Who wins the election is important. But there's something far more important.
Religious people can fall into two different traps when it comes to politics.
The first: Many make the mistake of putting too many of their hopes in politics. This has been a problem since the dawn of Christianity, when two disciples walked away from Jerusalem disappointed by Christ's crucifixion and resurrection because, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
The sign of Christ's victory wasn't political power but crucifixion. How many are tempted to despair today when their candidate doesn't win an election? Christ doesn't need any politician to save the world. He's done that himself.
The second trap for religious people is being unconcerned about politics. No, Christ's Kingdom can't be reduced to the merely political. But the political can't be excluded from its interests, either.
History teaches this lesson whenever Christians fail to be concerned about politics. Could the Catholics of Rwanda — or those who ignored their pleas — have done more to stop the terrifying slaughter of hundreds of thousands there? How about the citizens of Germany in the crazy time leading up to World War II? What about the Christians in Russia during Stalin's murderous reign? All of these countries saw atrocities that were contrary to the morals of nearly all of their populace, but their citizens allowed them to occur by turning away from their responsibilities, in greater or lesser degrees.
America may not have state-sponsored atrocities to fear. But we need to be vigilant in the political realm always, not just when it's too late. Besides, we too have crucial issues at stake in the next election. Abortion kills more than a million unborn children a year. The institution of marriage is in jeopardy of being redefined in a way that will be disastrous for families.
Can Catholics fail to be concerned about a presidential election in which these two issues are the most important difference between the two candidates?
Starting on Aug. 31, Priests for Life organized a special novena of nine weeks of intense prayer ending on Election Day.
It isn't too late to join those who are already praying.
The intentions: that in this year's elections, our nation will embrace the moral values of a culture of life; that America will reclaim her founding principles of faith and dependence upon God in public life; that believers will reject apathy and take an active role in the elections by registering to vote and actually voting; that candidates will understand their responsibility to serve the people, to protect life and family, and to adhere to the law of God.
Here's the prayer to say:
A Prayer for our National Elections
O God, we acknowledge you today as Lord, not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.
We thank you for the privilege of being able to organize ourselves politically, and of knowing that political loyalty does not have to mean disloyalty to you. We thank you for your law, which our founding fathers acknowledged and recognized as higher than any human law. We thank you for the opportunity that this election year puts before us, to exercise our solemn duty not only to vote, but to influence countless others to vote, and to vote correctly.
Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened. Let them realize that, while politics is not their salvation, their response to you requires that they be politically active.
Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world but rather a community of faith renewing the world. Remind them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth; that the same eyes that read your Word are the eyes that read the names on the ballot and that they do not cease to be Christians when they enter the voting booth. Awaken your people to a commitment to justice, to the sanctity of marriage and the family, to the dignity of each individual human life, and to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin, and not one moment later.
Lord, we rejoice today that we are citizens of your Kingdom. May that make us all the more committed to being faithful citizens on earth. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- October 3-9, 2004