A listener named Lidia shares that she is seeing a lot of division within Catholic circles surrounding the upcoming presidential election. She has seen Catholics tear each other down and judge the faith of the other based on who they are voting for. Lidia asks Father Dave why this is happening and how to tackle it.
Father Dave responds, “Why is this particular thing happening? I think that’s an excellent question. The Church herself does not ever say that you can’t vote for a particular person… We believe that our faith should affect the world that we live in. There’s really no such thing as just a personal faith, or even a faith that just happens on Sunday inside a church. What Jesus did disturbed the society — he did and said these things, and he was considered a radical. Meaning, he was ruffling feathers and it obviously did affect the civil society. Even though back then, religion was very much intertwined in the society. We don’t believe that our faith should ever remain merely inside our hearts and that it doesn’t affect any other part of my life.”
“We see a lot of that pushing in secular society today. People are starting to use terms in the same way that we did in the ‘70s with ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice.’ Somebody came up with a great marketing slogan, ‘Oh, everybody likes choice. Let’s call it that instead of calling it abortion. Instead of killing babies, let’s say that we’re in favor of people having choices.’ In the same way, people are starting to use some rhetoric around one of the most fundamental tenets of the founding of our nation and that is the freedom of religion. Some people are now calling it freedom of worship. You might think that that’s an insignificant nuance or distinction, but it’s very significant. Freedom of worship means you can do whatever you want on Sunday morning or on whatever day your religion says you’re supposed to do it. You can do it inside the closed doors of that synagogue, that church, that mosque, you’re free to do whatever you want … But freedom of religion goes beyond what happens inside those doors on Sunday morning, as religion and faith should. I would think almost all major world religions would advocate for this to permeate our lives and who we are as human beings.”
Father Dave sees that people are trying to draw lines between politics and religion. “We draw a line and say, ‘Hey, that is now crossing the line of religion into politics or into civil life.’ People think the Church or the priest are suddenly telling us how to live or how to vote or how the society should make laws. Well, that’s how it’s been from the very beginning. Almost all of our laws are based in morality, which are essentially based on some sort of belief that there is truth and a higher power, and there is good and evil.”
“When you turn on the TV, do you yell back at the TV, ‘Don’t tell me how to vote!’? All we are doing this time of year is taking in data and sources that are going to influence our vote. Everybody is telling you how to vote right now. It’s like yelling at a commercial on the radio, ‘Don’t tell me what soap to buy.’ But that’s all people do, and you take in that information and you process it and make your own decision. You don’t have to get mad at it. Don’t get mad at Tide for putting a commercial on just because you like Gain… Just take it in and reject what you reject.”
Christina shares that she thinks this division stems from the fear that if a person’s candidate of choice doesn’t win, their life will be affected. “I think it’s the fear that instills or provokes the angry response. Some of it is legitimate fear. Like, ‘I’m genuinely scared of what the future might be,’ but some of it is also fear of ‘I live comfortably and this is going to affect my rights. Your vote is affecting my own personal freedom or my family life or morals that I hold really dear to my heart.’ So I think that it’s fear in both of those senses. It doesn’t even allow for a balanced discussion because whatever the drive of the fear is, it immediately creates this angry response to where you don’t even care what the other person has to say. It’s kind of like ‘You’re the one who is in my way.’ Which is really sad. We start treating others like they are a roadblock.”
Father Dave points out that this attitude does not allow us to treat others with dignity. He explains that when we start judging one another and making presumptions, it is uncharitable and not in good faith.