I never intended this blog to be about politics. It isn't that I don't have an opinion about it, it's just that I wanted the focus of this blog to be on matters of faith. Also, out of fear mostly, I didn't want to become too personal about my own life. You see, I didn't want to come across as preachy, judgmental, or a religious know-it-all. And in an effort to be polite, I have avoided addressing topics that, I believe, are critical to Christian living. And after this year, I've come to realize how silly that is. Contrary to what many believe or insist, our religious beliefs dictate our very existence. What we believe about God, or don't believe, affects every single area of our lives. It determines how and why we do the things we do. It dictates where we live, what jobs we have, how we raise our families, what we eat or drink, our health care decisions, our choices in spouses, where we vacation, what we read, what we do for fun, and how we vote. People can no more separate their spiritual selves from their physical selves than could a person separate his head from his body and still live. It is just not possible. Rather, how we live our lives is a reflection of what we believe spiritually--what we believe about God. So it is with that in mind that I write this series of blogs on religion and politics.
In these next few months, every American is going to be inundated with political ads and robo calls. This is an election year. And as we hear every 4 years, this current election will matter more than ever to average Americans. There is going to be talk about all sorts of issues: religious freedom, the economy, job creation, human rights, dignity, poverty, work ethic, and liberty. We are going to be told by who knows how many politicians and reporters that one issue is more important than another or than several issues are more important than just one. People are going to be categorized into voting blocs and courted in exchange for a particular candidates vote. And just like every other year I can remember, it's going to be ugly and lots of people are going to be disappointed. It's inevitable.
More importantly however, and what concerns me most, is that Christians, particularly Catholics, are going to be called upon by both sides of the political aisle. The parties are going to divide Catholics as many ways as they can. The Democrats are going to attempt to appeal to the social issues they believe are most important: poverty, immigration, equal rights, and the Republicans are going to attempt to appeal to the social issues they believe are important: work ethic, jobs, religious liberty. We are going to be told that single-issue voters, i.e. those who vote primarily for pro-life candidates, need to put aside their personal beliefs and focus on the bigger picture. We are going to be told, also, that we have a moral obligation to vote, a moral obligation to remove one political party from office, and a moral obligation to support this value or that value. Many Catholics will accept this and persuade their family and friends that all of this is indeed true and holy. But will they be right?
Until 2007, I was not registered with any political party. I had lived in States where a person did not have to be a registered anything to vote in political primaries. One could just show up to the polls and pull the lever. You see, I was always a discriminate voter. I believed, whether rightly or wrongly, that most politicians were out to serve their own purposes and push forth their own ideas. My earliest political memory is the Watergate hearings that aired on television in my own living room. I was 6. And whether or not I really understood what was happening or why it was significant, it left an impression on me that politicians, no matter how high a political office, were only out for power and could not be trusted. And that impression remained with me through every single election cycle from Jimmy Carter to G.W. In fact, the first election I ever voted in was marred by such scandal and controversy, that I was convinced the whole political system was a scam with big financial payoffs. I was so leery of politicians and the political system that I wasn't moved or motivated by any issue to vote for one particular candidate over the other. To me, they were all equally reprehensible.
Yet, in spite of my mistrust or perhaps because of it, I have continued to pay close attention to the political climate and the civic affairs of every community I have ever lived in. Because I have not been politically associated with any party, I have been able to remain neutral--a political observer, if you will. And in the years since I converted to Catholicism and have become a traditional Catholic, I have been able to assess the situation with any form of prejudice. And what I see is frightening. It's also motivated me to write a series of blog on politics, most specifically Church and State and the plight of politics and Catholics in this country. I hope that what I have to offer is not judgmental in nature, but instead helpful and consistent with our Catholic faith.
I hope to have several blogs on politics in the next coming weeks, so please bear with me. Many of them, I hope, will be quite interesting and forthcoming. Much of what I have learned over the years might be surprising to those people who are younger than I or who have never been interested in politics before. I don't know how many blogs I will write or what many of the topics will be, but I do have some ideas. However, before I can discuss any thing about politics, it would be prudent to begin with the Catholic Church. As such the first article in this series with be in regards to what the Church teaches about the politics and civic duty.