What To Do When Politicians Reveal Evil Intentions

What To Do When Politicians Reveal Evil Intentions January 18, 2024

World Travel And Tourism Council: Greg Abbott / flickr

What is in our hearts affects our souls.  If we wish to do some good, but don’t have the opportunity to do so, our desire to do it and will have a positive impact on our soul. It will help us grow in virtue, even as it will direct us, making sure we continue to seek after and so what is good. Thus, if a poor wished to share with the world the bounty of their love so that if they won the lottery, they would give their winnings with those in need, such a charitable desire will lead them to be charitable in deed, to do what they can to share their love with others. Indeed, their desire, though unfulfilled, will be attributed to them. On the other hand, if what we wish to do, and would do if given the opportunity, is evil, that desire will darken our soul, and indeed, we could be judged as if we had done such an evil. This is what Jesus meant when he talked about adultery – a married person looking to someone else with lust, who would act on it if they could, is guilty of that intention, even if they have not fulfilled it (cf. Matt. 5:27-28). The same is true with murder. If we seriously wish to kill someone, and would do so if we could find a way to do so without getting punished by society, we would be a murderer at heart, and risk sharing the consequences murderers will face in the eschatological judgment. For, as Jesus said, what is in our heart will be revealed to all at the last judgment. We need to do more than merely stop ourselves from doing evil, we need to purify our thoughts and desires, doing what we can to remove such evil from our hearts so we can then follow after and do what is good:

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire (Matt. 5:21-22 RSV).

We should pay close attention to politicians and what they say, for by doing so, we find they will eventually reveal what is in their heart, that is, what they would do if they feel they had the power to do so without any reprisal. Many of them end up revealing their disdain and hatred for others has turned into a murderous rage, indicating that so long as they are prevented from murdering someone, they will not do so, but once that prohibition is removed, they would. We must also listen to them to see what evils they would actively commit if the law allows them to do so, and use that to judge whether or not we should support them. This is why we must take what Governor Greg Abbott said seriously when he said that the only reason why he is not having people shot at the border is because he would be charged with murder. He didn’t say he wouldn’t do so because it was wrong, but only because he didn’t want to be charged with a serious crime. His indifference to life can also be seen in the way he blocked federal forces from helping migrants at the border, leading to the needless deaths of various migrants. Catholic teaching tells us we can sin, and seriously sin, by failing to do what we ought to do, which is why Abbott, failing to do what he can to save lives, indeed, his doing what he could to hinder what could and would have save lives, reveals his culpability in their deaths. While we should not judge his soul and his eschatological fate, leaving that up to God, we are required to look at his policies, and the actions he does as governor, and use that to determine if he should stay in power. The evil which he does, the evil which he promotes, the evil he is willing to do, the evil he wants to do, shows why we should not let him continue to have such power and authority over others.

Sadly, it is not just Abbott who is indifferent to life. Many Republicans, indeed, it seems most, have little to no true concern for life; they might respect the rich, they might have reasons why they think abortion should be denied, but once a person is born, they quickly find reasons to deny people what they need to survive. They actively deny the poor, including poor children, basic assistance for necessities such as food, medicine, and housing. Many of them turn around and say the solution is to make the poor work, and work hard, and not just the adults, but poor children as well, though of course the work they are being forced to do will not give them the funds they need to get out of poverty, but rather, it will be enough to keep them alive so they can be exploited. We can see of this at play in the way many Republican Governors are denying federal funds which would help poor children be fed during the summer. They, like the Governor of Mississippi, claim it is a welfare program, and so should be rejected:

Gov. Tate Reeves’ office says Mississippi won’t participate in a federal summer food program for children because of his desire to reject “attempts to expand the welfare state.”[1]

While Congress established a program, giving funds to help children receive  food during summer break, fifteen states have determined they want nothing to do with the it:

Children from low-income families in 35 states, four tribes and all U.S. territories will now receive permanent food assistance during the summer months when schools are closed, leaving children in 15 states excluded from the benefits.

Low-income families will now receive $40 each month for each eligible school-aged child, up to $120, to buy groceries beginning in the summer of 2024. The cash will come via electronic benefit transfer, often called EBT, and will be added to food assistance debit cards.

Congress authorized the program’s permanent status in December 2022.[2]

Why punish poor children because they are raised by poor parents? Why make them suffer, let alone, risk their death, by not giving them the food they need? If we care about life, if we recognize life as precious, we would make sure the poor’s dignity and right to life is protected. Sadly, it seems, many like to pretend they support the dignity of life while doing all they can to undermine it by making only one kind of life seen as worthy of protection (the unborn). Those who promote life will not pit the lot of the poor and needy, the outcast and the oppressed, against the unborn, that is, they would not turn the unborn into human shields to protect evil policies which work for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the poor. We certainly would not shrug off the death of migrants, refugees, the poor, or the dispossessed, thinking it doesn’t matter because their lives don’t matter. If we justify what happens to them using all kinds of demeaning rhetoric against them, that is, by dehumanizing them, all we do is show we do not respect life. The more we justify a cruel system which is indifferent to the plight of the poor and needy by promoting the desires and pleasures of the rich and powerful, the more the system will devolve and injustice will prevail as more and more people end up being dehumanized and hurt, as St. Salvian understood:

Where can you find any one who is not poor, whether actually or by status, who is safe living beside a rich man? By the encroachments of the powerful the weak lose their belongings, or even themselves along with their belongings. Not unrightly does the Holy Word apply to both when it says: ‘the wild ass is the lion’s prey in the desert: so also the poor are devoured by the rich.’ For, not only the poor, but almost the whole human race, is suffering from this tyranny. [3]

When we find Republicans saying what they have previously kept silent, that is, migrants and refugees should be shot, or the poor should be exploited so that the rich can continue to enjoy their life of leisure, society is in a downward spiral as injustices can be openly promoted and turned into actual governmental policies and laws. We should no longer be surprised when those who show such evil in their hearts constantly reveal the evil plans they have, the plans which will put more and more undue burdens on the poor and needy, as we have found their justification has become accepted by the constituents.

Sadly, Pope Francis is right in his assessment of the modern political situation. We are growing more and more apathetic, less and less caring of others, less and less caring not only for the dictates of love, but the dictates of simple justice. Part of the problem, as Pope Francis indicated, is the way many of us, recognizing the problems, still find ways to hide ourselves from the injustices which are before us:

We are living in times that are not particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor. The pressure to adopt an affluent lifestyle increases, while the voices of those dwelling in poverty tend to go unheard. We are inclined to neglect anything that varies from the model of life set before the younger generation, those who are most vulnerable to the cultural changes now taking place. We disregard anything that is unpleasant or causes suffering, and exalt physical qualities as if they were the primary goal in life. Virtual reality is overtaking real life, and increasingly the two worlds blend into one. The poor become a film clip that can affect us for a moment, yet when we encounter them in flesh and blood on our streets, we are annoyed and look the other way. Haste, by now the daily companion of our lives, prevents us from stopping to help care for others. The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) is not simply a story from the past; it continues to challenge each of us in the here and now of our daily lives. It is easy to delegate charity to others, yet the calling of every Christian is to become personally involved.[4]

This kind of indifference is being actively promoted by Christians in positions of political authority, and, as we can see, many of them are not being reprimanded or called out by their spiritual leaders (pastors, priests, bishops). On the other hand, those who look to and care for the poor and needy are denigrated along with those they care for, sometimes by the same spiritual leaders (as can be seen in those who attack social justice as being “woke” or “socialistic”). The indifference is real. And while one should not have to be a Christian to care for the poor, or the needy, the oppressed and the outcast, as there are all kinds of reasons one can produce to justify such concerns, Christians have their own special reasons to look after and care for them, as Christian Scripture and tradition give to them the preferential option for the poor. This is why, explaining to Christians who have given up on social justice why they should embrace it does not lead to integralism, as all it does is provide a religious explanation for something which can also be established by other non-religious reasoning.  Christians can and should work with others who share the same goal, allowing each person to determine for themselves the reasons why they are concerned for social justice. Christians should work with non-Christians without proselytism, without expecting non-Christians to agree with all their reasoning, even as they do not need to agree with all the reasonings offered by non-Christians. But Christians, amongst themselves, should talk about what the Christian faith says about social justice and what God expects of them, and use that to justify why Christians should take an active role in promoting it in the world. What matters for the non-Christian is that Christians are willing to work with them for the common good, and what matters for Christians, likewise, is promoting what is good and just, recognizing the good even when it is promoted or done by non-Christians. Then, both can work together, making sure those who seek office while promoting grave injustice do not attain a position of power and authority, or, if they are in such a position they are removed from office so that the common good can then prevail.


[1] Julia James, “Mississippi Opts Out Of Federal Summer Food Program, Reeves Cites Opposition To ‘Welfare State’ Expansion,” in Mississippi Today (1-11-2024).

[2] Ashley Murray, “Which States Will Join The New Summer Meal Program For Low-income Kids? Here’s The List” in Virginia Mercury   (1-10-2024)

[3] Salvian the Presbyter, “The Governance of God” in The Writings of Salvian the Presbyter. Trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1962), 97.

[4] Pope Francis, “Message For 2023 World Day Of The Poor” (6-13-2023). ¶4.

 

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