Political views can divide us as Catholics

I’m doing a novena for Democrats and Republicans. For Catholic Democrats and Republicans. (And Independents, too, of which I am one.) I’m praying that the Holy Spirit brings us together because politics certainly is pulling us apart in the Church.

For many of us, political views compete with the Gospel, and the Gospel often loses.

Politics can rule our lives and divide families, friends and faith communities.

Even worse, many of us try to superimpose our political views on Catholic teachings. If the Church doesn’t agree with our politics — on the left or on the right — we’re perfectly willing to disagree with the Church and contort our faith to suit our needs.

In a New York Times opinion piece titled “When Politicians Determine Your Religious Beliefs,” Michele Margolis, author of From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity, said: “It’s not just that our religious beliefs affect our politics — it’s that our politics affect our religious choices. We don’t just take cues about politics from our pastors and priests; we take cues about religion from our politicians. It may seem counterintuitive, if not downright implausible, that voting Democrat or Republican could change something as personal as our relationship with God. But over the course of our lives, political choices tend to come first, religious choices second.”

That should terrify anyone committed to the Gospel.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” He might as well have said, “You cannot serve God and politics.”

No one can serve two masters, although we try — and sometimes we are forced to try. That is why Catholic judicial nominees must endure ruthless inquisitions as to whether their religious beliefs will influence their decisions.

Placing political ideologies before Catholic teaching has also led to divisions in the Church between self-defined liberal and conservative Catholics. So often I’ve heard people say, “I’m a liberal Catholic.” Or “I’m a conservative Catholic.” Or “I’m a Vatican II Catholic.” Or “I’m a Latin Mass Catholic.” This often means they take what they like and leave the rest.

Instead of looking at what divides us, we have to start looking at what unites us, which should be the Gospel, clear and simple, untainted and undistorted by political opinion.

If we live our faith the way it is supposed to be lived, it will defy categorizations like “liberal” and “conservative” because the Gospel is founded on the love of Christ, not on special interests or self-interests. And if we live our faith well, we will be a sign of contradiction in modern society, not cheerleaders for the latest legislative outrage.

A few weeks ago I came upon a prayer that captured our fundamental challenge as followers of Christ. It said:

Christ, our Savior and our King, renew in me allegiance to Your Kingship.

I pray for the grace to place You above the powers of this world in all things.

I pray for the grace to obey You before any civic authority.

I pray for the grace to fervently bring about Your Kingdom in my family and community.

I pray that You will reign in my mind.

I pray that You will reign in my heart.

I pray that You will reign in my will.

O Prince of Peace, may Your reign be complete in my life and in the life of the world. Christ, my King, please answer these petitions if they be in accordance with Your Holy Will. Christ the King, Thy Kingdom come!

Thy kingdom come … not man’s kingdom come.

By: Joe Pisani