Patheos Election Month: The Most Important Issue For Catholics Is …

I almost took a pass on this one.

Something about Catholics picking out one issue and saying “That’s it! That’s the only thing you need to care about in this election!” seems wrong to me. I don’t think you can trim the Gospels down to an issue, or for that matter to an election, or the democratic process itself.

Following Christ means giving all of you, your whole life, and not just your vote. Too many people these days have convinced themselves that voting right is the equivalent to living right, and living right is all the grace or goodness any of us will ever need. My main complaint about that tidy little approach to Christianity is that I don’t believe it’s Christianity at all.

What kind of Christianity can it be that leaves out Jesus, the Gospels and the Cross?

However, no matter how broad our call, we are also tasked with living out our faith by the decisions we make when we go to the polls and cast our votes. We do this not as a substitute for following Christ day by day, but as part of it.

Clearly, the one issue that threatens my Church, which is the Catholic Church, above all others is the HHS Mandate. I would argue that this Mandate threatens not only Catholics, but all churches. I would follow that argument with another; that the HHS Mandate threatens not just religious people, but secularists, as well.

The HHS Mandate is a broadside fired straight through the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only protects the right of religious people and churches to practice their faith without government interference, it also protects the rights of those who are not religious to ignore and argue against faith without religious interference.

The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.

Atheists are fond of pointing to the excesses of religious practice in the hands of fallen people, even while they seek to practice those same excesses themselves in their attacks on religious faith. What they leave out of their calculations is that the same First Amendment they are working so hard to turn into an instrument of oppression can, once it is fashioned, become an instrument to be used against them.

We live in a time when political activists have become so enamored with their various visions of a brave new tomorrow that they seek to abandon the basic freedoms of speech and religion on which they base their own claims. They would deny those who disagree with them the same freedoms of self-expression and right to organize that they used in their own march to a successful presentation of their arguments.

Thus we have laws and campus rules that deny Christian clubs the right to organize on college campuses because they require their members to express a commitment to traditional Christian principles. The argument is simple: Those principles are opposed to views that other people want to further, in particular same-sex marriage and abortion. So, the clubs must either bend to those views or disband.

All these acts of religious oppression were forerunners and foundation builders for the HHS Mandate. They created a large group of people who have been taught to hate Christianity and Christians so much that they are willing to toss away their own freedoms, if those freedoms also protect the rights of Christians. When these people were presented with the HHS Mandate, they rallied around it in a knee-jerk, hating-Catholics-is-cool reaction.

That leads us back to the question of our votes in two weeks. There is no single issue that, to my mind, trumps the HHS Mandate. I view it as one of the most serious challenges to our Constitutional government since the Civil War.

All this is not to say that we should abandon every other issue and ignore whole chapters of the Gospels in order to fit our faith to political party dictates. Whoever wins this election, Christians are in for a real fight. Political candidates who patronize Christians in order to co-opt them are just as dangerous to our faith as those who attack us outright.

My hope is that no matter how this election turns out, Christians will awaken to the threat the HHS Mandate represents and realize that, even if it should be overturned in the future, it still represents a current threat.

To continue with my use of nautical terms, the hull has been breached. Simply rescinding this mandate does not change the fact that government has stepped over this line. It most certainly will happen again. We can not trust our freedoms to electoral whim, nor can we vest our defense of them in politicians.

We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.

Catholicism is a comprehensive approach to the Gospels. If we are to be true to our Catholic faith, we must work to bring the Kingdom  by our faithful attempts to follow the whole Gospels. The reason why is simple: Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.

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  • neenergyobserver

    Concur, completely and absolutely.

  • Virginia

    Yes, this is the most important issue for Catholics, and all Americans who respect the Constitution, especially since pro-life isn’t on the ballot this year. I voted early for the candidate who has promised, both verbally and in writing ( to nullify it, but don’t think I was thrilled to vote for him. He brings a lot of questionable baggage to the table, but the choices are what they are.

  • Ted Seeber

    And by the HHS mandate, I hope you mean not contraception, but the almost side issue (to the Democrats and even to Obamacare itself) of the government defining the criteria for what is a religious organization sufficient for exemption.

    It is only a threat to the Catholic Church because of contraception. It is a threat to any voluntary organization because of the fines imposed and the definition of what is a religion.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Ted, I mean the HHS Mandate and all its evils, certainly not just, or even at all, contraception. I am not advocating for or against contraception. I am advocating for religious freedom.

      • Ted Seeber

        I have a tendency to advocate against contraception as a form of rape.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Ok. I’ll repeat it for you. I’m not advocating for or against contraception when I speak as a matter of what the law should be.

        Abortion kills a child, which puts it in an entirely different — and completely unacceptable — category.

        Thank you for saying I am a devout Catholic and an outright anti-abortionist. I am honored.

        • arkenaten

          I’m not advocating for or against contraception when I speak as a matter of what the law should be.

          Okay, I know you deleted my previous comment, but I’m baffled with your response.
          If a voter wanted to know your stance on the contraception issue what would you tell them?
          Just for argument’s sake…let’s consider I am a prospective voter and am asking you this question: Rep. Hamilton, please tell me what is your political/personal view on the current widespread availability of contraceptives? Should you get elected to office would you ban or at least seriously restrict their availability?

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Douglas, you are not a resident of the house district I represent. I have discussed this with people in my district. I get cranky about this because pro-abortion (as opposed to pro choice) people use it as a ruse to attack pro life people. Instead of dealing with the real issue, (abortion) they constantly accuse the pro life person of being opposed to contraception. This is done in a deliberate, intentional way in order to confuse people and gain ground for them on their real agendas. I’m not guessing about this. I have internal emails, as well as personal experience, about how the decision to do this was made.

            To be honest, I think that is somewhat the reason for your questions here. I don’t think you are honestly curious. I think you are trying to be provocative. As with most things, I have votes and a public record as to where I stand on this issue. I have no problem with contraceptives being available or with people choosing of their own free will to use them.

            In fact, I have no problem with people who want to limit the size of their families. I just don’t think they should do it by killing their children.

            • arkenaten

              No, not provocative. I was geninely surprised as I thought you were part of the Ted Seeber camp
              as every time I have raised the issue of prevention rather than cure the impression I got was you were anti contraception, especially with this mandate thing.

              As this is not the case then surely the answer to the problem of abortion is to channel as much energy and resources to avoid it? Let’s be honest, here, unless a law is passed you are not going to stop it, and even then, it will just go underground, as before.

              “In fact, I have no problem with people who want to limit the size of their families. I just don’t think they should do it by killing their children.”
              And highly emotive sentiments like this, which might make the likes of Ted cheer from the bleachers, are not exactly factual and will never win you any friends and little respect either.

              Make prevention the number one priority. Countries like Denmark have a much lower abortion rate than the States. They must be doing something right (I don’t know what) surely?
              Isn’t it a sound political maxim to fight the battles one has the highest expectation of winning?
              This ‘battle’ you are likely on a hiding to nothing, whereas a solution that virtually negated the need for abortion would make you a hero.

              • Rebecca Hamilton

                Douglas, it may be that the reason I gave you that impression is that I just honestly don’t think that the problem is a lack of availability of contraception. What I keep repeating is it’s sooooo available. I can literally walk to three places where I could buy contraceptives from where I am sitting right now. And I’m not talking about anything expensive, at least not for people who spend as money on other things as most teens around here do.

                What you’re advocating is just doing what we’ve been doing (which hasn’t worked at all, btw) only more so. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work.

                I want to add a caveat here. I’m not sure that Denmark’s laws are always a good model for the United States. The differences between the two countries in terms of geography (which matters) and the make-up of the people is too great. Also, our forms of governance are, while they are both democracies, very different.

                • arkenaten

                  Democracy is democracy, ultimately.
                  If the system you have at the moment is failing then it needs to be looked at.

                  “What you’re advocating is just doing what we’ve been doing (which hasn’t worked at all, btw) only more so. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work.”
                  Don’t blame the system. The system is merely a reflection of those who organise it. If it’s more successful in Denmark then it hasn’t been done properly in the States has it?

                  For now, the abortion law stands and it seems that your approach is currently to frustrate further leniancy and more ‘ in your face’ action. Neither of which is truly possitive but rather confrontational (or this is how it come across)

                  Availability of contraception (whilst better than no contraception) is no guarantee of alleviating the issue of abortion, especially while there are no other medical alternatives
                  Education is a MUST and I did say prevention is the key.
                  Yet, to date, you have suggested no alternative (that I am aware of) that will offer any form of hope in this issue.
                  While the average member of the electorate don’t expect miracles from politicians they do hope that they will provide viable alternatives. The abortion issue seems to be a hot potato.
                  You are an intelligent woman, Rebecca. Offer a viable alternative.

                  • Rebecca Hamilton

                    Douglas, there are real differences between a parliamentary system and a federalist system. Also, there are real differences between governing a country of over 300,000,000 people spread over a great continent and even into the Pacific Ocean and another country of slightly less than 6,000,000 people which is so small that it would fit entire in my own state of Oklahoma with a lot of land left over.

                    As to what I advocate as a solution, I don’t have any simple, let’s-put-money-here one-off to give you. I think that the “problem” has roots in misogyny and in our cultural definitions of things. A lot of it stems from the fact that we are asking impossible things of our teens. We push young girls toward sexual promiscuity that verges on the sexual behavior of insects, and we push them to be National Merit Scholars and to look like spaghetti thin models but to dress like prostitutes who work the streets.

                    At the same time, we make zero demands on young boys in terms of responsibility for their own sexual behavior, the children they sire or the girls they have sex with.

                    I haven’t even gotten into the destruction of the family, of parents who work such long hours that the kids raise one another. I’ve also passed over drugs, gangs and violence.

                    Does this sound to you like there’s a simple, one-line solution? If there is, tell me, because I don’t see it.

                    I honestly think that we have to stop treating symptoms — and teen pregnancy rates are a symptom — and deal with the underlying problems. This is where you and I will part company, for sure. I feel that the solution is spiritual. However, it is not necessary to approach the need for creating a more family-friendly, stable environment for our children, as well as protecting them from that angle alone. There are plenty of areas where secularists and Christians could agree and work together.

                    Not the simple answer you’re asking for. But I don’t have a simple answer.

                    • arkenaten

                      You spent the whole post identifying problems. offering a half baked one line answer , ‘spiritual’ – but offering no solution as to how to implement it.
                      And if this is truly the answer then it sure as heck fire isn’t working, is it?
                      Attacking abortion and the abortionists is the easy target. Any predator worth its salt will go for the underbelly, it is the least defended area.
                      Everyone KNOWS the problems, and every country – be their population 6 mil. or 300 mil – has similar problems.
                      You dismiss Denmark simply because their culture size etc is different from yours. Why? Come ON Rebecca! For goodness sake. Sex is sex, contracepion is contraception and abortion is abortion.
                      Don’t cop out on me now.
                      Surely you are not expecting the likes of moi to offer a possible solution? Was this not one of the ‘tickets’ you were elected for?
                      What did you offer your voters at the time regarding abortion?

                      If education is the key…and I believe it is in this case as it is in most things, then why not take some of that wonderful boodle – 700 billion wasn’t it?- your bloody stupid government is piddling away and invest it in a top flight education programme, that includes tv and print adverts, mobile units to visit schools, (even spiritual help – and I am biting the bullet here as you can imagine)
                      And more medical research too, of course. I have said all along prevention is better than cure.

                      If what you are doing right now is not working then only a fool will continue to bang their head against the wall. Are you getting a headache?

                      But still, you haven’t offered me anything other than an allusion to spomethng spiritual.
                      That is not good enough. You’ve had plenty of time in office to understand the problem and so far (based on your own post and stats the situation is not improving) So, come on Rebecca, tell me ONE thing. Just one, that you are prepared to kick start that you feel confident will have a possitive outcome.
                      If you can’t offer me that – and of course ‘me ‘ really is your own constituency, then you are are not the politician I think you are.

                    • Ted Seeber

                      Yes, sure Douglas- because the one thing we must prevent at all costs is another human being taking up space on the planet. That’s what you really mean by education, isn’t it?

                    • arkenaten

                      :) If you say so, Ted.

                    • Rebecca Hamilton

                      Sorry Douglas I got sidetracked and forgot about this. As I said, I don’t have any solutions that are easy or simple or that I can even tell you will work. I only have ideas, and they are not fully-formed and nailed down into anything like a policy proposal. They are certainly not something I want to try to discuss in a com box with someone who just likes to argue for arguments own sake.

                      Other than moving all 300,000,000+ Americans to Denmark, (where they might be a surprisingly tight fit) you don’t seem to have much to offer, either.

                      Your discussion so far has centered around claims of Denmark’s wonderfully effective approach (I’m assuming you’re correct; haven’t checked) and that population, geography, form of government, history and culture aside, Denmark is so essentially identical to the USA that any solutions used in Denmark should translate whole cloth to here.

                      You do see that is stupid, I’m sure. You are just being Douglas.

                      As for what I would do, in a world where I was all-powerful and could bend all things, including people, to my will, I would first insist that everyone stop lying. The number one most damaging lie that’s being bandied about here in the USA is that we can solve every problem related to women, including teen pregnancy, with enough money to Planned Parenthood. Hence the cry for more money for contraceptives. That is the source of this persistent focus on one thing as the only answer. It has nothing to do with the welfare of women or any real desire to reduce teen pregnancy. It’s a fund-raising ploy.

                      The second big lie is that the “solution” is “education.” Educate them about what? Do you honestly think that there is a 5th grader in the public schools in my district who couldn’t teach both of us a lot about sex? Maybe you don’t mean education. Maybe what you are talking about is indoctrination. That’s what sex education passes for around here. It pushes kids into sex they don’t always want and shoves them to use birth control. The pushing them into sex part seems to be working, but the using birth control part is obviously failing.

                      The problem with both your suggestions is that they’ve been done and done and done again, and the problem they claim to be addressing has gotten worse, not better. Your suggestions that we either do them again, harder, or just pretend that America is Denmark don’t seem particularly practical or useful.

                      While we’re on the subject, what are the teen pregnancy rates in South Africa?

                    • arkenaten

                      Instead of berating every effort to solve this issue other than to ban abortion outright (which will not likely happen) maybe you should look at it from a different perspective?
                      Firstly, the supposed “lies” you list as being failures are not, in fact, failures at all. They may not have achieved a 100% success rate but they HAVE achieved success. And those that implemented such schemes never claimed they would be 100% successful, did they? Of course not.
                      However, I would imagine the success rate could be measured and chances are it would fare a lot better than your man Obama or any other politician who has all too often failed to deliver on promises made, which is pretty much par for the course, yet people allow themselves to be blinded (blind-sided?) every election in every country.
                      Also, try to imagine if there was no education AT ALL. If there were no contraceptives?
                      Believe me; the HIV pandemic in SA for example would have become far worse if it were not for education.
                      Your quip about indoctrination pretty much sums up your internal belief system: nothing has worked before therefore nothing will, so why bother?
                      If this is the attitude you intend to ‘carry to the fight’ then you will lose. I guarantee it.
                      There has to be a win-win situation where all parties reach agreement. Compromises have to be made. This is the nature of negotiation, right? Even you will not gainsay those who wish to use contraception yet there are many who would vilify you for this stance.
                      If this is one of the biggest issues of this election (and beyond, I suspect) then it’s time to show your mettle. Remember, if your government is spending 700 billion of the war machine then it can spare a few dollars on this crucial aspect of society, don’t you think?

                      I am trying to find stats on teen pregnancy. I will get back to you if I find anything.

              • Ted Seeber

                “As this is not the case then surely the answer to the problem of abortion is to channel as much energy and resources to avoid it?”

                The question for me is what are we truly trying to avoid with all this “let’s treat pregnancy like a disease” nonsense. I suspect strongly what we are truly trying to avoid is HUMAN LIFE. That is, that those for contraception and abortion are really a part of the extinction-of-humanity ecological movement (based on the idea that human beings, being the one animal that changes our environment to suit ourselves, are the biggest danger to the “natural” environment that there is).

                All the rest- is just covering up a eugenics based program to reduce surplus population. Contraception led to abortion, which has now led to active euthanasia, which is now leading to elder abuse.

              • Ted Seeber

                It doesn’t make me cheer from the bleachers- in fact, it’s one of the big points Rebecca and I disagree on.

                It’s what makes me a paleoconservative and her a feminist.

                To me, the highest calling in the world is that of PARENT. I find it hard to imagine ANY role more powerful than getting to be a part and parcel of creating the next generation of the human race.

                In this, I find myself politically the enemy of those who worship at the altar of the Holy Orgasm Of No Responsibility.

                Unfortunately for me, I live in the United States of America, where 40 years ago we had a so-called “sexual revolution” that turned the majority of men into a bunch of rapists.

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  Ted … I’m almost afraid to ask … what is a “paleoconservative?”

                • arkenaten

                  “Unfortunately for me, I live in the United States of America, where 40 years ago we had a so-called “sexual revolution” that turned the majority of men into a bunch of rapists.”

                  :) Where do you get this stuff from, Ted?

                  • Ted Seeber

                    From the definition of rape in the Catechism of the Catholic Church- which is violating another person’s sexual integrity for your own pleasure.

              • Ted Seeber

                The only thing wrong with teen pregnancy is a lack of living wage jobs for teenagers.

  • jessicarenshaw

    >The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.< Well-expressed, Rebecca–as is the entire post. Thank you for articulating these things for those of us who believe them but struggle to explain why.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank You!

  • Barb Arndt

    I love your blog site. I have often felt like I was crying out with no one ever hearing…. through your blogs and links I have learned so much. It is encouraging to know that there are others who also feel like our religious freedoms are being slowly eroded away… while we stand idly by.
    I agree with your statement: “We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.”
    I am not a Catholic, but as a Christian, I also believe with all my heart your statement, “Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.” Great post, even though I don’t always understand a lot of the comments.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Barb. A lot of the comments are from people who do not believe in Jesus and want to argue with us about it. Pay them no mind.

  • arkenaten

    Here you go. Teen pregnancy figures for South Africa
    This article shows figures from 2008.
    This is an excellent article and is pretty comprehensive.
    Read it all. The last few paragraphs are quite enlightening.

    Also: The SA census figures have recently been released.
    Its a lot to wade through. Teen Pregnancies are in section 5.