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Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.

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November 5th, 2012

Loving God on Election Day

 
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(CNS photo/Gary Cameron, Reuters)

It is an unseasonably warm morning in Northeastern Ohio. The pickles Kim (shorthand for the three little people who live at our house) are running wild in a choppy sea of motley leaves. (Raking is on the list. The list is long.) I ask our 4-year-old — the one loping around with a Tyrannosaurus Rex strapped across his torso in a self-styled Baby Bjorn whilst brandishing a stick/pirate sword — what I should write about voting. Without stopping, without so much as lowering his wooden scabbard he yells, “Tell everyone about how you love God.” Not bad, Captain Dino-Daddy. Not bad at all.

I love God. And this makes voting complicated. I don’t mean to be disingenuous. I am not an undecided voter … at all. What I’m trying to say is that neither of the candidates stands in line with the totality of Catholic moral teaching. Neither one of them perfectly conforms to the beautiful vision of Blessed John Paul II’s “culture of life.” Neither one of them has put forward a foreign policy that adequately addresses the most dire human rights issues facing our world. Neither one of them has addressed grave problems plaguing our own criminal justice system. We have to do the best we can. We are called to use our consciences. This is a sacred and messy and vital task. It requires a tremendous amount of intellectual and spiritual attention. It matters.

I love God. And this makes voting essential. Participation in civil government is our responsibility as folks who believe in the God who hears the poor, who frees the captive, who loves the vulnerable. You have to vote. YOU have to vote. You have to vote because there are millions of people in this country who will be affected by the result of this election who simply cannot.

They are the more than 7.1 million women and men currently imprisoned in this country. (It should be noted that prisoners are allowed to vote in Maine and Vermont. It should also be noted that many states do not allow parolees to vote and some will not restore voting rights to an individual with a criminal record who has served her time and paid her fines … ever. And, lastly, it should be noted that an alarming number of these folks are poor people and people of color.)

They are the children (at all stages of life) who stand to inherit this nation … especially those who are touched by poverty, drug abuse, violence, and failing schools.

They are the trafficked … the children and women smuggled across our border primarily for the purpose of sexual slavery. They are the undocumented families who have come to our country in the face of crippling poverty and violence to find a better life for their children.

They are the folks in your own community and family with severe developmental and mental health issues who may not be capable of voting.
These are the vulnerable among us. We are their voice. We are called to seek their good just as sincerely as we seek our own good in casting our ballot.

My aim is not to steer you toward one candidate or another (although, truth be told, I have a plethora of political opinions, which I’m usually overly eager to share). My aim is to encourage you to show up. My aim is to invite you to pray about the election … to pray for the candidates and the poll workers and the people who will wait in long lines on Election Day and, most of all, the wisdom and courage to vote in accordance with your own conscience. My aim is to remind you of the vulnerable who have no voice in this election — who depend on you and me to remember their interests as we cast our vote. My aim (thanks to the reminder of a very precocious and sometimes startlingly prophetic 4-year-old) is to remind you that voting is an expression of our love for God and neighbor. I hope you’ll join us — our whole family (pickles Kim included) — in showing up at your polling place tomorrow. We’ll be the two frazzled yet determined looking grown-ups with the double stroller and the miniature buccaneer.

 
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The Author : Caitlin Kennell Kim
Caitlin Kennell Kim is a full-time baby wrangler, writer, and ponderer of all things theological. She earned her Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry and Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She currently lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and their four small children.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Trish

    Howdy.

    I do not believe that either party has a lock on morality. That was the point of both of my posts. In trying to give examples for my assertions, it seems I may have offended. I apologize if it came off as troll-ish.

    I’d be happy to discuss/debate the finer points of Texas politics, but this is hardly the forum for that.

    This was a great post! It lead to some fun face-to-face conversations as well.

  • Thrift Store Mama

    Lovely post. As i stepped in to the voting booth, i took a deep breath and said a prayer asking God to be with me even though imhad already decided my positions. i just wanted to acknowledge that he was there woth me. Oh, and its unfortunate that there are trolls as commenters merely interested in regurgitating the same old same old.

  • Sammie

    Trish,
    I also live in Texas. I grew up here in the public school system (my mom also teaches here). I graduated from school, got a partial scholarship to college, paid some myself, and am making 70k at the age of 25. I am still paying off some of my loans but they are easily managable and I don’t expect the governemnt to cover a loan that I signed for and am reaping the benefits of. I hardly feel like my public school failed me.

    As a teacher, my Mom works with kids from rough backgrounds. I can’t even count the stories of kids whose parents encourage them to not care about their future, because they can make more money having children out of wedlock and cashing their welfare checks. A few stories include moms encouraging their high school daughters to get pregnant so they will have additional dependents and therefore additional benefits. They brag about knowing how to work the system. In this way, I feel the democratic party has created a safety net that is in many cases better than working a respectable blue collar job. Further, these recipients won’t get as much gov’t aid if they are married. So now the system also discourages the family unit.

    While I agree that everyone should have access to cover their basic needs, we are taking away the incentive to work in this country and at the same time we are demonizing success. This isn’t even about the amount of money that could be saved by reforming welfare, as much as it’s about a shift in our culture where we promote entitlements to hand outs rather than helping people get into jobs.

    I don’t agree with everything the Republican party says, nor do I disagree with everything Deomcats say. But, I’m certianly sick of Democrats acting as if anyone who votes Republican has no regard for human rights and only seeks to selfishly improve his or herself.

  • Trish

    OK Bill.
    I live in Texas where the republican party has been systematically underfunding the education system to the point that if you are wealthy and can afford private school, you can properly educate your child. If not, there will be lots of menial work from companies lured here by tax breaks (since they don’t need to fund education).
    The republican party has underfunded CHIP (children’s health insurance program) every year that Perry has been in power. The government here would rather refuse federal matching funds rather than fully fund the state portion of the program. In Texas, the Affordable Care Act would be a God send.
    And lastly, the sanctity of life. Shall we discuss the Texas death row? We kill more prisoners per year than most states have in their entire existence.
    There are many facets to these arguments, but I whole-heartedly disagree with your view on one part of the sanctity of life. Furthermore, I would argue that the democratic party stands up for the underserved and the forgotten, the mentally ill, the elderly, and the children who are here against the onslaught of Republican cost-cutting measures that favor the wealthy, who are obviously able to speak for themselves.

  • Emma

    Way to go, Caitlin. You are truly inspiring. We need more like YOU in the Church :).

  • Bill Kercher

    I would recommend listening to the Priest in the below you tube link. We need more like him in the Church!!!
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=gF90rSZfVwc&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgF90rSZfVwc%26feature%3Dyoutu.be

  • Bill Kercher

    Trisha and Teresa,

    When you say you have come to the opposite conclusion, does that mean you have come to think that it would be acceptable to vote for Obama? If so, and your conscience has led you there, I would say you conscience is not formed according to Church Teaching appropriately. God gave us free will, conscience and a Divinely Inspired Church to properly form our consciences through our Bishops and Holy Father. They have been very outspoken that taking care of the vulnerable is open to prudential judgement and dialogue of methods. What isn’t open for faithfull Catholics to dialogue about are intrinsic evils. All other rights flow from the primary right to life. I find it funny that you say Republicans don’t vote for education and health care. Was these things non existent when Republicans were on power. Please stick to truth and facts. Partisanship had nothing to do with my comments. I am Catholic First and that is what influences my vote. Keep in mind that the Church does more for the vulnerable than any government organization. How will that continue if the Church is forced to shut down these operations due to government persecution. Wake up Catholics!!! Our Freedom of Religion is being redefined!!!

  • Teresa Wilson

    Thank you Caitlin and your 4 year old buccaneer for reminding us that it is our duty to vote and speak for those who can’t. Trish hit the nail on the head when she reminded Bill that being pro-life means a lot more than than just being pro-birth. God gave man a free will and a conscience so that each of us has the power to make the right decisions for our own bodies and decide what is right for ourselves. Government should never have the power to take away that right.

  • Trish

    Funny. I read the same article and came to the opposite conclusion from Bill.
    While republicans do oppose abortion, they do not vote EVER for the health care, education, nor shelter of children that have arrived. The republican position is hardly pro-life, but they do have a lock on pro-birth.

  • George

    “My aim is to remind you of the vulnerable who have no voice in this election.”

    It’s a testament to how thoroughly the anti-choice movement has monopolized the language of victimization and vulnerability that I physically shuddered at reading that line, and had to actively remind myself that you were advocating mindfulness for the entire spectrum of human vulnerability, instead of advocating government control of womens’ reproductive choices.

  • Mahri

    Thank you, Caitlin. As always, you touch upon the heart of the matter with humor, gentleness and love. May we all be given the grace to do the same, as we try to love God and our neighbor while wrestling with an earthly political system :)

  • Bill Kercher

    I will make a recommendation on how faithfull Catholics should vote! We can’t vote for intrinsic evil like abortion or legalization of same-sex marriage. We definitely can’t vote for the administration that is the persecuting our Blessed Lord by persecuting the Church through a government mandate. There is only one clear choice for any faithfull Catholic conscience. It’s Romney/Ryan. Any other choice leads to Martyrdom for the Church and many inside the Mystical Body of Christ. Think about that when you vote!

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