I ought to come clean from the beginning: I am a member of the American Solidarity Party, a self-styled Christian Democratic group, dedicated to the pro-life cause, non-binary economic principles, and other positions generally not controversial among orthodox Christians.
And, as a long-time member (a year or two), it’s been weird (but exciting) to see so much coverage of the party spawn so quickly. From First Things to Aleteia, to Mark Shea’s blog, among others, arguments for our little group are springing up faster than I think most of us could have imagined.
But what’s really interesting is that a very devout friend recently sent me a short piece by C.S. Lewis on the establishment of a Christian party. Specifically, the creator of Narnia argues that a group claiming to speak for Christianity is, well, undesirable, and can’t but bode poorly for the public perception of believers:
It will be not simply a part of Christendom, but a part claiming to be the whole. By the mere act of calling itself the Christian Party it implicitly accuses all Christians who do not join it of apostasy and betrayal. It will be exposed, in an aggravated degree, to that temptation which the Devil spares none of us at any time — the temptation of claiming for our favourite opinions that kind and degree of certainty and authority which really belongs only to our Faith. The danger of mistaking our merely natural, though perhaps legitimate, enthusiasms for holy zeal, is always great. Can any more fatal expedient be devised for increasing it than that of dubbing a small band of Fascists, Communists, or Democrats `the Christian Party’?
Not a bad point. But I don’t think it quite applies to the ASP. You see, the ASP is not the Christian party. At least, that’s not how I’ve thought of it.The question, to reiterate might be put this way. “Sure I am dissatisfied with our system. Sure things are terrible in myriad ways. But is it really right to support a Christian party when it might only bode poorly for Christians?” This seems especially pressing for Catholics who have rigorously defined guidelines (what else is new?) for conscientious voting.
Ours is a time of deep dissatisfaction for Christians with traditional beliefs. The untenable marriage to the GOP has finally resulted in invective-filled separation, if not full-on divorce. The Democrats have served a stew rich in unsavory politics with dashes of un-Christian disrespect for life—especially unborn and foreign, and shirked (gleefully) about the only real challenge to the system this country has seen since Eugene Debs.
And so, when I look at the ASP, I see a party rooted in giving Christians a conscionable choice now while envisioning a multiparty future when prospects will be, well, less horrifically binary. In other words, the ASP is not the Christian party. It has no claim on the votes of all Christians, but it is a party that offers Christians clean consciences. There is no nose holding, no “true, but…” apologetics. There is the possibility to proudly declare that, as far as one’s loyalty to the carpenter from Nazareth goes, one has voted without offense.
And, as Catholics, that makes this both an opportunity for ecumenism and witness.
In fact, the party itself is diverse not just in sects, but in beliefs. At the (online) convention and beforehand, I heard people identify as ex-GOP whose politics became more Chestertonian after serial betrayals. Others proclaimed themselves pro-life Democrats. Others, like me, even seemed to sympathize with, if not outright be, Catholic Workers.
In short, what’s lovely about the party at this stage is the combination of prudence and conscience. One’s conscience is protected while the room for debating prudential means is certainly an open one. But that’s the beauty—the differences are minute. Not everyone will have the same views on the ethics of violence as I do. Not everyone will be on the exact same economic page. But we all agree that torture is wrong. We all agree that pro-life means anti-abortion and more. We all agree that the art of economics is more than valorizing the market.
And that’s enough for me for now. And if we can effect change in the process?
Sounds much better than voting Hillary or Trump.
If you’re from New Jersey and are interested in joining, feel free to get in touch in the comments, via e-mail, or on my Twitter, as I’m currently heading our state chapter.