Note to Bishop Tobin: If You’re Looking for God in a Political Party, You Need a New Roadmap

Democrats vs republicans 34294548846

It is, in that grand Public Catholic tradition, roast and toast Rebecca time. 

Get out your flame-throwers and pitchforks folks. I’m going to talk about the two political parties. 

There are little g gods. And then there are little g gods. 

No little g god I’ve talked about on this blog draws quite the high octane, teeth-grinding I’ll-poke-a-stick-in-your-eye, flat-out mad as when I tell people that their political parties suck. When I pour on the gasoline and say things like they are both corrupt and you can not follow Jesus and follow either political party, I get walking-off, a pox-on-your-house-Rebecca disgust. 

The reason, I believe, is that we want an easy way out of our responsibility as Americans and Christians to engage the larger culture for Christ. When engaging that larger culture includes the rough and tumble world of politics, we really start scratching around looking for an easy way out. We want a pass. A haiku. A some little something to do that will make us feel good while we don’t risk much. 

We don’t want — all of us, including me — to go out there and take the hits that come from engaging the world, including our political parties — for Christ. 

Our problem is that the real Jesus, as opposed to the Hallmark Card Jesus, was a trouble maker. And He still is. Stick with Him in party politics, and you’ll end up getting booed and called names and probably nobody will eat lunch with you or talk to you. It will be time out in grade school all over again if you try even a little bit to follow Jesus first in the context of party politics. 

Nobody wants that. It hurt when we were kids. And it still hurts now that we’re grownups.

What we want — and we are willing to go along with just about any craven lie or manipulation of our consciences to get it — is a safe place where we can just vote straight party a few times a year and then shoot self-righteous arrows at all those fallen folks in the Other Party, which, we are sure, is the devil.

The truth is, boys and girls, as American Christians we have the power to affect how these political parties behave. But doing that means we have to do a few things. We have to,

1. Get up off our duffs and get involved in party politics at the local level.

2. Accept the fact that if we truly follow Jesus, we are going to be unpopular, whichever party we join. 

3. Stand for Christ even though we will get hit with brickbats and name-calling. 


Deacon Greg Kandra wrote about Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, who recently made an announcement that he’s switched from Democrat to Republican. His reasons are sound ones. In fact, I know exactly how he feels. The Democratic Party, at least at the national level, has become the party of abortion. It is also the party of gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and a number of other horrific things. 

If the good bishop feels that he can’t abide all this and wants to change his D to an R, I say go for it. However, if he’s got some idea that the Rs are going to be a safe haven where he can peacefully abide and get glad-handed and sucked-up-to without challenges to his leadership as a bishop, he’s living in fantasyland. 

Oh, he’ll get all the glad-handing, back-slapping and suck-uppage anyone’s heart could desire. But the no-challenges-to-his-leadership-as-a-bishop will only come if he hands over the keys to the party leadership and walks their wide and smooth way. 

My hope is that in all his newfound enthusiasm for political engagement he doesn’t sell out the farm to this party. He’s supposed to speak for Christ, and that means he needs to make sure that he doesn’t end up toadying to the Rs.

I’ve seen, up close and personal, how the Rs treat their toady clergy. My message to the bishop: You don’t want to be them. Not only that, but you can’t be them if you want to be who the Church says you are. 

There is plenty to address in the Rs economic and military policies that would keep the good bishop busy being a bishop and not a party stalwart, if he wants to do it. There’s also quite a bit he could do to get them off high center on some of the things that make Christians register R in the first place, such as life, family and religious freedom.

That said, anyone who is a D (like me) really does have their work cut out for them. If the Rs co-opt traditional Christianity and its religious leaders, the Ds are at war with them.

I could go on and on about HHS Mandates and gay marriage and falling down before the idol of Planned Parenthood, but you know the story. The point is, the official Democratic Party has lost its soul. It no longer even pretends otherwise.  

In my opinion — and this invariably raises combox ire — you can and will take this country and yourself both right down to hell by following either political party blindly. I also think that weak-as-water Christians have brought a lot of this trouble on us all by going along with their parties rather than following Christ. 


Here’s the truth of it: There are plenty of Christians in both the Democratic and Republican parties, at least at the county and state level. But they’ve sold out Christ for the party line. They won’t stand up for Jesus because they want to be friends and pals with their other party faithful buds. They convince themselves to believe the drivel that these people talk, and the seriously evil drivel that sold-out, fallen religious leaders say to excuse the sinfulness of the party. 

There are a ton of sold-out, fallen religious leaders in both political parties. Go to any party convention, and you’ll see them there. They don’t speak for Christ when Christ’s teachings contradict the party’s teachings. Instead, they give tortured explanations about how Jesus really agrees with the party. They don’t use their prophetic and moral voice as religious leaders to speak for the light. They use them to give excuses for the darkness. 

These preachers have sold Jesus, and they’ve sold Him cheap: To be part of the R or the D.

I often — and I mean often — hear Christian people go on and on about “how can anyone be part of a party that is pro abortion” or whatever bad thing the Ds espouse. They do this right in front of me, as if they’ve forgotten than I am a rather public and unapologetic D. If I say anything, they tell me “Oh, you’re not like the rest of them.”

And they’re correct in that. I’m not “like the rest of them.” I try my best to do that thing which I believe down to the core of my political being that politically inclined people must do as their part to save this culture. I engage the party from a Jesus-first position. 

That is what I am trying to get the readers of this blog to do. Engage your political party with a Jesus-first outlook.

Stand. For. Jesus. 

Not the R or the D. 

There is nothing wrong — and I mean nothing — with being part of either political party, if you go into it with that attitude. 

In fact, I would say that there is something exactly right about it. 

Jesus told us to be the light of the world. But party faithful are faithful to the party first. Political Christians, whether they are R or D, almost always end up hiding their light under the party loyalty bushel.

My note to Bishop Tobin is that if he’s looking for God in a political party, he needs a new road map. He’s already in the place where people can find God, and that’s the Catholic Church.

I do not mean to say or imply in any way that Bishop Tobin should not be engaged in America’s political struggle. I back the bishops completely in what they are doing. But this nation is lost first in its soul. All the other things are just symptoms of that deep soul-sickness.

We need religious leaders who will equip the laity to fight the political battles by teaching and leading us in the Way of the Cross. The Church has the answer already and that is Christ and Him crucified. That, and not the R or the D, needs to be his message. 

  • hamiltonr

    Note: I hope that some of the comments on this post can look past defending and vilifying the two political parties. Americans have the power to change their parties. That said, I’m not going to delete partisan comments unless they get ugly.

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    Anyone who thinks the good bishop would become anyone’s lapdog has not read his editorials. He merely realized that membership in the Democratic party is futile. The GOP needs to be called to task at times for trying to ignore and use social conservatives, but at least it has a pro-life plank in the platform.

    • hamiltonr

      I don’t know the bishop Leticia, and I’m glad to hear that.

      I also understand the sentiments about the two parties and abortion.

      The difference for me is that I’ve seen how this works in real-life, grown-up politics. The only way to change things is to push both parties — hard. We need to convert them, not praise them. I think we need true political missionaries to join the Democratic party with a heart for changing it. All we need to do with the Republicans is for the people who are there already to start standing on what they say they believe and not allowing themselves to be manipulated.

      I’ll write on this more. And more. And more.

      I honestly think it’s key to converting our culture. But it take more commitment to Christ than most people have, at least right now, which is why I talked about the bishops equipping the laity. We go back and forth over which party is best and nobody steps up and says “here am I, send me” to the hard, thankless, Kingdom-building missionary work of converting the parties.

      I don’t know why people can’t see this. If we convert the Democratic party, we change the entire political landscape of America.

      • LeticiaVelasquez

        I had a friend who in 1980 was asked by the Democrats on Long Island to run for Congress. As a good Catholic, he asked them if he could run as a pro-lifer. They said yes, but he didn’t run. In 1990 he asked again, and they said “no”. They had signed on to abortion as a essential platform plank.
        As far as I am concerned, the Democrat party is the party of death, so indebted to Planned Parenthood and NARAL that they are beyond help. At least the GOP had Marco Rubio willing to take action on Immigration, despite harsh protests within the Party. When is the last time a Democrat was allowed to vote pro-life?
        Oh, and I have said, “here I am Lord, send me.” I am a full time pro-life activist volunteer.

        • hamiltonr

          It sounds like you’re doing what God has called you to do Leticia. I can sympathize with your friend. The Democratic Party here in Oklahoma tried to censure me for passing a pro life bill.

          What that means though, is that we’ve got to change that party. If you’re not called to that, ok. But we need traditional Christians who can go into the Democratic Party and stand for Jesus. The reason why we need them is that is the only way we are going to convert the culture for Christ.

          Change the Democratic party, and you change the country.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Here’s the sad part: Far too many social conservatives in these United States, have a tendency to be more like Pat Robertson than Michael Voris ( ). One must never let Americanism interfere with Christ.

    • Sus_1

      I don’t believe either political party is sincerely pro-life. If there was a sincere pro-life political platform, there would much more discussion on how to help women/girls after the baby is born instead of campaigning against abortion.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    And that is exactly why I read your blog- because you don’t kowtow to Hudge and Grudge.

    I don’t know how you can stand being in office working with the politicians- I fear in that environment I’d lose God and come in and go postal with an AK 47 one day.

    • hamiltonr

      I pray the Rosary every day, and a lot of wonderful prayer warriors pray for me constantly. God has helped me. Otherwise, I could not have stood it.

      • Maggie Goff

        I pray for you every day, Rebecca, and have been since first reading your blog. I can’t imagine the constant pressure that you are under.

        • hamiltonr

          I know you do Maggie. Thank you.

  • FW Ken

    I’ve never been a registered member of either party. Texas has open primaries and I typically vote as a Republican, if I have feelings about a particular candidate. BTW, there was a time when Texas elections were decided in the Democratic primary but that was before abortion.
    I have read that in some states unregistered party members can’t vote in primaries, which may be part of Bp. Tobin’s thinking. For my money, clergy should either stay unregistered, or keep their registration private. I’ve read what I could find about it, and still haven’t figured out why it’s a public tihng.

    • Maggie Goff

      I’m in Arizona and am registered as “Undeclared Party.” I can’t vote in the Presidential primaries as undeclared, so every 4 years I change to Republican for the primary, and then re-register as undeclared.

    • FW Ken

      Now I know why it’s public. He was speaking to a Young Republican’s group at the request of a politician running for mayor of Providence. This is what he had to say to the YR group.

      At the same time, he urged those considering political careers to hold on to their moral convictions and not to base their votes solely on the latest polls.

      Avoid the comments under the article. As usual, they are toxic.

  • D. A. Christianson

    I’m afraid Leticia is correct, although I hope not. I think the church is stronger for having both Catholic and Protestants, and in the same way, we need two parties. My Nebraska is an example of the evils of one party rule, just as there are blue examples.

    My personal criteria for supporting a candidate has more to do with them doing as they believe, than what they believe. If they have the strength of character to live their convictions, we can talk, and maybe I’ll change them (or them me). without character, they are useless.

    You’re a brave and exceptional lady, Rebecca, whom I’m proud to call my friend.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you and back at you.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      The sad part of that is I am no longer convinced that Hudge and Grudge are two parties.

      Maybe it’s because I live 3000 miles away from Washington, and am wondering if we need a Boston Tea Party (original version) type event in the Columbia….

      • Sus_1

        Are you suggesting that some sort of civil war is needed or am I misunderstanding?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I have a tendency towards Cascadian Separatism, both in the United States and Canada (Cascadia is the region that stretches from Northern California to Alaska on the west side of the Rockies). I would hope it could be done without war.

      • kenofken

        They’re not even remotely two parties. They’re two brands owned by corporate interests which manipulate the fears of the lower orders of society to play them off against each other.

        A Tea Party type rebellion of any kind would only play into their interests, just as the Tea Party movement harnessed financially disenfranchised white Middle Americans to do the bidding of those who disenfranchised them, and just as progressives became the useful idiots for a man who is as “progressive” as Vladimir Putin. Breaking out of this cycle would, as Einstein said, require thinking on a much higher level than that which went into creating the problem.

        It would require vast and profound changes in consciousness and a willingness to reject ALL of the narratives and lies fed to us and a complete re-ordering of our economic lives and a level of civic engagement not seen in at least two generations, if ever.

        We won’t, of course, do these things, and the 1% know full well we won’t, and so the scam of our political system will keep paying for them. We think small and believe what we’re told to believe by those who tell us what we want to hear. We will gripe about how evil is being done to us, and half will blame party x and half will blame party y, and in 2016, we’ll fall for it all again like a dog goes after the same skunk that blinded him last week….

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Thinking truly small is the key. Do your best to select goods by distance of headquarters of the company from your house, or even better yet- distance of the factory to your house.

          The more local the better, that’s the way to do it.

  • pagansister

    I have solved the party thing—I’m a registered Independent! Never “joined” a political party, a decision I made at 21 when I was finally allowed to register to vote! I vote for a candidate and her/his stand, no matter what party she/he belongs to.

    • Manny

      Yeah, but how often do you vote Republican? If you predominantly support the Democratic philosophy, then as an Independent you have no say within the party, especially voting in the primaries.Unless a person is truly 50/50 or thereabouts I cannot see what good it does to be an Independent. For instance, as an Independent you probably had no vote in the Obama/Hillary Primary in 2008.

      • pagansister

        I’ve long ago accepted I can’t vote in primaries. In my early days of voting, it was mostly for a Republican candidate (Nixon! Reagan) but then I began voting mostly Democratic and generally still do.

        • Manny

          I’m shocked!!!! You voted for Nixon? And Reagan??? LOL!

          • pagansister

            Yes, Manny—I was young and have since learned to be more careful. :-)

  • Dale

    I am not sure it is wise for a bishop, or priest, to make his political party affiliation the focus of a public speech. Bishop Tobin made the change in affiliation 7 months ago and is only revealing it now, which suggests that he wasn’t grandstanding when he made the revelation. Perhaps he merely saw it as a means of connecting to the audience of Young Republicans which he was addressing.

    Setting aside the prudence of the revelation, Bishop Tobin did make clear that being Republican was not the same as being a follower of Christ.

    “Would Jesus be a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative?” Tobin asked. “I’m going to punt on that question and say: all of the above and none of the above. Labeling Jesus or labeling the church or labeling me depends on the particular issue.”

  • Gary Beckwith

    I love that picture – that says it all.

  • FW Ken

    Other than tradition, is there any reason we can’t have a multi-party system like Canada and European countries? Parties other than the big two seem to be ideological rabbit trails, or defeat their purpose by drawing from one party or another.

    I recognize that a true parliamentary system has structural elements that might not fit with our constitution, but it would be nice to affiliate with those who share my core values, then negotiate a seat at the table. Sometimes the monarch-maker can have more power than the monarch.

    • Manny

      Ken, you don’t want a multi party system. There would never be a solid consensus, and the factional fighting is worse. Two party system simplifies things a lot. The fights occur inside the party and then they mostly unite. Factional fightng btween multiple parties never get to a unified position.

      • hamiltonr

        I agree with Manny in that multiple parties would lead to minority elections, which would be destabilizing. The systems which use multiple parties are different forms of government than ours.

        That said, I see no reason why we could not form other parties and eventually bleed off the two behemoths we have now. The Democrats replaced the Whigs. Maybe it’s time to replace the two we have now with something more responsive to the people.

        Another and easier to do possibility might be to agitate for open primaries in all states. That might force the two parties out of their silos.

        • FW Ken

          The problem with open primaries is that one party can flood the other primary to vote for the weaker candidate. I’ve seen that happen. Other than that, it’s not a bad system in a state like Texas, that used to be truly a one-party state and, to a large degree, still are.

          Manny, I’m not knowledgeable enough about parliamentary systems to argue a case, but I have just enough libertarianism (or maybe Jeffersonian democrat) to feel comfortable with instability and the dreaded gridlock. We see too much of politicians uniting against the common interest.

  • Manny

    At least he chose a party that doesn’t boo God. ;) Frankly he has substantiated everything I’ve been saying for the last numbe of years. The Republican Party may not be perfect, but I don’t see how a good Christian can support the Democratic Party any longer. If you’re Christian, especilly a Roman Catholic, it’s a no brainer.

    • hamiltonr

      Are you saying I’m not a good Christian?

      Just joking Manny. I know you’re not.

      But it isn’t necessary or desirable to slavishly follow the party you chose, not even for elected officials. I’m living proof of that. What we need is people who will work to reform both these parties. I am not arguing about your assessment of the Democrats, btw. But you seem so willing, eager even, to let half the people go to hell.

      We can not build a culture of life that way Manny.

      I know I’m talking to someone who is determined not to hear me, but I keep trying because you are such a powerful advocate for what you believe. If i could ever get you to commit to reforming your party and backing those who want to reform the Democratic party, I think you would be formidable.

      • Manny

        I’m not advocating one should slavishly follow a party. I try (in an infintesmal way of course) try to shape my party. I don’t like the Libertarian element that is rising in the GOP. I’m a Conservative. I believe in values, not radical freedom. But my point is that one tries to shape the party, and you can only do that from the inside. Certainly if you feel closer to the Democrats you should try to shape that party. You’re right. The problem started for the Dems when the bulk of the party became pro-abortion. Certainly there are individual Democrats that a Catholic can support. You for instance. But just as an observation by and large i cannot understand how a Catholic can vote for Democrats today.
        One more thing about supporting a party. Sure there might be individuals from the other side one can support, but when it comes to legislators, supporting a politician from the other side leads to giving the other side a majority, and majorities in the legislative branch have more power than any one person you might like.

        • hamiltonr

          I don’t care how you vote Manny. What I want is to see Christian people get involved with their parties from a missionary viewpoint.

          By that I mean get involved by going into it with the understanding that the party needs reforming. The Rs are pretty dastardly underneath their Christian mantle. I am NOT referring to the many good people I know who are Rs.

          I am referring to a party structure that is a corporatist, militarist shill. The people who run the party use issues like abortion to get good people to give them control of the government treasury so they can use it for their own purposes. The issues you and I care about so much are just a tool to leverage votes to give them power.

          I know that you are going to give me a laundry list of the good things Rs have done in this area. All true. And many of the elected official who are Rs believe in it. However, a lot of them don’t.

          I’ve seen up close how completely the R elected officials will turn on pro life when their leadership tells them to. They will not stand up to their party leadership. They are just as craven as the Ds ever were.

          They sell out pro life and other Christian issues if they are told to do it and then get really angry with anyone who calls them on it. Their idea is that they are Republicans, which means whatever they do in this area is, de facto, right, even if it means making liars of themselves about what they believe. This combination of craven willingness to stand down and sell out, combined with the hubris of seeing everything you do as right is mind boggling to behold.

          It is stunning to watch, but once you’ve seen it, you know that the Rs will never by themselves change this culture. They don’t intend to. They need these issues to keep feeding themselves votes. What is amazing to me is how hard the party faithful took this and how quickly they decided to forget it.

          I tend to compare the way that the Rs treat Christian voters with the way that the Ds have treated organized labor. They give a lot of lip service, but they expect both these groups to “understand” when “more important” issues come along. Working people have been sold out by the Ds and Christians will be sold out by the Rs.

          That is the nature and the reality of grown-up politics.

          Stop all this hubba hubba my side is better than the other side stuff and focus on how to make your side better than the flim flam sham it really is.

          I talk about this first as a Christian, but also as an American. These two parties, are, between them, destroying this country.

          • Manny

            No need to relive our past discussions, but I wanted to reply to this one comment:

            “It is stunning to watch, but once you’ve seen it, you know that the Rs will never by themselves change this culture.”
            That is correct, and same goes for the Democrats. Politics doesn’t drive the culture. It’s the reverse: the culture drives politics. If suddenly 75% of the America people became pro-life, the Democrats supporting abortion would drop like a rock.

    • FW Ken

      Manny, did that wink means you know they weren’t booing God, but a clearly fraudulent decision of the chair. I’d have booed, too.

      Moreover, I’m not impressed with God-talk, especially coming from politicians. With notable exceptions, of course.

      • Manny

        No that wink was a little elbow in Rebecca’s ribs reminding her what happened at the Democratic convention. I also didn’t want to come across as harsh. Tone is not always decipherable in these internet discussions.

        • FW Ken

          I thought those glancing blows felt like elbows being thrown. Teach me to get between you two. :-)

          • Manny