Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lent #2: Religion and Politics


The Pope and Donald Trump walk into a bar . . .

(Stop me if you've heard this one.)

So, Trump added another victim to his scorched earth campaign this week, getting into a verbal tussle with Pope Francis. Or . . . maybe Pope Francis inserted himself into the political mess by expressing his opinions about the candidate in a press interview. Either way, it got me thinking about religion, politics, and where they rub up against each other--often uncomfortably.

There is a long history of a lot of vagueness about religion and politics. And I'm not here to try and clarify any of that. I'm here to meditate some on how politics and religious work with each other in my own life. And . . . simple enough . . . they work together and inform each other--I think and I hope. My political desires reflect my religious beliefs.

Here's a brief story, for when some of this first began.

Back in high school, my mom asked me to go with her to Atlanta to attend a pro-life political event. There was a march in the city and a brief speech and rally--but I only really remember the march part. I went, because my mom asked me to and because I was not a supporter of abortions. This was probably the first time that religion and politics intermingled in my young life. As a young Catholic, I had been taught that abortions were contrary to my religious faith--both in terms of the culture of life that the Catholic Church stood for and in terms of the Church's doctrinal views toward birth control.

In my adult life, I've sometimes thought back on that march and considered it through a more educated and more personal lens. I do not at all regret participating in it and I am not suggesting that I reject what that event stood for. But I do think I am straddling a more complicated stance on the issue now than I might have had back in high school.

These days, I am still no fan of abortions. But I don't think I am "pro-life" in the way it is portrayed to most people's understanding. I think it is a regrettable choice that some people may be forced to make. But I would hope and pray that, if given the opportunity--people would carry the child to term and give it up for adoption. Not an easy choice. And in some terrible circumstances, an almost impossible choice. So . . . I can't rigidly take a stance on something and pretend that it must be adhered to by all.

Andbutso . . . religion and politics.

My religious faith tells me to stand up for life. To stand up for love. To honor the uniqueness of every person and to always put the centrality of another person as my concern. Because, I believe that God can be found in every person--no matter who they are, the circumstances of their birth, or how they were raised.

So, I want political actions that aim to lift up all, to give everyone the chance to better themselves, to remove barriers that are in front of people. I have a life of grand, unspoken, unrecognized privilege. Jesus teaches me to USE that privilege to extend love and hope to other people. It's just that simple.

And I fail to do it to the utmost. I take the lazy way. I choose the bureaucratic way. I avoid changing my life radically for the betterment of others. I won't do every possible thing that might be in my power to improve lives outside of mine. I am selfish. I have weaknesses.

But even in that weakness, I can still DO so MUCH. And the absolute least that I can do is choose political candidates and support political actions that focus on love and respect for every human being.

That's it. That's all.

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