As we enter the heat and heart of another general election, get ready. People will let loose with their political views and castigate others who do not agree with them. Some will be particularly offensive and critical of church officials for speaking out about the election or for not speaking out about it. Observers claim that there used to be a “Catholic vote” or voting block from Catholics. If that were once true it is no longer; most Catholics vote according to personal conscience rather than in lockstep with any group-think or political party or instruction from religious leaders.
I have heard left-leaners claim, “If Jesus lived in America today, He would be a democrat.” I think, “Yes, He’d especially like their pro-abortion stance.” Of course, you and I know that, when it comes to cradle to grave issues, republicans aren’t any better about respecting life, dignifying life, or encouraging life universally. From congressional gridlock to government overreach, partisan reporting to societal pandering, ideological polarization to swimming in political swamps, if approached by either party to join them Jesus would probably run in the other direction as fast and far as possible.
I have never been part of a political party because I don’t think Jesus would, though He encourages us to be political. He engaged in the politics of His time even though it is “dirty, frustrating, and fraught with failure,” as Pope Francis stated. Jesus gave us an attitude to approach politics as means to help the lowly, the disenfranchised, the forgotten, and the marginalized and to respond to societal injustices in active nonviolent ways. Our task as Catholics is to work for the common good without allowing ourselves to be corrupted in the process. The Catholic Social Teachings provide a good guide or platform for our church’s political viewpoint; and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a good road map for us in their document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.” You can easily find these writings by visiting most parish or diocesan websites. I am grateful to our bishop and others who urge priests not to promote one candidate over another or one party over another but to preach relevant issues year-long instead of targeting the voting season.
Our job as Catholics in the political arena is to imitate Jesus who cast out demons and healed those who suffer while also challenging powerful office holders who lord it over others. We should do our part, then, to dispel evil in our society, assist those who are downtrodden, and hold elected leaders accountable for noble leadership. Most public servants are good people who want to make the world a better place; we would do well to remember this while enduring the underbelly of the election cycle. It is taxing to tolerate all the attack ads, debates, endless commercials, insults, and those who approve such messages, but they’re back. And we’ll feel the pain of it in the months ahead. As pundits reduce the presidential election to socialism vs. fascism, a nice guy who’s easily swayed vs. a rude, crude dude who’s obstinate, or Uncle Joe vs. Cousin Eddie, we will have to make up our own minds. However it unfolds, I encourage us to engage in faithful citizenship, take seriously our political responsibility, study Catholic Social Teachings, and imitate Christ’s attitude as best we are able. Yes, it’s all back in full force. Let’s do our part to give it a little more dignity this time around.