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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