Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 US Elections: Has God Spoken?

Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire, and to know what he ought to do. -St. Thomas Aquinas

A parishioner told me yesterday that a former parishioner, an ardent supporter of Mr. Obama, had posted on Face Book that “God had spoken” in the re-election of the president. It is only hearsay but I can well imagine that, if Mr. Romney had been elected, many of his supporters would have said the same thing. Either way it is utter folly to imagine that the Divine Will is spoken when things go the way we want them to. I will not launch into an extended discussion of permissive will, God’s express will, His good pleasure and all that. The question is not can we know what God wants to happen in human affairs but will it make any difference to us?

It is a strange irony that Democrats, who often criticize Republicans for their selfishness, in fact this year insisted that Latinos, African-Americans and Women should vote only out of consideration for their self-interest. The truth is that both sides of the political divide have always and always will appeal to what they perceive as the self-interests of the electorate. That is how to get elected. Morality has never been high on the political agenda, although politicians will always claim the moral high ground.

What was absent from the 2012 Election was any serious discussion of the moral issues and the real loser was public moral discourse. “It is the economy, stupid” not right and wrong. Indeed if you ask moral questions, you are an extremist, outside the mainstream. Closely trailing in the polls after morality was truth. The epistemology of American politics is subjectivist, skeptical and cynical. There is no such thing as truth; there is only political advantage. Nothing particularly new here.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

The story is told about Fr. Darwin Kirby lighting up a big cigar once while dining with Fr. Barry Swain, who objected “I can’t stand smoking.” Fr. Kirby replied, “So, don’t smoke.” The morality of abortion has become like that: “you don’t like abortion so don’t get one.”

The fact that there are many Christians, apparently many Catholic Christians, who say “I am opposed to abortion but I stand by a woman’s right to choose” is ironic since the same folks say that there is no right for Catholic hospitals, universities, schools to choose not to fund abortion and birth control.  It is an irony which points to the impossibility of public moral discourse. It even undermines the intelligibility of the concept of rights. In the end it comes down not to right and wrong but simple political advantage, what my guys want as opposed to what the other guys want.

The only answer that the world can give us is get your guy elected the next time. But the answer that Jesus gives us is “I am the way, the truth and the light.” Christians can expect to continue to be marginalized, persecuted, excluded and discounted. Although we can be sure that is not what God wants, it may well be something He permits for the good of all. Wandering in the wilderness, Captivity in Babylon, Crucifixion outside the walls of the city will work His will among us and only serve to make our witness stronger and more certain. On that surely God has spoken.

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