[Click HERE for full podcast website.]
[Click HERE for full podcast website.]
Political Musings on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Contemplating the events of the past month, or 10 years, or 48 years since Roe v. Wade, has led me to believe that we who believe in charity, Christ’s divine love, need to distance ourselves from a political mentality. I am not suggesting no longer running for office or abandoning political science or not voting. What I am suggesting is that people who profess a faith which holds that “God is Love” is both the foremost truth and the highest ideal remove themselves emotionally from, and no longer identify with, politics.
Since Roe v. Wade, and perhaps before, Catholics in America have watched and participated in an ideological political battle between two parties that has not helped us love our neighbor. We have poured mountains of time, emotional energy, millions and millions of dollars–and sometimes–ourselves, into trying to create political solutions to moral and philosophical problems that pre-date the 20th century. In practice we have forgotten that there are no temporal solutions and have fallen into the trap of identifying ourselves as supporters of one or the other political party or candidate because they seem to represent more of what we believe our faith asks of us. But there is a reason the Beatitudes make no mention of politics.
Setting aside the fact that neither party comes close to a platform that reflects the Church’s social teaching, we have allowed this errant self-identification to both cloud our overall ability to be charitable and to lull us into thinking we are being “good” Catholics by vehemently espousing particular political views and supporting candidates who have little interest in charity or the truth.
In today’s climate, if we are going to properly foster the mentality Jesus actually asks of us, Catholics in general ought not identify as Democrat or Republican, at least not publicly (unless forced to do so to run for office). We should not find ourselves vociferously supporting deeply flawed candidates or their parties or using their catch-phrases. Stoking political passion both in ourselves or others is not Christian. On the contrary, it is at best a distraction from charity and, at worst, a fanning of the flames of irrationality. There is no search for truth or love in politics today.
We cannot and will not make the United States a Christian country, whatever that means in the 21st century. Half of the positions one side or the other supports are unchristian. Half of what most Christians do is unchristian. If we had poured all the political passion, rhetoric and fundraising into a zeal to actually accomplish face-to-face charitable works, the country would be more Christian than any political crusade could have made it.
We ought to refrain from digital political discourse as well. Conservative catholic and liberal catholic are terms we ought not to permit or identify with. Every Tweet or post that supports a candidate is only read by those who agree with the writer anyway. Who is that helping? Why place ourselves in a camp? Christians have done a disservice to what should be our cause by identifying politically and becoming cheerleaders for candidates. Doing so separates us. Our identity should be humble and struggling Christians and our communications should reflect that.
It is true that Roe v. Wade is a colossal evil in this country, but it is not the actual killing of a baby. It is a legal decision. Abortions happened before it was handed down and will happen if it is overturned. Would we all get along if it was overturned? Would we actually do anything concrete for mothers and others in trouble if it were overturned? Do we do anything for mothers and others in trouble now?
The effort to overturn Roe v. Wade was and is noble but part of the evil the decision has wrought is sucking Catholics into the vacuity and furor of present-day politics. We find ourselves expending our energy and talents on candidates and parties that do not foster authentic Christianity. For those who recognize abortion is a tremendous evil, it has forced us into painful decisions that we have let identify us politically, instead of as Christians making a hard choice as best we can.
A person striving to live a charitable and truth-filled life should only begrudgingly accept the fact that a vote has to be cast for someone, whether that someone is from one of the two popular parties or not. The same holds true for Christendom. In today’s America, most of the time, an authentic Christian ought to be holding his or her nose and grimacing when their vote is cast.
Had Catholics, Christians, and “all monotheists who believe in charity” spent all our blood, sweat and tears on charitable works instead of political endeavors, imagine! For 48 years, many Catholics have engaged in a political struggle that has maybe, just now, resulted in a Supreme Court that might overturn Roe v. Wade and return the decision on abortion to the states. Then what, another 48 years? The loss of the Christian culture requires a different solution.
Roe v. Wade serves as the most egregious example of how wrong our system can be. It reveals two points to consider. First, Christians are not going to change the world through politics. Secondly, Christians have allowed politics to drive us apart. Symbolically and practically, what we need are pro-life community centers next door to every abortion provider, staffed and funded by all the money currently being wasted on political and media endeavors supporting this or that, Republican or Democrat, candidate, or this or that “left- and right-” leaning Catholic publication which belittles the other side and trumpets the praises of deeply inadequate political figures.
The time has come for Catholics to fundamentally alter their approach to engaging the problems in the country. While continuing to be civically active, vote, and run for office, we must emotionally and rhetorically leave politics behind. If there is any great political insight to be taken from Scripture, it is that even the greatest empire the world has ever seen could not keep the religious “right and left” from killing Christ (Mark 12:13-17). Politics has become the algorithmic science of screaming as loud as one can to one’s own camp. There is no longer a redeeming reason to identify politically. The only way to keep our country beloved, or make it beloved again, is to focus on charity.
That’s a brief summary of the moral law contained in the Holy Bible. The law according to which He will judge us all.
Not really complicated. The Bible is a thick book, with lots of difficult names of people and places. But what it basically tells us to do is: Believe in the triune God, pray to Him, receive His grace, and be genuinely, helpfully kind to everyone around you.
Demanding? Yes. Since the law always applies. The only way to fulfill God’s Law of Kind and Helpful Love is: to stay close to the One who initiated all the kindness in the first place. When it comes to following the law of selfless, divine love, He did it first.
We were nothing. Actually, worse than nothing. We were scrawny little trophies in Satan’s purse. Before that, we were non-beings. Literally, non-beings.
But God visited us in the prison of nothingness. He came to us while we were sick in the hospital of a meaningless life. He clothed us in our nakedness, fed us in our desperate hunger, and gave us cool, refreshing water to drink. We were disoriented strangers in this universe, but He said, “No, no, little ones. You are my children.”
Loving others and helping them is our chance to do like our heavenly Father has done with us.
At Holy Mass today, we read:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)
Some points on this, from the Catechism…
1. Charity = love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself, for the love of God.
2. We learn what charity is from Jesus. He showed the divine love by loving His own chosen ones to the end. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
3. We must love our enemies.
4. “Charity is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
5. Charity makes a Christian a child of God. We obey Him not out of fear, or for the sake of some short-term gain, but because we love Him as our Father.
6. Divine love makes us joyful, peaceful, and merciful. Also generous and friendly. And willing to correct others.
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another. (Romans 13:8)
Have only one debt: love. Be obedient and law-abiding, so that all you owe your neighbor is love.
St. Paul makes things so easy for us. We have only one solemn duty to fulfill; we can let everything else go. It’s as if he said, “Don’t worry about exercising, except to train for a marathon.” Or “forget about school, except getting your doctorate.” Or “Just relax and watch tv, once you have built a chapel in the desert like Sidney Poitier in ‘Lilies of the Field.’”
Maybe we could say that human history has two kinds of eras. In the one kind, people constrict themselves so tightly that love has to teach duty how to behave. Everyone observes the basic laws of decency and religion, but joylessly. So love must enliven the dead routine of duty with its freewheeling fire.
I’m actually just speculating about this, because I myself have never lived during such an era.
In the other kind of era, love gets so footloose and fancy-free, so unrestricted, wayward, and unfocused, that it becomes a kind of damp mop that picks up everything on the floor. Duty has to teach love its real business, has to help love get focused and organized, so that love can shine forth as something truly noble.
In the first kind of era, duty must learn that only love can really make it make sense. Why dutifully fulfill our obligations, if we have no love? But in an era like ours, I would say, love has to learn this: The only kind of love that really merits the name is dutiful, consistent, sober, humble, long-term love.
In the short passage of Romans we read at Holy Mass, St. Paul went on to review the second table of the Decalogue. Yes: all the laws of morality can be summed up with one word: love. Yes.
At the same time: Can the word ‘love’ really apply to anything that involves breaking any of the commandments? If I kill or defame or steal or cheat or lie or shirk or covet–can I say that I am loving? Can I do an injustice in the name of love? I don’t think so.
So: Let’s obey lovingly. And love obediently.
Love your enemies. (Luke 6:27)
Many people misinterpret this divine commandment like this: Christ preaches a sublime, otherworldly way of looking at things. Everyone knows both that this is the most beautiful doctrine ever and that in actual fact no one can follow it.
Because, in the real world, things get messy. God, of course, knows that. So we need Christ’s teaching to try to keep our ideals elevated. But then in the rough and tumble of actual events, we need a more practical approach. Christ meant to give us spiritual goals, for private cultivation.
The pivot point upon which this misinterpretation rests, I think, is this: When we get right down to it, what are the most fundamental facts?
You have to fight to survive. Enemies lurk around most corners, and they have countless tricks up their dark sleeves. Beauty dies and fades away. Chaos overtakes order. The only place where anything noble can really dwell is in my own head, or in the heads of my like-minded friends, to whom I cling for dear life against the cold winds.
Christ teaches us, though, that these are not the fundamental facts. We don’t know from cold winds really. Because we cannot even conceive of the nothingness that would overtake us–were it not for the real fundamental fact.
The fundamental fact actually is: Everything exists because of the love of God. Why is there a today, when there could not be one? Reality could be a tv with a “No Signal” message bouncing around the screen forever. That could be it.
But it’s not.
Things exist, like pancakes and guitars. Today exists. For one reason: Because God is waiting, with infinitely patient love, for us to turn to Him, love Him, praise Him.
Every day He makes for that one reason. As far as He is concerned, what happened yesterday really doesn’t matter. Yesterday wouldn’t have existed if He hadn’t made it, to be sure. But He made it to be a today, not a yesterday. And now that yesterday is a yesterday, God is prepared to forget all about it. That, in fact, is why He made today. Yesterday was not perfect, so forget it. Today can be better. Today we can love. Today we can live in the truth.
That’s why it exists. That is the most fundamental fact. There is one decisive difference between planet Earth, equipped with leaves, a moon, spaghetti and people smiling with white teeth—one difference between this and nothing, between this and the eternal “No Signal” message—one difference. Eternal, omnipotent love.
Loving our enemies does not mean living in a dreamworld, a fantasy, a counterfactual delusion. No. Not loving our enemies means living in a dreamworld, a fantasy, a counterfactual delusion. When we wake up to the fundamental fact, we love our enemies. Because it is immediately apparent that any other approach is really quite pointless.
What if the triune God never revealed Himself? Who would I worship?
Probably Virginia. Even if Virginia only included Augusta, Rockbridge, and Botetourt Counties, I would worship it. But it includes all the other counties, too! Especially Franklin and Henry.
Godlike in splendor. Idolizable if anything ever was.
…Had the opportunity to see a performance of Merchant of Venice at the American Shakespeare Center. The company executed the task with the usual aplomb. If they camped it up a bit, or indulged in tasteless physical comedy, they only did it to try to convey the humor of the text to their predominantly high-school-age audience.
The company also over-indulged, I think, in actually spitting on Shylock and Tubal. Does Shakespeare direct the actors to spit? No. The on-stage spittle only distracted us audience peoples. (Overheard in the bathroom: “Do they get paid extra since they spit on them?”)
The words, my friends! The words have more than enough bitterness of their own. The imprecations savor with plenty of verbal venom. Frinstance:
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
Let me say ‘amen’ betimes, lest the devil cross my
prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.
The key to the play? The fact that it explains the Parable of the Unforgiving Steward. (It explains the whole New Testament pretty well.) And Shylock’s humanity.
The usurer’s avarice, his malice against Antonio, his stubbornness: none of these are literally monstrous. His daughter breaks his heart by eloping–and taking the family jewels with her. He rails against the monetary loss with a lump in his throat. What really pains him? Jessica’s betrayal. And the fact that none of the other Venetian fathers can be bothered to give him the tiniest doit of commiseration. They think nothing of treating the Jew with hard-hearted contempt.
Of course, Shylock’s heart hardens to stone. His maniacal craze for vindication—for justice! my bond!—paints the perfect caricature of blinkered, zealous man: Absolutely dead to rights, within the point-of-view of the rifle-sight. Shylock’s bond has all the force of law, and who could really gainsay his legal reasoning?
But, outside what the scope takes in: an agent of justice stands with an axe, an axe that will fall on me, and his claim on me has much more to it than my claim does.
Where did the Venetian hard-heartedness begin? Did Shylock wrong a Christian first, or did a Christian wrong him first? The profoundest truth of the play rests on the fact that it has no interest whatsoever in answering this question.
In the end, the ladies turned lawyers, Portia and Nerissa, manage to turn the central theme of the tragedy—just retribution—into comedy. Their men, who protest their honor too much, wind up reduced to unimpressive and unconvincing stammerings to explain their own untruth.
Justice? Please. For man it is impossible. Better to try to make friends. With unassuming gentleness. Maybe even love.
We human beings have a tendency to get on each others’ nerves. Living in close proximity to each other can cause conflicts. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Each of us has our ticks. Sometimes we don’t co-operate very well. We annoy each other.
We need a way to coexist peacefully. Which brings us to the virtue that reigns supreme on today’s popular airwaves. We try to live together in peace by practicing the magnificent virtue of…TOLERANCE!
Owing to my advanced age, I forswore road races a couple years ago. But I am weak-willed.
I will run 13.1 miles on Lazarus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday). If I were a true penitent, I would run 26.2. Perhaps next year.
I would like to raise money for Pro-Life Across America.
You could sponsor me by the mile or for the whole race.
Send checks made out to “Prolife Across America” to: Father White Run, 115 Elm Ave., S.W., Apt. B4, Roanoke VA 24016.
If I don’t finish in under two hours, I will send your money back and cover all the funds from my own meager bank account.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well…
…Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
We believe that God became man. That is what we say every Sunday. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven…and became man.”
God—Who is perfect, Who is holy, Who is just—became man. God took our human nature to Himself—our human nature which is imperfect, which is given to impurity, which is frequently unjust. God made a union of the infinitely perfect with the imperfectly limited.
How did He do it? It seems impossible. I mean, let’s take an example. Don’t tell anyone, but I like an old-fashioned martini. Ice cold gin. Twist of lemon zest. Perfect.
On the other hand, I know people who drink those cans of Red Bull. Yuck. Tastes like what they drain out of your engine when you take your car in for an oil change.
Now if I poured a can of Red Bull into my perfect martini…it would be terrible. I am not capable of uniting the perfect with the imperfect and coming up with something perfect. We human beings simply cannot pull off such a combination.
So how did God do it?