Is there something that religion and politics have in common that make them both such sensitive topics? Perhaps the common element is that in both arenas, we express something very specific about who we are. Our identity at its deepest level is revealed.
When we pray, we say as much about ourselves as we say about God. And when we vote, we say as much about ourselves as we do about the candidate for whom we are voting. We say a lot about ourselves if we belong to a political party. We say even more about ourselves if, for years and years, we vote along the same party lines, even though we might be hard-pressed to say anything about the man or woman we are electing.
What do our voting patterns reveal about us? Our loyalties.
Presuming that we are paying some attention to where our political party's positions are on such fundamental moral questions as abortion, gay rights, homosexual marriages, and assisted suicide, a fair question to ask ourselves is, "Is there a position that my party can take that would prevent me from voting the party line?" Framed in another way, the question is, "Is my loyalty to the Christian faith stronger than my loyalty to any political party?"
In 1998, the United States bishops issued a strong document on our political responsibility called Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics. They write, "We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue -- or lack thereof -- is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest" (n.34).
This document of the bishops is not so much about politics as it is about us. We are citizens of a great nation, but we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first. We are free to belong to the political party of our choice, but first we belong to Jesus Christ. And belonging to Him means that there are certain things we can no longer assent to or go along with, including in politics and the voting booth.
The bishops, in the same document, make an urgent call, which is especially noteworthy as we approach election day: "In a special way, we call on U.S. Catholics, especially those in positions of leadership -- whether cultural, economic or political -- to recover their identity as followers of Jesus Christ and to be leaders in the renewal of American respect for the sanctity of life."
This November 7, we Americans have the duty to go to the polls and vote. We have the opportunity, moreover, to elect public officials who will work for policies that reflect Christian teaching on life, marriage and family. Don't be in the dark about where the parties and candidates stand. And don't vote blindly. Vote as an informed Christian.