Justice and governing to ensure that everyone’s interests are served fairly is a messy business. Seldom clear cut, always involving compromise, never completely satisfactory to all parties especially in a society defined by its diversity.
That’s why Catholics should be wary of exhortations by some clergy and evangelical groups to vote for candidates based on “what moral standard (what ‘master’) he or she serves. “ Yet another ad sponsored by the Aloha Family Alliance PAC in the Hawaii Catholic Herald (October 15) instructs Catholics to ask: “Where does a candidate stand on moral issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and parental rights? Do they line up with God’s standards?”
The ad argues that it is better to elect a policy-maker whose “decisions will be dictated by his moral principles which will be determined by the person’s core beliefs, often based on the person’s religious convictions, or lack thereof.”
Translation: agnostics, atheists, progressive Catholics and Christians who do not toe the official Church line, need not apply.
It also begs the question: which core beliefs? And whose core beliefs? The presumption that a select group of a certain faith have a direct pipeline to God and knows exactly what He (or She) expects of us is what gave us the crusades and continues to give us jihadists. And prompts ads like the ones AFA keeps running.
Voters, regardless of their private religious beliefs, are better off putting their political faith not in the “most righteous” candidate, whatever that means, but in the candidate who pledges to honor the preservation of the “inherent and inalienable rights” laid out in the Declaration of Independence. The right candidate is the one who would find it abhorrent to shape public policy that would alienate those rights from anyone on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
That’s what this democracy is about. The search for the Divine and an openness to matters of faith can make us better people. But being Catholic or Christian does not automatically make one candidate better suited for public office than the next.
In the search for better government and leaders who will serve the greater good, the question voters should ask of the candidate is: “How well does this candidate’s approach to governing line up against my expectations and this nation’s promise of social justice and equality under the law for all?”
Jesus would understand. After all, he did say to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And he did throw the traders out of the temple. He knew a thing or two about separating church and state. The people we elect should too.