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

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

Pro-Life Advocates Urge GOP to Stay the Course on Pro-Life

Pro-life advocates are asking the Republicans to stand strong on their party’s pro life position. Here’s hoping they listen.

So far as I’m concerned the recent comments from various Republican leaders are just them, going public, with what they’ve been doing in private for quite some time. As an elected official, I see these things before they go public. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until I don’t think it’s true. Many of the money people who really run the Republican Party are pro choice.

I believe we are seeing a public manifestation of that in these comments from Republican leaders that the party should stand down on its pro life position. More on this Republican post-election soul-searching here.

CNA recently published an article concerning the steps pro life advocates are taking to try to persuade the party to stay the course on pro life. It reads in part:

Sen. John McCain speaks Sept. 24, 2012 on campaign finance at USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. Credit: Rosa Trieu-Neon Tommy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2012 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Top pro-life advocates are calling on the Republican Party to maintain its pro-life stance despite calls from some to back off from the position in the wake of the presidential election.

“A real soldier doesn’t stay on the defensive,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to promote pro-life candidates and policies. “You go out and state your best case.”

“The folks that have taken the stand on this issue have taken it because we’re talking about defending vulnerable human life,” she told CNA on Nov. 30. “If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything.”

Dannenfelser was one of several pro-life leaders who responded to suggestions by some Republicans, including Arizona senator John McCain, that the GOP should drop or mitigate its pro-life stance in order to broaden its appeal after losing the presidential election.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” on Nov. 25, the senator – who unsuccessfully ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008 – suggested that while “I can state my position on abortion,” Republicans should “other than that, leave the issue alone when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation that we’re in.”

When asked by host Chris Wallace whether his suggestion to “leave the issue alone” meant allowing “freedom of choice” to abort, McCain responded, “I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions.”

(Read more here.)

Archbishop Chaput on Politics, and a few reflections from me

This is an interesting video, and well worth watching.

I think Archbishop Chaput is correct when he says that the reason the Democratic Party has become the party of abortion is that Catholics within that party didn’t hold it accountable. However, I don’t agree with his prescription that they should have left the party.

Many people have left the Democratic Party over abortion, and the result has been that the party has become more, not less, pro abortion. This is the effect of distillation of viewpoints.

This distillation of viewpoints and the extremism it nurtures are what created a climate inside the upper echelons of the Democratic power structure that allowed something as monstrous as the HHS Mandate to come about. When you only talk to a few people who agree with you, you inevitably move toward hubris and its corresponding bad judgement.

What could have changed things is if, back in the day, the pro life people within the Democratic Party had stood up and refused to give on the issue. Instead, they compromised their pro-life views out of existence, or they left the party outright. What is interesting is how completely people become what they do. The longer those pro life people who stayed in the party compromised themselves, the more they believed that what they were doing is right.

They changed alliances — from Christ to the Democratic Party.

The Archbishop is correct when he says that we can’t reply on the Republican Party to be pro-life in twenty years. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that we can’t rely on them to be effectively pro-life now. I’ve seen the Republican Party kill pro-life bills using the same arguments and tactics as the Democrats have for decades. This wasn’t rogue Republicans. It was the Republican elected leadership.

Everything I’ve said about the Democrats is also true of the Republicans. The Christians within the Republican Party have compromised the Sermon on the Mount to the point that they’ve begun to treat the actual words of Christ the Lord as if they were a heresy.

Anytime you remind these outspokenly political Christians of the words of Christ concerning justice and compassion, their eyes film over and they tune you out. This is the indifference and hardness of heart Jesus condemned so absolutely, and it is being practiced in order to fit the Gospels to the Republican Party Platform.

They do this because this compromise of their faith is the only way they can avoid standing up against the in-the-bag for the corporations corporatism of their party. Along they way, they’ve started making excuses for Republicans when they kill pro life bills.

I can’t emphasize enough that we need to stand and fight within our parties to change things. You can not build a culture of life with half the people. It can not be done.

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Democrats to Dolan: No Equal-Time Praying at Our Convention

President Obama has evidently refused to allow Cardinal Timothy Dolan to offer the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. According to the New York Post

“Dolan — considered the top Catholic official in the nation, as head of the Archdiocese of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops — tipped off Democrats a few weeks ago that he had agreed to deliver the prime-time benediction at the Republican convention in Tampa next week, Dolan’s spokesman Joseph Zwilling told The Post.

“He wanted to make sure that they knew that this was not a partisan act on his part and that he would be just as happy and grateful to accept an invitation from the Democrats as he would to have received one from the Republicans,” said Zwilling.

“He has not been contacted by them” since, he added”

The story goes on to add that a “senior Obama campaign official” says that a “high-ranking” Catholic will be at the Democratic convention but that they couldn’t say who because “the person hasn’t got their plane ticket.”

Now that’s a new one.

They “can’t say” who because the person “hasn’t gotten their plane ticket.”

Does that make sense to somebody? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Its sounds like they’re calling around to find a “high-ranking” Catholic to shove into the schedule. They may be talking to someone about coming. But I doubt if it’s firm, or at least it wasn’t when this story was written. I’m guessing that’s the reason the “senior campaign official” can’t say who’s coming. They don’t know for sure. 

The idea that you can’t announce an engagement because someone hasn’t gotten their plane ticket doesn’t make sense. At least not to me.

The bottom line here is that President Obama’s campaign blew this. Cardinal Dolan appears to be bending over backwards to be even-handed and non-partisan. He’s taken a couple of hits from the more quarrelsome members of his extended flock for doing this.

But the President, or at least his staff, appears to be determined to make it clear that they are at war with the Church. The whole attitude of this administration toward traditional Christians in general and Catholics in particular just keeps rolling downhill. This is another example. 

Meanwhile the Republicans have gone a courtin’. They’ve zeroed the Catholic vote and intend to bring it home. 

The question (and it’s a real one folks) is if they get the Catholic vote, do they have any intentions of actually following through with more than talk? Patronizing Catholics is only better than attacking them as a matter of degree. 

Does anybody besides me remember the big stand-off a few months ago over extending the debt limit? It was the President vs the Republican House, playing chicken with the budget and the government. The Republicans held out for tax cuts for corporations and, in the end, they won. The corporations got their tax cuts and the rest of us got to see our government continue running.

My question: If Republicans are so opposed to the HHS Mandate, why didn’t they bargain for an end to it back then?

It’s simple, really. All they had to do was lay aside their eternal fealty to corporate greed for one fight and insist that the President back down on the HHS Mandate to get his debt extension. President Obama would have had no choice. He would have had to give in. If the Republicans are so opposed to the HHS Mandate, why didn’t they do something about it when doing something would have been so do-able?

If they had, the whole thing would be history by now.

I think the reason they didn’t is because they wanted the HHS Mandate to go into effect so they could use it for a campaign issue. That doesn’t change the fact that the Obama Administration promulgated that regulation or that Democrats in the Senate voted to keep it. It just means that once again the American people are being played like a violin by both these political parties. They both wanted the HHS Mandate to go into effect because they both benefitted from it. 

All I’m saying is that I hope that Republican voters realize that campaign rhetoric is cheap.  I hope they demand that their party starts walking their talk when it comes to values and social issues such as this one.

As for this ham-handed refusal to allow the Cardinal to give an equal-time prayer at the Democratic Convention and what it says about the party’s current attitude toward believers, I think it speaks for itself. 


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