I told friends I’ve been trying to fill in my voting form for the presidential election in the US, but every time I do, I feel like I want to throw up. It was a joke, but after finally doing it, putting my pink envelope into the ballot box, I walked away feeling literally nauseous.
Is this how it’s going to be every four years? A choice between two parties I disagree vehemently with? Oh, and if I’m lucky, with the added bonus of one or both candidates being an arrogant jerk or corrupt. Maybe both!
It’s difficult being a faithful Catholic and finding a political party I can be comfortable with, and it seems to get worse every election cycle. Republicans seem to not care about combating climate change or guaranteeing decent health care for all of it’s citizens – especially the “least of these.” Democrats, on the other hand, treat abortion as a human right.
Well, as I was wallowing in my self pity, I decided to finish watching a documentary that came out recently which asked the sincere question, “What are you going to do about it?”
It’s called “For Love of Neighbor: Politics for the Common Good.” You can request the link to it from the movie’s site yourself at this link, but here is the trailer:
Favorite comment of that trailer: “People feel like they’re politically engaged because they’re arguing with one another on social media. But they don’t know who their neighbors are. They don’t know who their city council person is.”
There’s a lot you can gain from this documentary, but here are a few of my takeaways:
Christians Need to Let Go of “Christianizing” America
Here’s a quote from Dr. Greg Thompson in the film:
“When you talk about things like the culture wars or strategies to Christianize America, you have to understand that at the heart of that is the lie of control…. It is not about control. It is about the use of power for the good of others…. the grab for control inevitably puts us in the place of God…”Dr. Greg Thompson
A common theme throughout the documentary is the idea that politics is not about forcing your agenda. It is about working with others. Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican, talked about working with Cory Booker, a Democrat. He made the point that he doesn’t see eye to eye with Booker on about 95% of issues, but on that 5%, they can collaborate on, they do.
Politics is not about trying to force your agenda. It obviously involves trying to advance your agenda, but it’s ultimately about trying to work with others for whatever common good you can bring about.
Gotta Stop Treating Presidents like Messiahs
There was an emphasis toward the end of the documentary that political leaders can’t fix everything, and putting that kind of hope in them is unhealthy and, dare we say, idolatrous.
I remember the first convention I ever saw and really understood on TV. It was the Republican convention to re-elect George W. Bush. With all the lights and video, it was bizarre how much like a transcendent savior they made him look.
Other candidates push the same idea every four years. “I’m your only hope! I stand between you and chaos!” Really?
It’s a dangerous road to go down when we get so caught up in politics, we begin to think the salvation of the world rests in the political party (or person) we affiliate with.
Real Politics is Boring – and Desperately Needed
My eyes glazed over a bit when the woman who is a local official in her town talked about the job of setting tax rates for the city, but it’s seemingly insignificant decisions like that that affect people the most.
This is why the most good the average person can do in politics is at the local level. If you want to make a difference politically, know what the issues are that are important to your city. Know who your council people are. Run for local office yourself.
Work in the Two-Party System
I complained at the beginning of this post about how I don’t like what’s being offered every four years in the candidate pool or platforms of either party. But if I care that much about it, joining one of those parties, going to party meetings, and pushing for change from the inside is the best way to get my views across.
Remember, it’s the Republican and Democratic primary voters who chose Trump, Clinton, and Biden. If more solid Catholics had taken more of an active role in those foundational decisions years ago, would we be in a better place now?
Those are my thoughts. If you’ve watched the documentary (or not), I’d love to hear yours. Is our political system broken? If it is, what do you think we most need to change about it?
©2020 Catholic Anonymous
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