Kathleen Peterson

Storyteller & Missionary Disciple

Politics and Faith

Photo by @arina_krasnikova

Oh, the elections of 2020; could there be anything worse?

2020 sucked to begin with and politics just sprinkled a little unicorn poo on top.

Fueling this suckiness is that we, as Catholics, have lumped each other into one of two categories:

the Altmans vs the Martins

These two James’s could not be further apart.

In the ‘conservative’ corner, we have Fr. James Altman.

  • These pew-sitters are stereotyped as pro-trump, anti-mask, pro-life, anti-pachamama Catholics.  They attend the Latin Mass, and subscribe to the Church Militant while listening to the Vortex podcasts.

In the ‘liberal’ corner, we have Fr. James Martin, SJ.

  • On this side of the aisle, these attendees are stereotyped as anti-trump, pro-mask, anti-patriarchy, pro-you-do-you.  Attending Mass in any creative format (possibly no longer canonically considered Mass), they read America Magazine and get their news from Buzzfeed.

I hope, dear reader, you can recognize satire.

Snarkiness aside, can we get real?

There is no such thing as a conservative or a liberal Catholic. Political terms have no place in religion.  [For a great explanation, check out this reflection by Dan Burke.]  Yet in social discourse, we seem to default to these terms and stereotype each other according to the ‘Jameses’ scale above.

Neither side of the aisle has it all correct and both sides can be vicious.  We have become characters from the Breakfast Club; instead of jocks and nerds, we are radtrads and progressives.

Satan loves a good division and diversion.

Politicizing religion has to be one of the devil’s favorite tools; we are so easily sucked in.  Friends, relatives, and even bishops in the USCCB become adversaries over which topics should be important when informing consciences to vote responsibly.  Hours are spent on social media tagging those on the other side of the aisle as #antifa or #blm, doxing those with whom they disagree, or labeling their posts as ‘fake news’ and reporting them to the platform.

All this time arguing on social media distracts us from developing a prayer life, ridding ourselves of vice, growing in virtue, and leading others to Christ.  This is what triggered this particular blog post.

I found myself spending hours on Facebook responding to nasty comments in order to justify articles that I posted to my own wall so that I could later read them.  The wasting of precious time that I cannot get back was infused with a loss of peace in my heart which overflowed fueling anxiety.  To be honest, I chose Facebook over God; social media was eating into my prayer life.

Score one more for the demonic!

I got my own taste of religious political aggression a few years ago when my husband was in the diaconate program.

Just before the start of a class, some of us were talking about the National March for Life.  The professor who was part of the conversation scoffed at the pro-life movement, calling participants “pro-birthers”.  The term caught me off guard; I had never heard it before and didn’t know how to respond.

A few years later a colleague used the same derogatory term when I was working for the diocese.  This time the user explained to me that the pro-life community only cares for the baby up to the point when it leaves the birth canal.  Pro-lifers do not care about anyone after they’ve been born.  News to me.

I was shocked and hurt.

Apparently, I’d been sheltered and didn’t realize that not everyone, even the ordained, place abortion as the primordial issue in the conversation on the dignity of life.  On the flip side, maybe these folks never heard of Catholic Charities, Project Rachel, the Catholic Worker Movement, etc.  Or, just maybe they are pro-choice?

They also don’t know me.

What hurt the most was that I had given 20+ years to bringing youth to the March for Life in DC; the trips brought about the conversion of many teens. The fruit of those pilgrimages was so obvious to me but, for whatever reason the event was a thorn in the side of many of my colleagues.  One person said that it was wrong of me to focus on the March for Life and not take the kids to a demonstration to end the death penalty.  They assumed I didn’t care about the entire scope of the dignity of life, that I had tunnel vision.

My husband, Jerry, recently experienced the same false and unjust accusations from fellow clergy members. It’s disheartening and just wrong. I’ve watched my husband’s conversion from the average Joe who only cared about money, to surrendering his life to the Lord and giving voice to those who are most vulnerable. He works 5 days a week volunteering at a senior living center after an 8 hour day at his regular job.

St. Paul’s prophetic words in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12) lays out the theological nature of the Church using the body as a methaphor. We, the Church, are one body but many parts.  So too, the nature of the roles each member fulfills to further the kingdom.

God places on our hearts unique desires which stir the mind to movement for the greater good.

There is no way that every person can participate in every rally, every demonstration, every call to action. The issues to protect the dignity of life are many: ending abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human trafficking, racism, unjust wages, the death penalty, etc.  But, like St. Paul’s metaphor, each of us has been called to advocate for particular life issues.  While ending abortion is my ‘thing’, caring for those on death row is on the heart of another.  Many of our desires come from our personal experience; our stories must be honored and respected.

Being anti-abortion does not mean that I don’t oppose discrimination in the workplace, or that I don’t care about children who have been separated from their parents at the border.  I know that others who are better trained and equipped by God’s grace are taking up those causes, just as I rally for the unborn.

All of these issues constitute the body of the dignity off the human person.

One post in this blog cannot encompass all of the thoughts in my head and heart.  But, I hope and pray that we can move in the direction of the Corinthians, recognizing that God has created us with unique gifts which enable us to fight the good fight.

Our enemy is not each other, it is father of lies. Let’s work together to end his reign.

Pray for me as I pray for you.

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