One of the key characteristics of our religion is that it urges us to "get involved," and not just to sit back and be passive observers.
This actually flows from our teaching about God Himself. He is not a passive observer of the world He created. He got involved quite fully, by joining the human community as one of us, speaking to us in our own language, and giving His life on the cross. God mixed in dramatically with the things of the world.
So do we his followers. That's why the bishops recently wrote these words:
"We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable.." (Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n.34).
"Every vote counts." Sometimes we don't believe that. But it counts in many ways, and one of those ways is in our own spiritual life. What we do, in other words, not only has an effect (small or large) on the world around us, but also has an effect on the world inside us. To become informed about the issues of our day, the positions of all the candidates, and then to vote according to our conscience, constitutes a significant expression of who we are. Convictions that are expressed -- by voting, for example -- are convictions that are made stronger within us. The act of voting goes a long way toward answering the question of our conscience, "Have I played the role I could play, no matter how small, in my section of the stage of history? Have I, like the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish, or the widow with the mite, made my small contribution to the large and complex unfolding of the human story? Can I stand before the Lord and say, Yes, I spoke, I acted, I took part?"
In a 1999 document, Faithful Citizenship, the Administrative Committee of the US Bishops' Conference put it this way:
"The call to faithful citizenship raises a fundamental question. What does it mean to be a believer and a citizen...? As Catholics, we can celebrate the Great Jubilee by recommitting ourselves to carry the values of the Gospel and church teaching into the public square. As citizens, we can and must participate in the debates and choices over the values, vision, and leaders that will take our nation into the next century. This dual calling of faith and citizenship is at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic in the United States as we look with hope to the beginning of a new millennium."