Scripture today is rather harsh. Jesus talks about an evil generation that will be judged on our actions, a caveat that rings all the more true in a society where we are so quick to condemn, vilify, and denigrate others. St. Paul begs us not to return to the slavery from which we were freed, even as we continually struggle against the chains of intolerance, self-aggrandizement, mistrust, hate, and prejudice. Jesus tells us there is something greater than Solomon, something greater than Jonah, issues on which our generation will stand or fall, and we will have to answer for them.
This prompts probing reflections in my heart as we approach the election. Our faith and our church do not tell us who to vote for, but they do tell us what to vote for. I consider things such as:
Our Church, especially this year, proclaims mercy. Our Pope emphasizes caring for the disenfranchised, poor, and marginalized. Those who are wealthy are called to use that wealth as the gift it is, to serve others and lift up those who have so much less. We are to share in the bounty we have been given, especially recognizing the great extent to which any accumulation of wealth is due to circumstances of birth and family that too many others in this world do not have.
A basic Catholic principle is the common good of all God’s people. We are called to reach out, compromise, and work diligently with others in order to achieve the best results possible for all. This requires going beyond focused self-interest to a recognition that we are all brothers and sisters, increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent. Isolationism is not an option for followers of Christ.
Jesus lifted up the rights and dignity of each person, and our Church declares that such rights and dignity are independent of country of birth, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other factor. Every person is a child of God, every person has worth, and we need to uphold the highest ethical standards even when others violate them. This principle needs to operate globally, as we respect, honor, and work with those of other cultures, countries, and faiths. It also needs to operate locally, in interactions between members of communities and police, between immigrants and natural-born citizens, and between those wearing a cross and those wearing a hijab.
Our Church and our Pope challenge us to care for our earth and its environment. This, too, is a tremendous gift to be nurtured, yet human actions are contributing to the disappearance of coral reefs and entire species of animals, the pollution of air, water, and food, the mistreatment of animals, and a host of other damaging effects. God created all things, then wisely or unwisely put humans in charge of caring for creation. We can and must do a better job, even if it is inconvenient to businesses or expensive to clean up.
It seems to me that in this election we have stark choices. Both candidates are flawed. But in light of scriptures and our Church, I look at questions such as: Who is more likely to capably lead a country built on integrity and justice? Who will work for the common good of all? With whom can we trust our men and women in the service, and the negotiation of peace? Who can improve our standing and our leadership in the world? Who has the proven skills, experience, and mettle to tackle the toughest issues facing our country today?
Perhaps your questions are different than mine. Regardless, we all must take our choices in this election most seriously, setting aside emotional reactions and, as objectively as possible, considering the qualifications and the eventual implications on the national and world stage of each candidate. Stand before Jesus, pray, look at the consequences of your decision, and choose wisely. Our country depends on it, and our generation will indeed be judged by our actions.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.