I read an article posted on Facebook by one of my moderate political friends entitled “7 Things Christians Need to Remember About Politics”, written by Bryan Roberts and published at www.relevantmagazine.org. Prior to reading Mr. Roberts’ piece, I had not heard of, nor read anything at that website, which touts itself as “the leading platform reaching Christian twenty and thirty-somethings.” Mr. Roberts is a former church planter (I don’t know what that is), lead pastor, and currently works as a writer helping ministries of global impact communicate the Gospel – a worthy vocation indeed.
My point here is not to criticize or argue with the premises and instruction offered in the aforementioned article, but it did cause me some concern which I’d like to express. I start with a theological adage told to me in my religious travels. All Catholics are Christian, but all Christians are not Catholic. I offer that not in arrogance but in explanation of where I am headed.
While I feel a kindred spirit to my protestant cousins, we are sadly still separated by differences that have remained essentially intact for almost 500 years. To be sure, we share the same core beliefs in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all, but that’s about as far as it goes these days. In fact, one could successfully argue that the differences between those who identify themselves as generic Christians and Roman Catholics are more pronounced than ever. Same sex marriage policies come to mind. Some Christian denominations have no quarrel here. Not so with the Roman Catholic Church.
The article mentioned above is a good example of what separates some generic Christians from Catholics. The author proclaims that “The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus.” To the contrary, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite Our Lord’s proclamation to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” His followers are not obliged to separate themselves and their beliefs from politics, nor has that been the historical norm.
I don’t care to beleaguer the time worn rant that our country was founded upon Judea-Christian principles and morals even though I believe that is true. The real issue from where I stand is the constant erosion and loss of both. Many erroneously believe that separation of church and state is constitutionally mandated but that is not correct. Our constitution precludes any laws which infringe upon the freedom to practice any religion or prohibit the establishment of a state religion. The Jeffersonian concept of separation merely describes the intent and function of our Constitution’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. There is no mandated separation of church and state in America.
Our Founders rightfully acknowledged the fundamental right to worship the God of our choosing while concomitantly recognizing the troublesome and disadvantageous nature of an official state religion. That being the case, our forefathers expressed something that today is far too often overlooked thanks in large part to liberal minded organizations like the ACLU or NOW. These groups have pounded the idea of separation into the collective heads of the citizenry of our great country lending credence to the adage that if you say something that is untrue enough times, people will eventually accept it as the truth.
The wisdom and insight of this thoughtfully crafted limitation on our government speaks volumes about the importance and significance of religion and morality in the American political arena. If neither was viewed as essential, those who so carefully drafted our Constitution would have made all religious practices illegal. That is what the anti-Christian movement in America is seeking to do presently by removing God from our schools, our businesses and the public square. By fulfilling their desired goal, laws and public policy will no longer be constrained by what they perceive as outdated, irrelevant considerations which are simplistically expressed as hatred and intolerance.
The anti-religious left has realized great inroads in pushing their agenda and objectives upon Americans, so much so that I believe many Christians share Mr. Roberts’ view that religion and politics are like oil and water. Such individuals have accepted the notion proffered by the left that opposing same sex marriages or homosexuality is a form of bigotry and hatred instead of belief or faith. Their morality has become relative, their beliefs allegedly progressing with the times and changing social norms.
I acknowledge the scandals and upheavals within the Catholic Church. It is not nor has it ever been a bastion of moral perfection in practice. The unfortunate events which have marred the holy patina of the Church are the product of human weakness and failure to heed to two millennium of dogma and doctrine based in morality, charity and the dignity of human life. There is no value in proclaiming belief in something and behaving contrary to it. But there is significance in the very existence of those convictions because they still seek to protect and respect life and natural law.
As an active Catholic, I find myself at odds with some of The Church’s positions on hot potato topics like illegal immigration. There is a certain paradox to some of the politics of The Church especially when matters of social justice are on the line. American Catholics have for decades traditionally aligned themselves with the Democratic Party and did so until it took official platform stances favoring abortion, same sex marriage and most recently, forced compliance with birth control and other provisions of Obamacare. Before it became the party of the liberal left, Democrats were the working stiffs of America. They were at the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder but they were devout and unshakeable in their faith and hard work. They helped elect candidates who were supportive of their beliefs and practices some of whom accomplished worthy objectives.
I don’t presume to claim that the Catholic Church has a corner on morality and God centered beliefs in the wide world of politics. But the Church has never backed down from a political fight even to this day. It does not believe in silence or apathy when faced with laws that challenge its beliefs. It stands its ground, speaks its truth and continues to battle for what is right until the end. The Church no longer seeks to foist its beliefs and practices on others. That is a choice for the individual to make. But it will not, (and rightfully so) tolerate politics and policy that infringe on its God given right, (included in The Constitution), to exist and remain faithful to its teachings. It regards three issues as non-negotiable – respect for life, marriage and religious freedom.
There is a difference between judging someone inferior because of their choices or lifestyle versus a genuine disagreement with the morality of the same. Principles of morality cannot be relative nor should they conform to what becomes socially acceptable public behavior. Public policy and law should be rooted in tenets of social justice, dignity, charity and most importantly morality. It is for these reasons that The Church seeks coherence between faith and life, Gospel and culture as illustrated by the following Doctrinal Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith written in 2002:
The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible.
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen and Politicians, recognized the inalienable dignity of the human conscience and gave his life in lieu of succumbing to Henry VIII.”Despite being subjected to various forms of psychological pressure, he refused to compromise, never forsaking the constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions which distinguished him; he taught by his life and his death that man cannot be separated from God, or politics from morality.” (Read more here.)
The assertion that “the political process is dirty, broken and far from Jesus” misses the point entirely. It has become fragmented and distasteful because little attention is given to authentic notions of right and wrong. It is because it is dirty and broken that those strong in faith and adherence to moral truths must speak out and be heard. Granted too much sorrow and death has come about in history in the name of religion but so has much good and authentic respect for life. While I may not be able to justify the former, we cannot dismiss the latter.
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