and those parts of our country that you consider less honorable are a bunch of rapists and thugs,
and those you judge less presentable parts are a bunch of fat stupid pigs.
The billionaires lining their pockets don’t need unity.
So our nation was constructed to give power to some parts that are already richer than others.
So there will always be division in our nation because you only need to concern yourself with your own problems.
If you suffer, we shall make others suffer with you; if they suffer, we shall let them suffer.
For we are the Right party, and you are individually parts of it.
1st Bannon 12:22-27
There is no 1st Bannon in the Bible, but sometimes a little dark parody helps you appreciate the true horror of it all. For me it begins to sink in every time pundits show up, now apparently, to explain the way all Americans think. Right after the election there was a common refrain that “liberals” [in this context anyone who questioned the overwhelming appeal of Trump] were completely “out of touch” with real Americans. So people who want to keep refugees safe, our common home preserved, and healthcare available for people who need it are all “out of touch.”
As the votes got counted, it became clear that the Democrats actually had 2.9 Million more votes than the Republicans, but in some circles the refrain continued. How can it be that 66 million people can be dismissed as being “out of touch.” If 66 million people in our nation are out of touch, that ceases to be a problem with the candidates (Trump vs Clinton) or the parties (Democrat vs Republican) or even ideologies (conservative vs liberal). When 63 million people in our nation vote for someone who claims that 66 million people’s values are too “out of touch” to matter [not to mention the millions that didn’t vote] it is “we the people” and we the church that have the problem (solidarity vs ruin).
We the church know how it was meant to be:
for one another.
That’s from the actual Bible, not my twisted parody, quoted above. God constructed His church to be the product of and the source of solidarity. Solidarity, according to Pope John Paul, is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all.” [Sollicitudo rei Socialis. #38] Catholic social teaching challenges everyone to be “in touch” with each other. The woman, the child, the refugee and the unborn should all be one in the body of Christ. If we have to choose the good of only a few, we have already failed.
How did we get this way? The insipid theorizing of the talking heads might actually give us a clue to that. If you listen to them carefully, they suggest we depend upon our political establishment to be “in touch” with us, and there we are already lost. Our political parties thrive on division. Trump secured his electoral majority by pitting the economic weakness of rural and manufacturing communities against the dignity of immigrants. Clinton secured establishment support by pitting the fears of women against the lives of the unborn.
But the fault is our own. By choosing the interests of our own narrowly defined political identities over the good of a common humanity, we have disenfranchised ourselves! When Catholics and voters fail to fully commit themselves to the good of all and every individual, we have created a rupture no candidate will ever cure.
There is a sort of false comfort in the idea that our only job as the electorate is to choose the lesser of two evils. On election day voting for an imperfect option is still more conscionable than choosing not to vote, but our responsibilities in a democratic society start long before and end long after election day. The Republican and Democratic establishments both ultimately depend on our support to thrive. It is our responsibility to force those institutions to act in solidarity with all God’s people.
Sometimes it is our responsibility to build new institutions that replace them. I personally have great interest in third parties, like the fledgling American Solidarity Party. It is a very young institution that will need to grapple with the shortcomings of any human institution but the ASP is striving to follow a robust understanding of social justice and a consistent pro-life ethic with inspiration from catholic social teaching. I want my readers to know this party exists so they can judge for themselves.
No change will be possible if we don’t build solidarity [the virtue] first. Do not let the secular media mislead you into thinking that building solidarity is the explicit duty of the body of Christ. We should not be asking if a political party is in touch with us. We should each ask ourselves; “Am I in touch with my fellow man? How do I build a stronger connection to the joys and fears of every human life?”
How can we do that? Well, by all means, pray over it and let me know in the comments section. I don’t have all the answers, but two obvious steps stand out.
First, I’m going to remind you of the prescription Pope Francis has already given us in EVANGELII GAUDIUM . We need to return to being a missionary Church. That is to say, we need to send our parishioners away from their small carefully segregated communities and into the margins. We need to send the faithful to where the refugees are. We need to send the faithful to where the fearful new mothers are. We need to send the faithful to places where climate change is already being felt.
Being sent isn’t just an act of solidarity; it is the first step in incarnating it. Some people say there is nothing you can say that will change a person’s mind, but who cares about changing minds anyway? Encounter changes the heart. When you become face to face with the humanity of others, solidarity can begin. Our Church leaders need simply to send their flocks to where people are hurting. If you don’t call yourself a leader [yet], then I challenge you yourself to go to the margin and invite a friend along.
Second, we need to have some serious unsafe discussions about the things that divide us. We need more courageous conversations about racism, about sexism, about homophobia, and about xenophobia. We need to talk about the sins that segregate the body of Christ with people on the other side of the division. Come to think of it “Courageous Conversations” has a nice ring to it. Where did I steal that from… oh right… Courageous Conversations about race are happening now in a Diocese near you. To learn more about this important program put on by the Diocese contact: [Johnnie Dorsey firstname.lastname@example.org]
My final recommendation is for the clergy and ministry leaders. We need to be fully inclusive and non- reserved when we talk about catholic social teaching and life issues. In America today it’s becoming increasingly easy to select what information and opinions we are exposed to. As people on both sides of the culture war cocoon themselves in echo chambers of their own world views, we drift further and further apart. Even in the Church we know, most Catholics selectively agree with only a small part of our social teaching.
Parishes serve as a home and refuge for people in all states of spiritual development, so we must continue to welcome those who hold doubts about our teaching, but at the same time we have the prophetic imperative to break our nation’s political echo chambers! When the Church takes a position on controversial issues, we need to make that known and help parishioners understand why the Church takes the positions it does. If Catholics continue to disagree, so be it, but at least we will offer them an invitation to metanoia [the priests know what that word means; it’s like repentance].
Are you out of touch? It’s really not that simple. Our leaders lured us into believing all we needed to do was support someone who was in touch with us, but what we desperately need is solidarity. We have to fully commit ourselves to the good of every individual, and we must persevere in everything that commitment asks of us. Ultimately, that understanding, commitment, and perseverance will be the work of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who serves that Spirit will have his own hard work to do. My challenge to you this post is to ask yourself whom you have lost touch with and let the Spirit move you towards solidarity.