Thursday, October 30, 2008

"How Would Jesus Vote?"

That's the question posed by the freshly-ordained Bishop Tony Taylor of Little Rock:
In last Sunday's Gospel Jesus addressed this issue of the relationship between Church and state just in time for our national elections. When Jesus says, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," he's saying two things: (1) Caesar and God each have a legitimate claim on us, and (2) God's claim on us is greater. That's why we say we are "One nation UNDER God" even though we seldom act that way. Like the kings of old, what we really want is for God to legitimize whatever we think best serves our -- often selfish -- interests be it our military objectives even though they fail to meet the criteria for a just war, our economic policies, our tolerance of those who seek to redefine marriage as something other than the permanent union of one man and one woman, and above all our failure to protect human life and human rights from the first moment of conception to natural death.

In preparation for our upcoming elections, the USCCB has once again published a document titled "Faithful Citizenship," which is a brief summary of Catholic teaching to help us use the teaching of Jesus to form our consciences so that we can make sound moral judgments regarding the political issues of our day -- the claims of Caesar -- and thereby "Give to God what belongs to God" through our participation in the political life of our country. This document highlights four areas of special concern: (1) defending human life against the threat of abortion, (2) promoting family life, especially the sanctity of marriage, (3) pursuing social justice, especially the human rights of immigrants, and (4) practicing global solidarity, especially the obligation to avoid war and promote peace, to help alleviate global poverty and promote human rights.

Last Sunday's Gospel reminded us that Caesar and God do not have an equal claim on us; God's claim on us is greater, which we must mind as we decide how to vote. Today's First Reading applies this principle the issue of immigration: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt ..." to which we can add "for you yourselves descend from immigrants."

And this and all the other issues before us should be examined in the light of the twofold Great Commandment in today's Gospel: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind ... and your neighbor as yourself."

Another way of saying this is simply to ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" Given his Gospel of Life and his preferential love for the poor and oppressed because their needs are greater, "How would Jesus vote?" And also, considering his dealing with the political leaders of his day, "How would Jesus have us hold our leaders to account once the election is over?"