like aspartame for sugar; it causes a cancer of the soul, it is unnatural and unhealthy.  If we would be more than the convenient voting block of local color enthusiasts for whatever political machine we follow, we must recognize that neither party has a lock on virtue or vice; that both are as severely limited as we individually are, and that serving the whole of the world through thoughts, words and deeds, with charity and good humor, zeal and generosity, is a day in, day out process that does not end with election day, indeed, there is no end.   There is no "winning" there is only our next step towards holiness or not.  (Cue Yoda voice).   

Now, for those who then think the third option of not voting is the most Catholic.   To not chose between two evils, to do no harm, to not be engaged in things of this world, it sounds very high minded and sophisticated to opt out. 

It isn't. 

It shows a lack of courage and commitment.  It demonstrates an unwillingness to embrace the cross, to cut away perpetually at whatever serves ourselves first, and resistance to the weeding that our public realm, our government, our society, needs if it is not to become overgrown with self oriented interests, warring factions and increasingly polemic bromides that only satisfy the echo chamber choirs that already exist.

Catholicism requires we not be comfortable in our thinking, our votes, or our lot; it requires we engage, we be involved, we invest in being those lights to the world and salt to the earth.  We can't do that by being coy, by pretending that our non participation is anything but a symbol of despair; that we cannot affect the world, that we cannot be part of the world.  It is ivory tower in the worst possible way, pretending to be contemplation, when it is capitulation. 

For my state:
For both parties:
For Issues:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
St. Catherine of Siena
and if you need further encouragement, because you're thinking, how can I possibly do more?
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”    ― St. Catherine of Siena
Which means, we don't have any more excuses. Now is the time, to start the big push.

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