Priests and Politics

For quite some time, I have had mixed feelings about weighing in or writing on the topic of  politics. "Your realm," a friend once told me, "is to be priestly, not political." I reckon I've bought into this, preferring to pray quietly and to remain silent on many of the issues that have arisen during this election season.

It is not as though my silence is without good reason. For were I to say that I intended to vote for John McCain, there would be cries that I hate the poor; to suggest a vote for Obama would raise cries that I hated the unborn. In particular, I have been dismayed and horrified by the caustic and hateful comments directed toward Catholic bloggers who voice, in any way, support for Obama. Civil discourse seems, yet again, to have been thrown out the window. Is it a wonder why a Jesuit scholastic would prefer to remain silent?

But can I, in conscience, stay silent? Am I so wholly removed from the world of politics that I am permitted only to direct silent prayers for the coming of the Kingdom, but I am not to speak of how I envision this coming about? As a Jesuit and a son of Ignatius, it is my life's labor to be a contemplative-in-action, one who brings himself to prayer in order to discern better how it is that God is calling him back into the world. My ears grow attuned to the cry of the oppressed, they strain to listen to the countless silent voices squelched by sinful and oppressive structures. I open my ears and let their words and stories penetrate my heart. I lift these voices up in prayer. And yet am I to remain in silence about the political structures that both abet and promise to alleviate the oppression that is a scourge to so many?

So let me say something about my politics. It seems to me that most of our problems are man-made. Lack of food, the general disregard for the value of human life (from the womb to healthcare to education to care for our elderly and infirm), war, an unconcern for the environment, an economic crisis precipitated by greed and lust for money, and pernicious forms of prejudice and discrimination...all of these can be traced back to human artistry. We need look no further than to one another to see who the real architects of our malaise is: it is us. 

As a Christian, I cannot help but to look at the suffering and strife of so many and ask, "Lord, where are you in this?" Again and again, I am drawn in prayer and reflection to the realization that Christ is now where he always has been: with the poor, the helpless, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. As a Companion of Jesus, these are the men, women, and children that I have pledged my life and heart to serve as their brother and, God willing, their priest. As much as I'd like to say, "Let me give you spiritual counsel, but let's leave politics to the politicians" I would be remiss in doing so. 

You see, my question at the end of the day is, "With my vote, how am I contributing to the furthering of God's Kingdom?" Is there a place for abortion? Is there a place for war? Is there a place for children to be deprived of an education? Of healthcare? When I enter the voting booth, I am certainly going to follow my conscience in asking, "Which of these is building up God's Kingdom better?"

  • I will vote for the candidate whose social policy will contribute to the declining rates of abortion in this country while also addressing the sweeping social policies that are necessary to make abortion an un-exercised option.
  • I will vote for the candidate who manifests a deep sense of the dignity of human life, 
  • I will vote for the candidate who will assess fairly and accurately our military presence in foreign countries and make an informed decision about out the role of the United States in the future of the international community
  • I will vote for the candidate who demonstrates a sense of the scope and depth of the current economic crisis. This candidate will realize the breadth of its impact and will promote ways to address this is a healthy, balanced manner.
I admit that there is no ideal, or perfect candidate. But it is our burden, and our privilege, as citizens to be able to vote for the man who will lead our country for the next four years. In my mind, I am trying to vote in and for the narrative of God's Kingdom, a Kingdom that Jesus Christ embodied in his ministry on earth. I can no sooner be a one-issue voter than I can, in conscience, refrain wholly from voting. So it is with a discerning eye and an open heart that I will approach the booth this year and, in casting my ballot, I will do so with a prayer-filled confidence that the person whom I envision leading our country will embody more fully the values of the Kingdom. 




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