How would Jesus vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6?

aymond    Very often I hear people say that the church should stay out of politics – that the church and politics don’t go together. I think that’s a false premise. The church does get involved in politics.
    A more basic and telling question might be: Did Jesus stay out of politics? No, he did not. He followed the law of the land and he affirmed the good of political life. When the leaders and politicians were unjust, he spoke out. For those who were oppressed and alienated, he was a voice of justice. Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
    We have lots of evidence in the Gospel accounts that Jesus was involved in politics and spoke out about the political realities of his day in a respectful way – somewhat unlike the way in which we speak to each other today. He certainly was one who was politically involved. Because we as church carry on the mission and ministry of Jesus today, the church has an obligation to speak and to act as Jesus would in helping us shape the moral character of our society.
    The United States Constitution protects our right as people of faith to speak out about our beliefs and about moral issues. The Constitution specifically says we can do that without government interference.
    In our Catholic tradition, being a responsible citizen is part of being a Christian, something we take on in a very particular way through our baptismal commitment. By participating in the political process, we make sure that our voice, the voice of the church and the values of Jesus are heard in the public arena today. This is our moral obligation.
    The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states in paragraphs 1913-15 that “all citizens should promote the common good, and all citizens should take an active part in public life.”
    Who has this responsibility for forming consciences for faithful citizenship? All of us – not just bishops, clergy, religious or people involved in lay ministry. We must live as people of faith. It concerns all of us.
    In his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (God Is Love), Pope Benedict XVI wrote in paragraph 28: “The Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. ...  The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.”
    The bishops of the United States have been very clear in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” that the church does not and should not tell people how to vote or for whom to vote. That is an issue of personal conscience. I am responsible to God and to myself in terms of how I vote. We are not to support or denounce candidates.
    Voter guides should not endorse a candidate. All kinds of voter guides cross my desk, but often those guides basically support or denounce a candidate and often are not accurate in their presentation of issues. The bishops also say that candidates cannot be invited by a church to give political talks.
    That being said, we must form our own consciences so that when we go into the voting booth we bring with us our faith. We would like to vote as Jesus might vote in our local, state and national elections.
    Voting with an informed conscience is a golden opportunity to exercise our faith and our civic responsibility. We do this not only for ourselves but also to encourage others to do the same thing. Elections give us the chance to look at the platforms of all the candidates, compare them to the values of Jesus and the teachings of the church, and then to vote in faith.
    People rightly observe that in most elections, none of the candidates fulfills all that the Catholic Church and Jesus would ask. We may never see such a candidate in our lifetime. But our goal is to examine carefully the platform of each candidate, to compare that to the Gospel values of Jesus and teachings of the church, and then to vote for the person we believe has the greater possibility or probability of moving us toward those goals.
    Here are six suggestions in helping us form our consciences:
    ➤ 1. Begin with prayer. Ask the Lord Jesus to give us the wisdom to be informed about the various issues.
    ➤ 2. Study the issues. I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s not simply listening to the media, because we know the media carry with them biases.
    ➤ 3. Reflect on the issues. How does the position of this candidate relate to the values of Jesus and the teachings of the church?
    ➤ 4. Identify and prioritize the issues. We’re going to find many ways in which a candidate doesn’t agree with us, but not all of those issues have the same value. We have to be able to identify and prioritize those values. What issues are the most important? Not all issues carry the same weight. “Faithful Citizenship” reminds us that we need wisdom and prudence.
    ➤ 5. Pray again and ask that important question: “Jesus, if you were voting on Nov. 6, for whom would you vote?”
    ➤ 6. Make the best decision we can. We must vote in conscience. Each person has the responsibility to form his or her conscience and to act.
    The bishops have identified seven key themes to help us form our consciences:
    ➤ 1. We support the right to life and dignity of the human person. As Catholics, we stand strongly on the issue of the dignity of and respect for every human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Certainly, our stance on abortion is very strong and non-negotiable. That is a fundamental issue from which many other issues stem, but it is not the only issue, as we see listed below.
    ➤ 2. We value family life and marriage as a sacrament.
    ➤ 3. We proclaim that each person has a right to food, shelter, education, employment, health care and housing.
    ➤ 4. We pledge an option for the poor, vulnerable and weak – those whose voice cannot be heard.
    ➤ 5. We support the dignity of work and the rights of workers to a just wage, working conditions and just opportunities.
    ➤ 6. We offer solidarity with others who are experiencing racism or human trafficking. We must protect human rights, seek peace and avoid war except as a last resort.
    ➤ 7. We care for God’s creation.
    So, there are lots of issues, not just one or two.
    If we truly are going to vote as Jesus did, that means we are to take his message seriously, look carefully at what our candidates are saying and what they represent, and then examine which person might bring us closer to living out the values of Jesus in our society.
    On Nov. 6, will my vote reflect how Jesus would vote in 2012 in the U.S.? May God bless America on Nov. 6 and beyond.

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