It’s that time again, dear American Earth Catholics. Who shall govern you—Satan, or one of his myriad and loyal minions? That’s how election years feel to me. It’s a lot like Alien vs. Predator. No matter who wins, you lose, and you’re left wondering why the movie was even made in the first place. I mean, it’s got bad acting, horrible scripting, and breaks megatons of promises made to fans.
Anywho, election year wouldn’t bother me so much if my fellow Christians didn’t constantly use political affiliations as orthodoxy litmus tests. I wish everybody would simply abandon, once and for all, the delusion that government can bring an end to evil—any evil. Individuals do that, one heart at a time, not legislators and governors. So, I’m writing a letter in the great polemical tradition of St. Paul.
Pro-life and social justice people, I’m looking at you in particular.
First, the pro-life camp. Abortion is murder and should be illegal (except for the usual caveats of ectopic pregnancy and other catch-22 situations). There’s zero room for debate here. That said, stopping abortion is NOT the most pressing issue of our day, so quit saying that it is—the most pressing issue is fostering growth in personal holiness. There’s really no political solution to prevent parents from ever killing their children in the womb. You cannot stop abortion in the abstract any more than you can declare war on terror or file for divorce from despair. You can, however, attend marches, write persuasive articles, talk to women considering abortion, provide shelter for a pregnant teen, pray outside an abortion mill, counsel those dealing with post-abortion trauma, and donate money to crisis pregnancy centers. You know, concrete stuff. But as long as 40% of Americans are pro-choice, making the repeal of Roe v. Wade the focus of your voting practices—and please don’t stone me for saying this—is arguably an unwise strategy to promote the cause of the unborn.
In democratic societies, legislation and judicial decisions are more of a symptom than a cause of certain beliefs. People in government will automatically mirror the views of citizens in order to maintain power. And abortion will become illegal if and only if the vast majority of citizens rightly agree that it is murder. Until then, making abortion illegal on a magical sheet of paper will do more harm than good. Why? Because it ignores the problem of what allowed abortion to become legal in the first place—the sad condition of the hearts of human beings. Address that in your daily life, among your friends and families, and the great evils in society will naturally dissolve in a sea of innumerable acts of individual kindness.
On the other hand, latching vast resources onto political campaigns is the exact wrong way to go about convincing people that abortion is gravely immoral. Use your resources instead on more direct efforts to tackle the problem. Rule number one in moral warfare is to never put your opponent in a position where he can play the martyr card. And if you absolutely must put him in such a position, make sure he is as small and as stigmatized as possible. Otherwise, you’ll lose the popularity contest among your peers to the basic human instinct to root for the underdog. Politicians know this principle. That’s why they kowtow to your righteous cause in words only, but don’t seriously intend to do much regarding abortion. After all, they have the moderate independents’ swing vote to worry about. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t fight unjust laws that prevent you from doing sidewalk counseling, or that put your tax money toward abortions, or that hurt crisis pregnancy centers and such—you certainly should and must stand up against these evils. But don’t expect to get anything else out of participating in politics at this point.
And on a related note, tying your entire life to a moral crusade will only end in futility and exhaustion. Before abortion, there was chattel slavery, and before chattel slavery, there was dueling, and before that, child marriages and prostitution, and before that, the wholesale slaughter of women and children in warfare to prevent future blood vengeance campaigns, and before that…Cain bashed Abel’s head in because his sheep were prettier than Cain’s squash or whatever. My point is, as Agent K put it so eloquently in the first Men in Black movie (the only one worth seeing), “Kid, there’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this little planet.”
You see, Original Sin is like Pringles—once you pop, the fun don’t stop. I have no doubt that abortion will someday be illegal. And I have no doubt that someday after that, it will be legal again. The ancient serpent will eat its tail unto the day that the cross finally smashes the seemingly endless cycle of Samsara, as the Buddhists call it, at Christ’s triumphant return. Without Jesus, there is no hope. Aside from his second coming and the dissolution of all worlds in the fire of divine glory, there will never be an end to abortion, slavery, drugs, rape, murder, genocide, etc. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). This world is hurling toward the abyss and you cannot stop it. Anybody who believes evil can be finally defeated by human government is sorely misguided. And that’s putting it politely. I honestly don’t think most folks in the pro-life camp fall for that sort of error, but sometimes a few leaders talk that way, and it scares me…
And on that cheery note, it’s time to address the social justice camp. I’ll be dead honest (as usual). You sprang up from heroic saints like Dorothy Day…so, what the Hell happened to you? And I mean that literally. Nowadays, all I hear about you involves your confiscation of tithes to fund abortions, composition of blasphemous (yet catchy) hymns to U.S. senators, and backstabbing of pro-life allies.
You guys are supposed to be all about helping the poor. You identify as politically liberal, and I get that—but the facts are in, and you give far less to charity than conservatives. Isn’t that sort of like the death knell for your movement? The greatest thing you’ve done lately is give bus rides to the elderly, and even that was merely a means to an end. You talk and shout and yell and post angry things to my Facebook newsfeed, but at the end of the day, you haven’t actually done anything useful. And half the time, I can’t even understand your psychobabble. Take Barbara Marx Hubbard, for instance, keynote speaker to the LCWR‘s recent assembly.
May I kindly ask, are you social justice guys on illegal non-prescribed medications by any chance?
Wait, no, don’t answer that.
Whereas the pro-life camp often faces the temptation to get submerged into politics, you guys are already 20,000 leagues under. And it shows. Resurface please before you completely lose what little of your sanity remains. I really have nothing else to say to you other than to get your feet back on the ground and your hands back to the work of serving the poor in concrete, visible ways.
So, to sum my letter up, we need less politics and more hands-on volunteer work here in the American Catholic Church. Don’t get swept up in the brouhaha of election year partisan fever. “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there” (Ps. 146:3, NLT). Don’t start mudslinging. “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Pt. 2:17). Keep on being Christ to those nearest you, reaching out in small ways and leaving the big things to God. Identify as Catholics first, not Democrats or Republicans. May the peace of Jesus dwell in your hearts despite all the storms of this noisy world, and may God bless you abundantly during the difficult times ahead.
P.S. For the Democrats out there, Romney’s probably going to win by half a percentage point, but be cool. He’s not really much different from Obama, and demographic decline and the failure of U.S. public education are the real reason for our economic woes. Neither party is to blame and there’s nothing we can do to save the sinking ship. Cheers!