I will always remember my family’s Catholic traditions growing up.
My mom dressed me every Christmas morning in an extravagant dress and long tights, as if I were a doll, insisting I look presentable before we went to mass.
As a kid, I’d wonder why I would have to change out of my pajamas and sit for an hour in the church pews on Christmas Day. I just wanted to play with my new toys under the tree like the other kids my age.
While I matured, and Christmas became less about toys and more about being with family, I still never really gave much thought to religion, politics or how the two intersected until it came time for me to vote.
After turning 18, I began to consider political candidates and issues I wanted to support, and while doing some research online, I quickly learned a stereotype about Christians, and particularly Catholics: we had to be Republicans because we favor conservative ideals.
The signs were everywhere. I saw my Catholic peers proudly waving Donald Trump flags. I read articles online telling me I couldn’t be a Democrat because I was Catholic.
Tradition is important in the Catholic Church, so the “family values” the Republican party promotes are popular among members of our faith, I learned.
Being an impressionable teen, I assumed this stereotype was true and that I had to choose between my liberal values and my faith.
But my family shattered my assumption when I learned the majority of them were registered as Democrats. When I asked my parents who they were voting for in the 2016 election, they responded confidently with “Hillary Clinton.”
My parents said their morals aligned closer with Clinton’s than Trump’s, as they have consistently supported the pro-choice and feminist movements. My family’s conviction and the political conversations I had with them inspired me to break the stereotype and follow in their footsteps by registering as a Democrat.
Catholicism does not directly teach Republican values, but it is oftentimes misconstrued to amplify conservative stances. Pope Francis, one of the most polarizing public figures in the Catholic church, has been criticized by Catholics and conservatives alike for his more open-minded ideology and interpretations of scripture.
However, my parents did not let their religion alter their political beliefs, nor did they fit the stereotype that all Catholics are conservative.
My family corroborated my belief that faith should not be weaponized for political agendas. Many Catholics I know have misconceptions about what the Democratic Party stands for because they don’t listen to opposing views. If they did, they would find that the so-called “liberal” ideals of the Democratic party are very similar to what Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament.
For example, the Republican Party is typically opposed to abortion, while the Democratic Party generally supports the right to choose and bodily autonomy. As Matthew 22:39 tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, I see religious protestors outside Planned Parenthood, yelling hateful slurs at the patients.
Being a Democrat has taught me to be accepting of everyone without regard to race, sexuality or ethnicity. This is a belief Catholics are supposed to hold as well, as Hebrews 12:14 says to make every effort to live in peace with everyone.
This verse can also be applied to the United States’ for-profit healthcare system. The Bible has shown me to care for the well-being of others. Despite thousands of Americans losing their lives to COVID-19 or being uninsured and unable to afford treatment, Republicans continue to argue against the Affordable Care Act.
This exemplifies the hypocrisy of some Catholics who identify as Republican.
Being coerced into going to church those chilly December mornings didn’t persuade me to be religious. But it inadvertently made me question how some Catholics could listen to a priest preach about being a good neighbor on Sunday and turn a blind eye by supporting oppressive, conservative policies on Monday.
I know what I believe. I support the LGBTQ community and the Black Lives Matter movement. I advocate for immigrants and refugees. If there is one thing I learned from sitting in the pews and listening to the priest’s sermons as a child, it is to love all people.
I will be following my heart, not a stereotype.