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(Political) science and faith

Jack Rooney | Friday, March 1, 2013

Aside from the whole no meat on Fridays thing, I really love Lent. Lent always coincides with some of the busiest days of my year, but it also provides a constant reminder to keep my life centered on God and to place my trust and faith in him. Lent, in my opinion, is also the best time for reflection. This Lent, my reflective thoughts repeatedly return to the one issue I struggle with most: reconciling my faith with my political beliefs.
As a liberal I am frequently led to believe, through the media and occasionally in person, that some of my specific political beliefs are not only wrong, but also immoral. As a Catholic, I constantly struggle with these implications and search for some source of reconciliation between these two sets of beliefs I hold so close to my heart. I struggle with going to mass and hearing a homily in which the priest tells me that if my political views don’t line up with Catholic social teaching, then my conscience wasn’t formed correctly. I struggle with seeing prominent Catholics who should be my role models denying adoption rights to loving and capable gay couples and pontificating on the immorality of a healthcare law that would help millions of people who desperately need it. More than anything though, I struggle with the notion that a Republican vote is a vote for Jesus and a Democratic vote is a vote against him.
Despite it all, I still believe and still argue, in order to be good, conscious Christians, we must be liberal. Welfare, for example, falls under frequent attack from conservatives, who claim people abuse the system. It was Jesus, though, who said in the Gospel of Matthew, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Some may argue this is a call for charity and not government-run welfare, but charity alone cannot help the poorest among us receive the equal opportunity all Americans should claim as their birthright.
As Catholics, we must also advocate for workers and defend their right to organize and receive fair pay. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states, workers have “the right to a just wage … [and] the right to assemble and form associations.” The Compendium also states that workers have “the right to appropriate subsidies that are necessary for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families,” which sounds remarkably similar to the unemployment insurance Republicans tried to drastically reduce in 2011.
Furthermore, we as Catholics must defend the basic human rights of immigrants, especially those who come from the most abject of circumstances. Pope John Paul II, on World Migration Day in 1996, said we should look beyond the law when it comes to illegal immigration and recognize and respect the humanity and dignity of all immigrants.
All of these examples show that in order to be good Catholics acting with Christ as our guide, we must, at least to some extent, be liberal. And while I’m on my liberal soapbox, I might as well drift out into far left field. Brace yourselves. For those on the Christian right who believe capitalism is unfailing and entirely just, I should remind you that the early Christian Church was a communal society (Acts 2 and 4, people. Read up). And for those who argue homosexuality is a sin, I should remind you Jesus never once addressed homosexuality one way or the other. And for the love of God, will the right-wing hacks who claim this country was founded on Judeo-Christian values please pick up a high school history book. Perhaps more than anything, though, I must argue that conservatives in this country cannot monopolize morality because there are millions of faithful, compassionate liberals who work just as hard to bring the justice of God into the world.
All of these issues, however, are drastically overshadowed and forgotten because most liberals, including me, believe when it comes to abortion, the decision rests with women. Don’t get me wrong, I believe life begins at conception and I believe each abortion in this country is a tragedy and, to some extent, a sin. We must recognize, however, that the choice for a woman to abort a pregnancy or not is one of the most excruciatingly difficult decisions anyone will ever have to make. I pray each and every day for women who must face this decision and I pray they make the decision that is best for them and the life inside of them. I cannot, however, bring myself to impose my views on these women because I will never find myself in their position, and therefore cannot even begin to understand it. I find Vice President Joe Biden, one of the nation’s most prominent Catholics, sums up my position perfectly by saying, “My religion defines who I am … but … I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body.”
The Viewpoint page of The Observer can’t even begin to allow me to describe my internal struggle with faith and politics, though. This issue is something I will contemplate and question for the rest of my life. In the meantime, I along with anyone in a similar position should find comfort in the words of Thomas Merton, who wrote, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end … But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

Jack Rooney is a freshman studying political science. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.