Did you read this story in The New York Times this weekend?:
In early May, when Dr. Thomas Stossel told his wife, Dr. Kerry Maguire, of his plan to vote for Donald J. Trump in the general election, she hit him with an ultimatum.
“If you vote for Trump, I will divorce you and move to Canada,” she recalled telling him. He tried to laugh it off.
“I’m serious,” Dr. Maguire told him.
And she is.
I’m not about to enter the political fray here. Anyone who has been following my personal Facebook page probably knows my political leanings pretty well by now.
In any event, I’m not shy about my opinions.
But Grace Pending isn’t about politics. There’s meant to be a broader, more humane, and yes, more Christian dimension addressed here as I attempt to explore with you, in real-time, my own faith in progress – that is, my on-going reversion back to the Catholic faith after so many years away.
So my brief thoughts here today are really about the toll that this election has taken on us all, and to point to at least some way forward.
This political season feels different, doesn’t it? There seems to be no path towards reconciling the huge differences we feel, no middle ground.
You are either – actively or passively – supporting the most corrupt, most inept, most insincere politician ever to run for the office, or you are enabling an uneducable, tantrum-prone, narcissist.
About the only thing that some see in common between them is an uncanny ability to manipulate the big government-big business nexus to their overwhelming personal financial advantage.
I think that these feelings – on both sides – have been forcefully and intentionally nourished over the years by three big D’s: Distrust, Disrespect, and Disgust.
And social media has not only purchased the movie rights, but has paid for it in blood money.
We’ve long since stopped listening to each other, and have long ago given up on seeking areas of common ground.
We believe – we know – that the other side, knife gripped tightly in hand, is out to sever the few remaining threads that have bound us together as a nation. And there’s no shortage of evidence that can be cited to prove the point either way.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s be clear: we, as people of faith, are not called to disengage from the political process.
In fact, quite the opposite.
Let me refer you to this still timely lecture given by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on February 23, 2009 (discussing his book) if you harbor any doubt: Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation.
Here are what I believe are two of the Archbishop’s most salient points, the ones that are wholly relevant to us here today:
When Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians in the Gospel of Matthew (22:21) to “render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he sets the framework for how we should think about religion and the state even today.
Caesar does have rights. We owe civil authority our respect and appropriate obedience.
But that obedience is limited by what belongs to God. Caesar is not God. Only God is God, and the state is subordinate and accountable to God for its treatment of human persons, all of whom were created by God.
Our job as believers is to figure out what things belong to Caesar, and what things belong to God — and then put those things in right order in our own lives, and in our relations with others.
So, first, a complete recognition and a thorough re-prioritizing about what’s most important in this life.
And then there’s this:
As Christians, we can’t claim to love God and then ignore the needs of our neighbors.
Loving God is like loving a spouse. A husband may tell his wife that he loves her, and of course that’s very beautiful. But she’ll still want to see the proof in his actions.
Likewise if we claim to be “Catholic,” we need to prove it by our behavior. And serving other people by working for justice, charity and truth in our nation’s political life is one of the very important ways we do that.
Second, we must still engage. For our own sake and for the sake of others who have a great need for what we, as individuals, can still offer.
We are, in a sense, bound – morally compelled, if you will – to be involved in the political process.
But it is not easy. And no, it never has been.
So, at the same time, we must bear in mind one other crucial scriptural principle whenever we act in the political realm – whether at home, or when speaking with neighbors, or, most especially, on social media:
Do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12).
That one command, if written on our hearts, can help defuse a great deal of the bitterness and acrimony we see and feel all around us everyday.
It’s really that basic. It’s really that simple.
And it will work.
But if your first response in any marital or family discussion is anything like Dr. Maguire’s, I respectfully suggest that your priorities are in need of an immediate and thorough re-ordering before you attempt to do anything else.
And I really mean it.
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