To heck with inhibitions over discussing religion or politics. You can’t have one without the other.
Recently, I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity through my church. A fellow parishioner and I got into an argument over Senator John Kerry’s tax proposals. While I agreed with Kerry’s taxation of the rich, he rebutted, “If I want a Mercedes I should be able to buy one. My tax dollars should not be spent on people who haven’t worked as hard as me.”
Even though I ignored his comment and said a prayer for him, the rest of my day was ruined. Not because he plans to vote for Bush, but because politics had ruined what should have been a spiritual act of community service.
There is no separation of church and state in our society.
According Newsday.com, Catholic Answers, a conservative lay group, proposes that Catholic voters consider their stance on five non-negotiable issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning and gay marriage.
To see what my political and moral ideology was on these issues, I took a test on votingcatholic.org, which compares your views with those of Bush, Kerry or the bishops. Turns out I don’t agree with any of them.
To see how the two candidates intended to win my vote, I did some research. It appears the Catholic Republicans, along with Republican Party Chairman, Ed Gillespie, have attempted to use this election to lock my vote by the obvious method: guilt me into it.
Bush has asked Catholic voters to consider moral issues and his stance is undeniably conservative, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion. If I choose Bush, I give up my personal freedoms in exchange for a ticket straight to heaven.
However, the Republicans are not as saintly as they seem. To really sway Catholic voters, they intend to hit them where it counts. What’s more effective than guilt? Money.
Bush’s Catholic Republicans have recruited field coordinators who get paid $2,500 a month to win the Catholic vote according to a recent article in The New York Times.
Perhaps pouring thousands of dollars into the Catholic vote is reassuring for the Republican conscience.
I find something unsettling about Republicans and bishops teaming up. I venture to say there is already too much corruption from both parties.
The next question is: Where does Kerry and the Democratic Party stand?
Kerry attempts to woo the undecided Catholics through what many bishops have called “Faithful Citizenship.” This entails asking Catholic voters to consider their conscience on those issues they consider non-negotiable such as poverty and war.
Not surprisingly, he is giving an ambivalent stance.
In the final presidential debate, when asked how he would handle criticism from Catholic archbishops, he quoted President John F. Kennedy, “I’m not running to be a Catholic president. I’m running to be a president who happens to be Catholic.”
His strategy is to appeal to liberal Catholics who, like him, can’t make up their minds. However, I bet it takes some strong direction to sway the portion of Catholic voters who are undecided, which according to Pew Research Poll is 27 percent.
Not only do Catholics have to consider what Bush and Kerry promote, we also have to consider the church’s stance on these non-negotiable issues.
A New York Times article quoted Rev. Andrew Kemberling who said, “We are not telling them how to vote. We are telling them how to take communion in good conscience.” I guess this means Kerry supporters will have to go to confession after they vote. I wonder how many Hail Marys it takes to cleanse a Democrat.
As always, with religion and politics the facts are a matter of perspective. I am fed up with questioning my religious upbringing and trying to make sense of our political system. Kerry has got my vote because, as Billy Joel says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”
Nicole D’Andrea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.