By Frank Wessling
These are dangerous days. The political campaigns of this year still have almost three weeks to go before election day, Nov. 6. The presidential campaign especially will become more intense, demanding attention through all media, television most of all. It threatens our spiritual health.
Does our faith ask that we seek truth? Of course it does. When we hear those words, “I’m Barack Obama/Mitt Romney and I approve this message,” we know the truth is in danger.
Does our faith ask that we build trust? Indeed, that is the glue of relationships. The candidates try to build themselves up on a platform of distrust: Don’t trust that man because he isn’t like you, doesn’t care about you, won’t listen to you.
Does our faith ask that we seek peace and be peaceful ourselves? Yes. But election campaigns are conducted like war. They invite an attitude of all-out aggression against another person, with a goal of unconditional surrender.
Does our faith ask that we be compassionate? In other words, should we practice listening in a way that honestly tries to hear what the other person is saying and feeling so we can share life more fully? Our faith does ask us to bend that way, to “empty” ourselves in the manner of Christ. Political campaigns ask precisely the opposite: that we close our ears; keep our hearts and brains limited.
Does our faith ask that we love one another, with special attention to the least attractive and hardest to love? Without love we are without God, according to the First Letter of John: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). When politics is carried out like war, love becomes the greatest casualty. God is put aside, and thus easily forgotten.
Think about it this way: Is my political attitude, my political heart, worthy to have Christ “enter under my roof?” Should we be in a Communion procession if we carry with us contempt for another person?
As dangerous as politics might be to spiritual life, we still need to be involved. The practical business of deciding how we will live together requires that good people bring their best energy to it.
We need to be firm in respecting truth even while raising up reasons for our emphasis on this part of the truth rather than that part.
We need to be firm in treating everyone with respect even while arguing that our vision has greater value in a particular way. We may find it hard to understand some people but we need an honest effort to try.
We need to be steady in seeing our political attitudes and involvement as part of a shared journey, something we do with other people, not against them. This isn’t easy, certainly, but it must be done by people of faith. The invitation to communion that comes to us from Christ in every Mass is not suspended for political campaigns.