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Election Day call: get off the sidelines

The sprint to Election Day is upon us.

In less than seven weeks, Election Day (Nov. 3) will, once again, determine the political fates of numerous candidates and issues, at least until the next election.

Since 1789, the United States has held 58 presidential elections. Each and every one of these elections has been important and critical in its own right. Our nation has constantly faced existential questions and threats that have been the focus of candidates seeking to fill the Oval Office: who will we be, as a nation, and how will we survive? One only need to think of civil war, world wars, economic depressions and recessions, to grasp the gravity of these existential questions and threats.

Today, our country faces a pandemic that seems endless, civil unrest, attacks on human life especially those of the preborn, assaults on religious liberty, a broken immigration system, threats to the environment, injustices in our criminal justice system, and so on and so forth.

The existential questions remain with us today: Who will we be, as a nation, and how will we survive?

Underlying these questions, threats, and issues our country currently faces is the polemical and often toxic discourse that permeates our political conversations, if they can be called that. Our country seems more and more divided by the day—a classic “us vs. them” mentality runs deep through the heart of our nation.

During such times it is all to easy to become politically fatalistic, to simply give up on the sphere of politics. Sometimes we do this in favor of more noble endeavors, such as caring for family, friends, and our local community. Other times we do this in a spirit of “throwing our hands up” and “throwing in the towel.”

All of this can easily raise questions in our heart: Why should I vote? Why even get involved in the train wreck that is politics? Especially, as a Catholic, why get involved when it seems like few too many political candidates and political parties fully understand and care about the moral and biblical principles that guide Catholic social teaching?

The simple answer, of course: Jesus Christ. He is the reason why.

We must constantly consider the person of Jesus Christ, God Who descended upon us and took on the form of man. The God who saw the state of humanity, fallen, yet did not allow us to succumb to this fate. Instead, He entered into our lowly state, our sinfulness, and redeemed it.

It is this Christ Who calls us to act in a similar manner.

He calls us to bring about His Gospel of Love and Life to the nation. He invites us to reveal the redeeming sign of the Cross, the very cross upon which He, the Pierced One, hung.

This is the same Christ Who also said: “Render unto Caesar.” He did not call us to shirk political responsibility, to push it aside, to give up on it, even when it seems rotten at its core.

This model of Christ is at the core of our political responsibility. We are called to shape the moral character of our nation, to imbue it with Gospel values so that Christ may truly reign as King in the hearts of men and women.

This is why we cannot sit on the sidelines.

Anybody who has even somewhat regularly read my columns knows that the following is one of my favorite papal passages pertaining to politics: “An authentic faith... to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, it hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 183).

As we sprint toward Election Day, let these words sink deep in your heart, if you even have had the slightest doubt about voting and being engaged. As well, use these coming weeks to be an evangelist for political responsibility and faithful citizenship, as it is a critical component of our call to discipleship—be salt and light to the world!

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