Eleven days from now, on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2016, we will have a new President of the United States and a new Governor of the State of Missouri, among many other newly elected officials in Congress and the State legislature. Many who voted for the winners will experience the thrill of victory and those who voted for the losers, the agony of defeat. I have begun to question seriously my own emotional investment in politics (and other pursuits for example, professional sports) as profoundly misplaced.
As I look back over my 40 years of political engagement, I think I have looked to Democrats and Republicans and their respective parties to give me something that they can never really provide. What I want is ephemeral and difficult to describe, but I’ll call it civil validation or political salvation. I have experienced the thrill of victory and personal validation when Government enacts a law in keeping with my values and I feel the agony of defeat and invalidated when Government drifts, with increasing distance, from perennial Christian values. So, what do I do?
Participate in the political process and vote, I must. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. #2240, there are three primary responsibilities of all citizens: pay taxes, defend the country and vote. But G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, and I paraphrase, government is dirty business and so voting is inherently dirty. Politics is “dirty” because it operates most of the time on the principle of compromise and not out of the objective principles of right or wrong or permanent gospel values. Neither does our political process operate from first principles – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – or embrace its former Judeo-Christian value system. And, while a few of our elected and appointed officials display the honesty and integrity of our forbearers, most of our elected politicians are just that; political animals who attempt to read the tea leaves of their contemporary zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) and get on what they perceive to be the right side of the conventional wisdom of the day.
The trend of the country in 1973 tilted toward abortion on-demand and the Supreme Court gave us what we wanted. Now the country favors same-sex marriage and legislatures are giving us what we want. Politicians and judges can never give me what I want most deeply and need most desperately. And I need to stop looking for it from them. I still have a responsibility to behave as a good citizen, but I need to do a second thing, i.e., seriously readjust my expectations. Only God can give me what I want and need, most deeply – Salvation. And so, on November 9, I will continue to advocate for my values in the public square and resist the imposition of values contrary to the gospel, whenever possible, but I am no longer going to look to Government or its agents to give me what I most deeply desire. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no help. (Ps. 146:3)
Deacon Jim Murphy once gave a homily in which he noted that the relatively comfortable relationship that has existed between the Church and the State since 1930 (at least in our country) is the exception, not the rule. The norm is for people of faith, like ourselves, to be seriously out of step with the direction of government. The tension and friction many of us are beginning to feel, although a new experience for us, is the normal experience of most Christians. But when your whole life has been one in which Church and State complemented one another, the
new reality of resistance and objection requires quite an adjustment.
Thanks to everyone who filled in while I was away for a few days, especially Fr. Lydon who took one of the funerals that was celebrated in my absence.
Please join us for All Souls Day and pray for our departed loved ones. Masses are at 6:30 and 8:00 a.m. in the chapel and at 7:00 pm in the main church.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us,
Fr. Paul J. Rothschild