This is something I need to get off my chest before I go too far into Catholic blogdom.
I’m a liberal.
Okay, anyone left? Please. Don’t leave yet.
I grew up in a world where most every Catholic I knew was Democrat. It was simple. We believed that the poor among us should be taken care of. We cared more about the poor than we did big business. And that was the simple, easy dividing line between liberals and conservatives. And I knew which side I was on.
But something shifted in the early 2000s. The issues weren’t financial; they weren’t the issues of the poor, suddenly this thing called “Family Values” entered the picture.
But first, a note.
I am all, 100% completely, totally, absolutely for the separation of church and state. Why? Because I am anti-Christian? No. Because I am Catholic. I am a Catholic who grew up in the Bible Belt.
At my elementary school, 4th graders were allowed to attend, “Bible Bus,” a weekly Sunday-school type activity held during reading period each Wednesday. With parental permission and held off-campus, fourth graders piled on the bus, drove a 1/2 mile away, and read bible stories. Yes, its as odd as it sounds. My mom didn’t let my sister sign up because, well, we’re Catholic and the Bible Bus was not. When she came crying to my mom that she was the only kid who wasn’t allowed on, my mom relented and signed her up. Not quite a very clean separation of Church and State.
In 8th grade, my teacher called Catholics “papists.” I didn’t know what that meant until then.
Older members of my parish remember being asked to leave a class, so that the teacher could talk about Catholics to the other students.
In 9th grade, when explaining why the King of England founded his own church, a student asked if Catholics hated divorced people. The teacher said yes, and wouldn’t let me explain otherwise.
In 10th grade, a motivational speaker at the school had a revival. As a school assembly. After being told I would go to hell if I was too ashamed of Christ to admit I was a Christian, I was “saved.”
Need I go on? It is easy to forget the importance of the separation of Church and State when you’re in the majority. When you are in the vast, vast minority, the importance becomes quite clear.
So where was I? Oh yes, Family Values.
Suddenly, I was being told from all directions that as a Christian, I must vote on the basis of certain issues. Abortion. Gay marriage. Abortion. Gay marriage. Prayer in school. Gay marriage. That was my duty if I wanted to stand up for what was right.
Um, okay. I thought. But what about the other ones? What about the rights of the poor? What about people who are unemployed? What about war? I’m not all about war. I mean, that’s killing people too. And the death penalty? That is so contrary to the sanctity of life.
Another caveat, yes, I am pro-life. That being said, so was George Bush. He came, he went, abortion is still legal. Why on earth would I vote against a Democrat who was pro-choice, and for a Republican who was pro-life, if neither would do anything about it? I decided that maybe, just maybe, I should focus my pro-life efforts outside the arena of politics. Like choosing to respect single mothers. Not to judge teen mothers. Helping these women out. My first year in JVC I worked at a daycare that had a significant portion of low-income mothers. Isn’t that a piece of the puzzle we were forgetting? That we need to help women after they have the baby? I am choosing to put my energies into creating a culture that accepts and encourages women who elect not to have abortions, rather than criminalizes them.
And another thing. Gay marriage. I wasn’t exactly seeing people jumping off the straight-marriage train for the glory of gay marriage. A lifetime of legal battles? Fighting for recognition if you want to move to a different state? Being ostracized? Public and legalized discrimination? Sign me up! So why were we so worried that we were threatening the sanctity of marriage?
Now I know and love what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage (I have a post on that next week). It is a sacrament. It is holy. It is the complete union of two individuals.
But, we aren’t protesting courthouse marriages. Are those people threatening the sanctity of marriage? They didn’t choose to have a Catholic marriage like I did. Oh yes, its because they have different beliefs than I do. And that’s allowed in this country. Because of that whole “separation of church and state” thing. Oh, you’re just talking about good ol’ Christian values? Well, maybe we define Christian values differently. Your version of Christian values is that its okay to have a revival in a public school, humiliating kids who are worried that they might go to hell if they don’t conform? I think that maybe “Christian values” isn’t as a cohesive of a term as we think it is.
Okay, so anyway. I don’t vote on the basis of abortion. Maybe if a candidate was more active in a position about it, I would consider. But it doesn’t make sense to me to vote on one issue when nothing will get done about it, and there are many other issues that are as equally important to our faith. We each have our causes. The poor are mine. And that is the issue I will always vote on.
It breaks my heart when I see Catholics and any Christians fighting against the legalization of gay marriage. We are called to love all without judgment, not to fight against their legal rights. If a church decides that it only will perform the marriage of certain people, that is their issue. But that church cannot decide who to open the courthouse doors for. We are not called to legalize discrimination.
My family values, my Christian family values, they are for me and my family. My call to fight for the rights of others, to serve the poor, to build a just kingdom, that I will do in public.
My faith will always influence how I vote. But it might influence me in a different way than you. That doesn’t make me less Christian, it doesn’t make you less Christian. I’m pretty sure Christ would not have been a Democrat or a Republican. Probably some way more awesome hybrid of the two.
Though, Steven Colbert does disagree: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/368914/december-16-2010/jesus-is-a-liberal-democrat.
Did you make it this far? Agree? Disagree? Hate me now? Never gonna read this blog again? Curse the friend whose link you clicked on to get you this nonsensical dribble? Perchance see eye-to-eye with me on a few of these points?
Let me know!