Well … here goes!
You may not realize it, but there’s going to be an election here in the United States in eighteen days. (Bazinga! That’s sarcasm, people in comas know there’s going to be an election in eighteen days.) Throughout the blogosphere, particularly in the American Catholic corner of the blogosphere, folks are weighing in with strident opinions about the impact this election will have on our future well-being. These opinions are often accompanied by dire warnings, outlining the horrible things that are going to happen if the wrong guy gets elected. Salvation itself, apparently, hangs on the outcome! For heaven’s sake, if you care for your soul, send out alarms to everyone you know, everyone you see, and tell them, “Get to the polls! Get to the polls! And VOTE FOR THE RIGHT GUY!!!!”
Now, I’m a newcomer to the neighborhood (well, I’m new to blogging, I’ve been an American Catholic, like, forever) and, truthfully, I’ve been generously welcomed by all my new neighbors who’ve come to visit and by all the neighbors I’ve ventured to seek out. I’m glad to be here, and I want to be the best neighbor I can be; but, truthfully, I’m not ‘down’ with either your urgency or your certainty. There’s a whole lot here in the USA for a Catholic to get worked up about; but getting worked up over our upcoming exercise in democracy is a waste of physical and emotional energy. We need that energy for undertakings that are actually going to make a difference.
On one particular Sunday last August, while I was assisting at Mass at Sacred Heart, our wonderful Fr. John Baldovin SJ gave us the ‘faithful citizenship’ homily that too many priests hold off until the last moment (as in now). I’m glad he spoke before things got as kooky as they’ve gotten and, as always, his insights were right on the money. He concluded by telling us that it was our responsibility to thoughtfully examine the candidates and their policies in light of Catholic Social Justice Teaching and to select the candidate who represented, as he put it, “the greater of the two goods.”
Father, as he’s often told us, works hard to see a glass that’s ‘half full’ instead of ‘half empty’. That’s the only reason I can think of that he didn’t ask us to vote for “the lesser of the two evils.”
Now, I love Catholic Social Justice Teaching. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it can heal the world. I try, in every way I can, to promulgate our Church’s teachings, especially her teaching about justice. Just the same, though, after examining both candidates in light of that teaching I’m at a loss to see how I’m going to figure out which one is “the greater of the two goods”. I don’t think I can even figure out who’s “the lesser of the two evils.” You’re cranked up about the election? Not me! The only thing I look forward to on November 6 is the promise that this hideous campaign will finally come to a close (unless, of course, we get a repeat of 2000 and the election goes on, and on, and on like a twenty-six inning baseball game.)
So, I see that I’m out of step with my neighbors. To many of you, the choice is easy — a “no brainer”, in fact. I don’t think the choice is easy, I don’t even think the choice is hard, I’m convinced the choice is impossible. Of course, if it’s impossible for us to get it right it’s also impossible for us fail. Life will go on, and it’s in that “go on” that we will find the opportunity to respond to the Father’s command to build the Kingdom of Heaven.
People talk about a ‘culture war’ and this talk is not “crazy talk” in the least. The citizenry is in an uproar and it’s no wonder. The notion that our society’s fabric is unraveling and that the cause of this unraveling is the deplorable condition of our families is more than a Right Wing Delusion. Shouldn’t it be clear to everyone that the strength of a nation depends on the strength of its families and shouldn’t it also be clear that we’ve been enduring a relentless series of anti-family social trends for the past fifty years or so. Things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse. They get worse when we have a Democrat president and they get worse when we have a Republican president.
The way to escape blame, I suppose, is to point fingers at our politicians. It makes you feel better but it does nothing to solve the problem.
Catholics everywhere, and more and more, are feeling the need to fight back against the social trends that are turning childhood into a nightmare for so many of our fellow citizens. Nightmarish childhoods produce miserable, confused, dysfunctional and spiritually stunted adults who, naturally, reproduce to create a new generation of nightmares.
This election cycle, Catholic bloggers, Catholic homilists, Catholic bishops and (some) Catholic politicians are focusing attention on three anti-family trends: abortion, confusion about the meaning of marriage and contraception. Catholics talk to each other about these vital issues and get into shouting matches about them with everyone else. There’s little genuine conversation and even less understanding. This is the reason, I suppose, elections have become so important to us. We’ve abandoned hope that we can reach a meeting of the minds with our neighbors so we’ve descended into a struggle to strip each other of political power. If we can’t convince ’em, we can always vanquish ’em!
I don’t know that anyone is going to give me an argument when I point out that, in addition to the issues we’re spotlighting this time around, there are lots of other anti-family trends. There’s divorce, and infidelity, and premarital sex, and pornography, and domestic violence, and rape, and the persistent vulgarization of popular media, and pedaphillia, and prostitution, and sodomy, and IVF, and surrogacy, and child abandonment. Are we getting a handle on any of these things?
So far, I’ve been zeroing in on the anti-family trends that social conservatives are sensitive to. There’s an entire world of anti-family trends that the liberals are ringing the warning bell about. There’s the dismantling of welfare, the defunding of public education, the growing gap between rich and poor, the deregulation of exploitive financial practices, the evaporation of employment protections, lack of support to veterans, lack of support to ex-offenders, elimination of programs for the disabled, the mentally ill, the intellectually challenged, abandonment of the elderly. Since we’re not coping with conservative issues, how are we doing with the liberal ones? Not too well, I think.
I’m about to deliver what some may consider ‘bad news’; but the good news is that, if we can accept the ‘bad news’, we can start taking steps to improve things. Well … here goes: not one of these issues is going to be solved through the political process. We’re wasting our time thinking that we can legislate away trends which are, in reality, spiritual cancers. Spiritual problems aren’t going to be healed by political efforts. Spiritual problems require spiritual remedies. What is the spiritual remedy we require? Repentance.
So, I’m not going to waste my breath telling you who to vote for. I’m going to tell you to repent; and I’m going to tell you something that you should know but may never have understood: The only effective call to repentance is a call of mercy. You see, those people you’ve been putting hate on are the people you’ve got to forgive, the people you’ve got to learn to understand, the people you must (horrors!) come to accept. You know, our lives are almost entirely out of our control. There’s surprisingly little we actually have a choice about; but we do have the choice whether to condemn or forgive. That one actually is in our court. We also have a choice whether to implement our own plans or submit to God’s. We really can exercise power that way. Finally, we have the power to hang on to the delusion that the man in the mirror is the most important person in the universe or we can come to see how very small our personal concerns really are.
If you elect to repent, you’re running an election you can’t possibly lose!