What IS A Catholic’s “Job” When It Comes to Voting, Anyway?

What IS A Catholic’s “Job” When It Comes to Voting, Anyway? June 28, 2016

Image Shutterstock
Image Shutterstock

This is not a political blog, nor is it about to become one, but I have seen so many comments lately about what Catholics “must” do in this next election and it seems to me that every single one of these posts is missing an obvious point.

Once Upon A Time…

I once had a conversation with a prominent bishop in which I expressed my frustration that he and his brother bishops were not more strenuously and publicly opposing Catholic politicians who proclaimed themselves to be “good Catholics” while advocating positions that were virulently contrary to the gospel.

He explained to me, in a tone one usually reserves for a small child, that any time the bishops did this, the public reacted poorly to church leaders “meddling” in politics and their comments ended up getting the person elected.

I responded, “That may be. But I thought it was our job to proclaim the gospel, not win elections.  People can certainly reject the gospel if they want to. We have no control over that.  But they shouldn’t be allowed to say that the Church never proclaimed it in the first place.”

Needless to say, my comment was not well-received.

The Same Story

Be that as it may, I still don’t think Jesus came, suffered, died, and rose again so that we could win elections.  It is not our job to hold our collective nose and vote for the candidate who  is most likely to win no matter how execrable his or her policies or personalities are.  It is not our concern to worry about “throwing away our vote” because we cast a ballot for some obscure candidate who actually does hold verifiably socially just and life-affirming views but has absolutely no chance of winning.  It IS our job to preach the gospel with our vote.  To proclaim Jesus Christ to the world in the way we engage the political process every step of the way.

All Catholics are certainly free to vote as their well-formed consciences dictate.  But let me respectfully propose that if you are casting a vote for any other reason than that “this is the best and loudest way possible I can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a hurting world” then you may be a Democrat, or you may be a Republican, but you are not a Christian.

People might be inclined, as the bishop I began this article with, to think of this view as naive, pie-in-the-sky, too idealistic, or not reflective of reality.  To those who would argue this I can only say that, to my way of thinking, there is nothing more real that the cross.  Nothing more pie-in-the-sky than the hope of Heaven.  Nothing more idealistic than proclaiming the gospel in a world that is, literally, hell-bent on rejecting it.  If my desire to not simply win elections, but actually proclaim Christ with my vote makes me naive, I guess I can live with that.

Foolish?

In this election cycle, especially, when every popular candidate is more foolish than the other, I would suggest that the question is not “how can Christians avoid looking like fools?”  Rather, it seems to me that the real question is,” who will Christians be fools for?”

To my mind, it is better a fool for Christ than a fool for the latest, two-faced demagogue who promises salvation with one hand while stealing it with the other.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled blogging….

 

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