Political Involvement and Discipleship

(Fourteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year C)

Before beginning my homily I would like to thank you for your generosity to the Peter's Pence Collection. At our Masses last weekend $2731 was given. That's almost a thousand dollars more than the previous year. I take it as an indication of your support for the Holy Father, his apostolic ministry and his works of charity. This week Archbishop Brunett had a lovely sign of our unity with the pope in the pallium he brought back from Rome. He wore that circular woolen band over his shoulders Friday when he celebrated the anniversary Mass for Archbishop Murphy.

This Fourth of July weekend I would like to talk to you not about Rome, but the United States. This is a good opportunity to say something about our involvement as Christians in politics. I realize that religion and politics are two subjects which evoke strong emotions and that to bring them together is particularly risky. Still I am convinced this is important because political involvement is part of our Christian discipleship. It is one way we witness to our faith in Jesus. It is certainly not the only way--or even the most important way--but it is one way.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel he is sending us out like sheep among wolves. There is always a danger that as Christians we can be manipulated politically. For example some politicians have tried to use the pro-life movement to advance their own goals and when push comes to shove they show little concern for lives of the unborn or the elderly. But just because there are wolves out there Jesus does not say, "Stay home." No, he sends us out. If we are citizens, this means to register and vote. It could mean attending caucuses and getting involved in a precint or a political party. It may include other activities as many of you did in gathering signature for the minimum wage and partial birth abortion initiatives. And even if you are not a citizen, you still have a voice. According to the U.S. constitution representatives are apportioned according to total population, citizens and non-citizens, documented and undocumented. Every person here has a right to make their voice heard.

By political involvement we can witness to our Christian values and we can help create a society more supportive of them. Let me give a couple example. For us one of the most important values is marriage and family. But we live in a society that in some ways has become hostile to marriage. I talked to a guy who got married last year. Because of that he and his wife had to pay about $5,000 more in taxes than they did when they were both single. This is sometimes called the "marriage tax." It is one more encouragement for couples to simply "live together."

"Living together" has been shown to be so disastrous. Studies have shown what a failure it generally is. Only 40% of all couples who set up housekeeping ever get married. And of those who do the divorce rate is much higher that those who wait till they get married. Not only that but living together before marriage erodes confidence and overall marital satisfaction. One of the main reasons for this is birth control which almost inevitably is part of living together. Now, I am not putting the whole blame or even major part of the blame on our tax laws, but they do have an impact on how young people approach marriage. One thing that we want to change is the "marriage tax." In this as in all political issues we recognize it is complex matter. Jesus words about being as "wise as serpents, but innocent as doves" apply especially when we dive into political questions.

I'd like to give a second example where political involvement may be called for. It is also in relation to marriage. In this case not something that we want to change, but to prevent: the push for same-sex marriages. Now I want to be clear that I have no desire to persecute anyone for their "lifestyle." Like most of you I am a "live and let live" person. All of us have enough problems of our own without judging anyone else's life. At the same time we resist using the political process to change the definition of marriage. Marriage is something sacred and even those of us who are celibate or single have a duty to employ our greater freedom to support marriage and families.

When it comes to the push for same sex marriages I would make this analogy. Suppose I have a stand down in Pike Place Market where I sell fresh dungeness crab. I have a decent business, but most important I have pride in my product. Then one day a guy puts up a stand next to mine where he sells artificial crab meat. I say fine, people can take their pick. But one day he puts up a sign that instead of saying artificial crab meat, it says simply crab meat. I grit my teeth, but I don't do anything because I'm sure people will recognize the difference. Finally the guy goes to the city council and asks for an ordinance declaring that artificial crab meat is the same as the real thing. Now that is when I am going to fight. Do you see what I am saying here? We cannot accept a law which changes the definition of something so basic. And I'm not talking about crab meat. I am talking marriage. Marriage was given to us in the beginning when God create us male and female. In the wedding ceremony we say that marriage was "the one blessing not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood." For us Christian marriage is a sacrament, a sign of the love between Jesus and his bride the Church. It's definition as the union of husband and wife is worth fighting for, not with rocks or guns, but by involvement in the political process.

Now I've mentioned some things about our society which are somewhat negative. I would also like to recognize some positive aspects of our country. In the first reading the prophet Isaiah has that beautiful vision of Jerusalem where prosperity would spread over her like a river. Perhaps more than any other country in history we have realized that vision. To people in other nations we still look like a city seated on a hill, almost like a garden of Eden. When I was in Peru they did a survey of young people asking them what there greatest dream would be. They mentioned the normal things, to get a university education, to have their own business and so on. But the number one dream was to come to America.

Those of us who were born here can sometimes take our blessings for granted and even start complaining about the things we don't have. But one of the advantages of belonging to a parish with so many immigrant families is that we constantly see the sacrifices people made just to come to this country. I know there is a lot inequality and injustice in our society here, but I can assure you of this: Of the parish that I pastored in Peru, 95% of the families would change places tomorrow with the poorest family here in White Center. Even with our present too-low minimum wage, they would earn much more than they do now as a teacher or medical professional in Peru.

This does not mean that we can rest on our laurels. I like the words to "America the Beautiful." America, America, God mend thine every flaw. And we have a lot of them. One of the worst is the way we are trying to shut the doors on people who want to come. God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control. Not greed, but self-control. Thy liberty in law. One of the ways we assure freedom under the rule of law is by our participation in the political processes. It is an important way that Jesus sends us and we give witness to him.


From Archives (14th Sunday, Year C):

2007: Stepping Out
2004: The Wealth of Nations
2001: What We Need
1998: Political Involvement and Discipleship

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