Monday, October 13, 2008

Political Musings

I've stayed mostly away from politics on my blog, largely because I am not myself enthusiastic about any particular candidate.

But I felt compelled to mention something that has bothered me in the past. Many Catholics are struggling with who to vote for. So many of the social issues which Catholics have long been known to support are packaged in one party, but then tied up with the large red bow of abortion "rights". On the other side we have quasi-pro-life lip service mixed in with some anti-life issues (like support for ESCR), and social issues that don't always line up with a great number of Catholic voters' feelings. For many of us, neither of these are exactly inspiring choices.

I know Catholics who have equally weighed their choices, and chosen to support opposing sides. It is not my place to judge any one's heart on the matter, I assume that both sides are trying their best to apply good judgement. I know many people who are holding their nose to vote McCain, because they feel the risk that nothing at all will be done to further pro-life causes is better than the certainty that much will be done to hurt pro-life causes if the other side were chosen. I think many of those who chose the nice package despite the red bow are sincerely well intentioned, and are fed up with feeling pigeon holed and yanked around by one party because of one giant issue, and have hope that addressing other issues will help that one issue in the end. I can absolutely I said, I'm not enthusiastic about either side.

Here is what bothers me. In these times, where our choices are reduced to picking the least of the worst candidate rather than picking the best, it tends to surprise me when I see enthusiastic support for candidates who have huge, gaping moral problems. I'm more inclined to expect grudging support, support with a heavy heart, support accompanied by fervent prayers for a change of heart on behalf of the candidate on those moral problems, than outright enthusiasm about that choice.

I'll be frank and say I haven't even decided who I am voting for myself. I have decided who I cannot, myself, in good conscience vote for. Abortion, for me, is too fundamental an issue to let go. I see too much harm from the proposed actions of the democratic candidate that outweighs, in my mind, any good that could come from them. Once the flood gates are open, it's much less likely they'll ever be closed again, and the opening of those flood gates will cost millions of lives, and that is just too great of a risk. Those are my feelings on the matter.

If, however, there was ever a time where I felt the totality of the other issues outweighed the issue of abortion, I know with certainty that it would be one of the hardest things in my life to vote for that person. Knowing that, even if I became, in theory, a "supporter" of such a candidate, I still cannot fathom ever being an enthusiastic supporter...I can only ever imagine being a reluctant one.

I would not be smiling when I saw him on TV. I would not be rushing to be at his rallies. I would not be chanting his slogans, slapping his bumper stickers on my car, or encouraging others to follow my lead. It would be with an extremely heavy heart that I would ever make such a choice, and it would be my constant and fervent prayer that his mind was changed on the issue of abortion so that I could support him more fully. I would happily join any group who mostly supported him and yet wrote to him and lobbied for him to change his view on abortion (like this guy, kudos to him!)

And so...while I've seen reluctance (from both sides) in supporting any particular candidate, I have also seen some great enthusiasm. I've seen enthusiasm from both sides, yes...but I admit that when I see Catholics who are enthusiastic particularly about a pro-abortion candidate, it frankly boggles my mind.

Don't misunderstand me, I understand the thinking behind the choice, I understand the arguments against one-issue voting, I don't think of them as bad Catholics or anything of the sort for voting their conscience in that way, especially when I'm assured that it is a vote despite the pro-abortion stance, not because of it. I respect their choice, it is theirs to make. But to have enthusiastic support for that choice? When it will likely lead to the deaths of many more children? I honestly can't wrap my head around that. When I see such enthusiasm, I wish for, I hope for an inkling of proof that there is, at least privately if not publicly, an equal amount of fervent prayer that the candidate has a change of heart on the abortion issue, perhaps attempts to contact the candidate about it, in general I hope for a balance of horror for the extreme pro-abortion views with the enthusiasm that may be there for his other plans. I try my best to assume that it is there, but it gives me a sick feeling when I think that it might not be.

In short, it bothers me when it seems people are cheering for what they like about their candidate, and apparently ignoring the moral problems with the candidate altogether. (And again, that goes for both sides.) Especially when there is a frighteningly messianic view of a candidate, it seems to turn into a cult of personality rather than a choice about issues. And any time this happens, on either side, it bothers me. Candidates come and go, they'll have their strengths and weaknesses, they are mere mortals. The issues are what will stay and what we'll have to continue to fight for. Any time we put too much faith in one mere human as if he is going to fix all our problems, things start to get scary. And yet I see this intoxicating enthusiasm even among Catholic voters who say they are supporting a candidate despite some very serious moral issues. I want to believe they are very concerned about the bad that will be coming with the good, but I'm sorry to isn't always very apparent, and that doesn't feel right in my gut. It worries me.

Whatever happens in the election, though, whichever side wins, we need to be actively praying and campaigning for an end to abortion. I ask both sides, will you match your enthusiasm for your candidate of choice with equally fervent attempts to save the lives of millions, through prayer or letter writing or protests or anything? If you are proud enough of your candidate to openly and enthusiastically support him, are you likewise proud enough of your faith to openly and enthusiastically put it into practice by defending life from conception until natural death? Are you happy to boast about your political affiliation but hesitant to mention your religious convictions? Do we fumble around when asked about pro-life issues, trying to avoid the subject as St. Peter tried to avoid association with Christ when it was asked of him, or do we own our faith with conviction as we own our political choices?

I'm not pointing fingers with these questions...I just think we all (myself included) sometimes need a reminder about our priorities in life. Politicians come and go, no single person will ever fix our nation...Christ alone is our savior and redeemer, and that of the whole World, not any one single nation. When we align our values with Christ's teachings, our world prospers. When we don't, our world suffers. No economic policy or social programs can fix a world that has turned its back on Christ. And so when we weigh the pros and cons of various candidates and make our choices about who to support, let's remember while we give support for what it is we agree with in any given candidate's platform, to pray even more fervently for an end to those grave evils which may be included in that platform.

Courageous and wise St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, pray for us during this election season, and for our candidates, that they may uphold what is right even among political pressure and threats as you did!

Lord, send us representatives who have prudence, wisdom, and the backbone to stand up for what is right!!


Charity said...

This is a serious and well-thought-out post. Thank you for the food for thought. I found myself nodding along in agreement, as I, too, have many friends and family members who are enthusiastically supporting one candidate or the other while ignoring -- or dismissing -- his extreme and indefensible position on abortion.

Like you, I can understand voting one's conscience as best as he can, but I don't understand the enthusiasm over putting on my blinders and ignoring something so important.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Wonderful post! I am totally set on voting for a third party that my conscience will allow me to now.

patrick said...

No other issues COMBINED can outweigh the importance of voting pro-life. Period.