So much has been happening these days in the political arena, its terribly hard to keep track. Election years rarely are known for peace and tranquility. But is this round is especially kinky given that its all happening in the midst of a global pandemic with massive civil unrest and unresolved societal issues already rocking the nation.
In the midst of this soup of chaos comes the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And as expected, the internet has just about exploded into mini wars of love, hate, and frenzy. And I can’t help but feel the need to try and make an appeal for a more Christian approach to so very many issues, it hurts my head.
Fellow Christians: Whether Democrat or Republican, I beg you please, please, please remember the injunction to love your enemies. Debate as you will upon the issues at hand, vote as your conscience dictates, but do not let hate take root in your hearts, or else you risk falling into grievous sin. Every election cycle, I see friends on both sides absolutely frothing at the mouth with every type of insult and ad hominem attack against each other and every speaker involved in the opposition convention.
And you know what? It doesn’t actually help anything or anyone! It doesn’t change the world for the better, and it doesn’t transform you into national heroes! It just gives you all an excuse to dehumanize each other and feel proud of it! For the love of Christ, pray for your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, and see Christ in them! That’s the only way any of us will see God in the face when this world and all its mechanisms are brought to naught.
All this rather sadly remind me of watching one of those a YouTube “top ten” lists based on “satisfying Game of Thrones deaths”…which is, of course, a fancy way of saying unlikable or downright deplorable, characters meeting the most outlandishly hideous ends. And it occurred to me, not for the first time, that perhaps if we took far less satisfaction in the destruction of sinners, and instead prayed for their redemption, we might be just a little closer to seeing the face of God, who we ask to forgive us our own sins.
And frankly, if we take so much satisfaction in the gruesome fates of even cartoonish TV villains, are we not showing just a little bit of a villainous streak ourselves, taking pleasure in another’s pain, even if we feel its “deserved”? Are we not preparing ourselves to cheer over the pain of our own day-to-day enemies as a form of catharsis? Will we not easily extend this into the public sphere, as we have seen all too often in the current political landscape? Are we not perhaps living in a little “game” of our own creation, where not-so-evil people are turned purely evil in our heads, so we can rejoice over their pain or demise? No, we must nip this in the bud, even in the entertainment we choose and the stories we tell.
So having covered that, I’ll swing back around to several threads and sub-threads that have been running wild online. On the topic of whether prayers for the repose of the soul RBG are appropriate given her Jewish background…the fact is I know plenty of Jews who do believe in at least some form of afterlife and the immortality of the soul. Others, of course, do not, while yet others would simply say it’s an open-ended question.
There is an emphasis in Judaism about focusing on the here and now, but let’s face it, I think it’s safe to say almost everyone at some point has pondered the beyond, because the here and now is quite simply over in a flash, and even the blessing of our memory is exceedingly limited in light of the tiny speck which is pure time-space universe…unless of course the consequence of one’s deeds echo on in eternity somehow, which implies the necessity of an eternity in which we humans have a part.
Some Jews believe in reincarnation, others believe in “sleeping” till the day of resurrection, and yet others do subscribe to the notion of some form of heaven and hell, albeit less strictly delineated than in Christian and Islamic thought. It’s been debated in Jewish circles since before the time of Christ. But whether RBG, who was apparently a secular Jew, believed it not, as Christians, we totally do believe it, and are therefore under obligation to pray for her and all the souls of the deceased. Btw, this obligation goes for those who we are fans of, and those we can’t stand.
As many Catholics have noted, from the perspective of Church social teaching, the legacy of RBG was a decidedly mixed one, and I would caution those Catholics either too quick to canonize or demonize her. It is my belief that she tried her best to do the right thing as she saw it, and I salute her various efforts which were towards greater justice and equity for women, immigrants, and others, even though her other policy decisions on issues involving the sanctity of life, starting in the womb, stand out in radical contrast to my understanding of morality.
All the same, I devoutly hope and pray that she, like the rest of us poor sinners struggling to do good in this veil of tears, will be granted mercy and experience the beatific vision in the presence of God for all eternity. It’s the only thing worth hoping and praying for, at the end of the day, for as Tolkien said, such things are about far more than memory. I genuinely hope that Ruth and her husband are reunited, and get to share a glass of wine, and enjoy a good opera, for I truly hope all the good things of this life are illuminated and translated into the next.
On the subject of Amy Coney Barrett, who may well replace her on the bench: I would have to go over the complete list of her positions in order to give you a proper assessment of my opinion of her as a potential supreme court judge. No doubt I would agree and disagree with different positions she holds, depending on how in sync they were with universal pro-life ethic and Catholic social teaching, as I do with the vast majority of people in the political arena. But I always do my best to be fair about it.
Unfortunately, I have seen quite a lot of unjustified, and frankly anti-Catholic, bile being thrown at this woman for some time. I realize there’s going to be a big row over whether or not its appropriate to appoint a judge in an election year. But let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that issue is taken off the table, Trump is re-elected, and next year she is indeed appointed. Would this level of antagonism towards her continue at fever pitch?
I’ve seen articles claiming that the organization she belongs to, “People of Praise”, is a patriarchal cult on par with “A Handmaid’s Tale” because Margaret Atwood was inspired by certain terminology they use. But to be fair, the connections are extremely tentative at best, and the accusations are really quite airy-fairy. As a Catholic, I can tell you that there are tons of lay Catholic organizations and apostolates within the Church. So just like there are Superior Generals in religious orders, there will be different leaders within these lay communities. The fact that they call the female leaders “handmaids” in reference to the Virgin Mary, and that somehow inspired Atwood, is not a very strong stick to hit with.
Obviously, such organizations, and the demands they make of their members, are not for everyone, and of course there can be abuses, as in any organization, and it is possible that it has a traditional bend of seeing men as the “head of the home” according to St. Paul’s structuring (which also insists husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church, i.e. complete self-sacrifice). But the things which are brought up to insist that this organization must be “extremist” include pertaining to belief in sex being only for married couples, i.e. a man and a woman. This is quite simply the belief of the Church, and not some crazy spin-off variant.
I am concerned when I see this, because I have seen things similar thrown at the Knights of Columbus, when in fact they are simply a standard Catholic organization that actually abides by magisterial teaching on issues of sexual morality. The question I want to ask is “extreme compared to what?” The way some people are going on, they’re making it sound like the KKK or ISIS. Granted, I don’t know everything about “People of Praise”, and some massive uncovering might happen that reveals it to be a dangerous cult, but until that time, a bit of restraint on the accusations might be in order.
I have seen her called “extreme” because she has seven children, two of whom are adopted from Haiti, and one of whom has special needs. I find this most disheartening and perplexing. Have we really gotten to the point where large families are inherently viewed as unimaginable and a sign of fanaticism? I may come from a small family myself, but I would never dream of making that inference on a larger family. I honestly think the insulting comes from a place of scoffing that she’s not taking birth control. Which is just…yeah. A messed up mentality, honestly.
I guess the big fear is giving some religious organizations like The Little Sisters of the Poor an exemption on providing Birth Control because it goes against their consciences. I admittedly have mixed emotions on the providing of birth control, as I see it as a lesser evil and preventative of abortion, but at the same time I also lean towards giving religious entities exemptions within reason, instead of forcing a violation of conscience on these issues. Providing health care, to me, is a different thing than providing birth control, which I honestly believe is a separate entity from “health care”.
Now getting to the crux of things…the repeated question is whether she would use a position of power to forward Catholic social teaching, and in what ways, and whether that would somehow “compromise” her as a US judge. Frankly, I don’t mind saying I think that line of questioning is stuff going back to the “Know Nothing” zone, and I think it smacks of anti-Catholic prejudice. But let’s be bluntly honest: What do you think I would be doing in her position? Where do you think my priorities would lie? You can sure as heck believe that I would be doing whatever I could to be universally consistent to my conscience, i.e. Catholic social teaching.
In this, I mean that I would do everything in my power to reduce abortions, and accessibility to it. Yes, you sure as heck bet I would, because I believe abortion kills human beings. I would also do whatever was in my power to prevent the death penalty, and euthanasia, and do my best to support measures to aid expecting mothers and boost a living wage and reform the immigration system to aid migrants and asylum seekers and create greater work-place equality across the board and deal with issues of systemic prejudice and injustice, and explore means of prison reform, and environmental reform, and gun reform, and the whole 9 yards.
That’s Catholic social teaching for you, if its held consistently. The core concept of it is the dignity of every human person, starting with the right to life from which all other rights flow. That’s my ethic, and yes, in whatever position I may hold in my life, I answer to God first.
Now, the second issue is, for me, far more gray, and this comes into the aspects of people’s freedom to sexual expression, providing it is between consensual adults. It is my belief that a state cannot micro-manage such things and still be called the land of the free. I also believe that, so long as Catholic and other traditional religious entities are not being forced to take part in gay marriage ceremonies, than frankly its not a prerogative for Catholics to try and legally interfere, unless of course we want to go trying to make it illegal for unmarried couples to shack up, or for divorced people to remarry, which the vast, vast majority of Catholics would consider simply untenable. Furthermore, this same Catholic social teaching informs us to repudiate all unjust discrimination and bullying against LGBT persons.
So again, I repeat, I don’t know all of Amy Coney Barrett’s positions on every detail, but the mere fact that she is an orthodox Catholic (a term which for some reason she was criticized for) should not be a reason to protest her taking a seat. That is, quite simply, religious discrimination, as much as if a protest were made against an orthodox Jew or conservative Muslim. We’re not talking about fanatics and terrorists; we’re talking about people who MAY have more conservative views than you, particularly on issues such as abortion. That’s not a reason to deem them unfit for the bench.
I am an orthodox Catholic. I take my faith and its social ethic very to heart. In her place, and I would most assuredly be implementing as much as I could, because I whole-heartedly believe in the sanctity of human life. If she gets the position, and does that, I would say more power to her. So I suppose I want to say that, if you know me, and don’t consider me a fanatic, than don’t use the term on her. Its slander, and its vicious, and frankly teeters down a bad historical path labeled “No Popery.”