October 14, 2008

Faith & Politics

Our pastor is disturbed by the partisanship of his flock. He's particularly angered by the lack of humility in his parishioners concerning their political views. (Mea culpa!) He says there are things we as Catholics should be repulsed at in both the Democrat and Republican party platforms and that there should be greater intra-party friction involving Catholics disagreeing with their party, not Catholics disagreeing from within different parties. (He sounds much like Zippy Catholic or Karl Keating in his distaste of both parties.)

My immediate reaction was flawed in that I wondered at his angle. I thought: "hmmm...he's saying this for the sake of Obama supporters but has to include Republicans or it'll come off as partisan." Of course all the Obama supporters in church would be thinking the same thing about the Republicans in church. Hardly what our pastor was getting at. (Btw, I was shocked to see the news that the Faithful Citizenship guide is being used to vote for Obama! And yet I shouldn't have. Call it the "audacity of dissent". (Ooops, there I go again.)) After that thought passed it occurred to me: "oh, yeah, that's right, he's really big on the environment."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, 'eh? Of course I should look within, at my too-coziness with my own political views. Our pastor is right, of course, in saying that no human institution or political party will mirror Catholic teaching. But what if we did move towards a polarized situation of a "secular" party and a "religious" party in American politics? Let me put it this way: isn't there a point at which he could imagine that the parties wouldn't both deserve an equivalent pox? Of course we're likely moving rapidly away from that anyway.

So where does the Republican party error in respect to church teaching? This is fascinating to me because it seems you can either pick out only a few issues, such as torture (something that has now, thank God, been stopped according to the no-friend-of-the-Bush-Administration magazine "The Atlantic") and arguably the death penalty and certainly McCain's stand on stem cell research. Maybe too swift a tendency towards war, which, admittedly, is huge.

But Deal Hudson writes that many liberal Catholics think that "Democrats agree with 90% of the Church's social teaching, Republican's 10%."

Excuse my French, but WTF?

How does that work? The only way I think you can view it that way is if you subscribe to the belief that the whole Republican view of government is contrary to Catholic teaching. That is, if you believe, as I think many do, that the whole concept of "limited government" is not Catholic. I suppose that is where humility ought indeed come in for me, because I don't think many of the bishops are too pleased with limited government. I think they seem more comfortable with universal health care, a higher minimum wage, environmental regulations, etc...

And perhaps understandably so. These are things that government can do, however inefficiently, that make a difference, to help some people. And the purpose of life is not to maximize the GNP rate, although there's an argument to be made that a high rate of GNP does lift all boats, which is specifically important with regard to the poorest. (It's the poor, not the rich or middle class, who suffer disproportionately during recessions.) Also, is it enough to rely on private charity, even very efficient private charity?

So I googled to try to figure out whether the whole Republican world view is wrong, or if it's just on a few issues. Here's what I saw first . It's a take-down of Giuliani, the presumptive favorite for whom we (Republicans) seem to have gotten little credit for in not nominating. Meanwhile the Democrats jettisoned Hillary for Obama. They (the Dems) arguably moved slightly farther away from church teaching while Republicans moved closer to it in the primaries. Ah but here I go again. Pointing fingers and justifications. Not humble at all.

Part of my political hubris is simply that I don't consider a perfect alignment of party and church possible since we live in a fallen world. If I did, then perhaps I could be far madder at the Republicans for their party platform sins. I do consider the Democratic party platform far more scandalous from a Catholic perspective than the Republican and hence...DOH!

Okay, I'll try again. Humility, where art thou? Based on the Gerson commentary, I can agree that the greater propensity to warfare is problematic in the Republican party. (Even though need I remind you that the Dems got us into Vietnam and WWI and WWII...DOH! There I go again!) There's no question they are the more dovish party since the 1960s. Also there exists in some Republican quarters an anti-environmental mindset that looks at nature in a rapacious rather than stewardship way that would be very harmful to future generations. Maybe that's a start towards heeding my pastor. I do wish he'd been more specific though...:-)

UPDATE: Some good points from DC at the American Catholic:
Thinking back over this election in particular, however, I find myself wondering how much there is to all these other threads of the “seamless garment”. Senator Obama, as with all recent Democrats who want to be elected at the national level, is in favor of the death penalty. He’s said that he’ll never seek to “take away our guns”. He’s gone well out of his way to insist that he’s no pacifist, and indeed promised to prosecute the war in Afghanistan more vigorously, making incursions into Pakistan if necessary.

In regards to health care and economic assistance — Obama’s proposals are heavily focused around providing more benefits to the middle class. Oh, sure, the poor are not actually excluded from Obama’s tax cut/credit for everyone — nor from his child health care mandate. But have we really heard much of any mention about “the poorest Americans” out of the Democratic nominee this year? Much less programs specifically targeted to relieve or eliminate poverty?

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