It’s said that one who sets the agenda has already begun to influence the result. That’s one reason why it’s so important that we as Christians influence the agenda in matters affecting the good of society. Secularist forces–especially a large segment of the media–are well aware of this principle and try to keep Christians out of the public square. When this doesn’t work, they at least try to skew the discussion.
For example, pro-lifers are perhaps the only group that is not identified in the media by its preferred name. The general media policy to let every group call itself whatever it wants (e.g., gays, Native Americans, African-Americans) is suspended for pro-life activists. Imagine the furor if newspapers and networks started to refer to Planned Parenthood as “anti-life,” or even “pro-abortion.”
Despite this sort of unfavorable treatment, we must continually look for ways to build communion rather than close ranks. We consciously choose to see those who disagree with us as potential allies, indeed brothers and sisters, not as enemies. We rightly work to develop coalitions and friendships whenever possible, building upon points of agreement and common interest. This approach creates an atmosphere conducive to truth, justice, and love.
As Christians, it is imperative that we build communion within the Church (cf. Jn. 17:20-23). But we also need to build communion within society. This is not merely a matter of political expediency, but our duty as citizens to cooperate with all people of good will in promoting the common good. We do not compromise our Christian beliefs or fundamental principles, but our approach, particularly in light of Vatican II, is one of prudent engagement, not retreat.
I think reducing our participation in social interchange to voting once every couple years–important as voting is–makes about as much sense as reducing our Christian life to our Sunday obligation or our role as parents to the decision as to where to send our children for their college education. Rather, our role as citizens–like our roles as Christians and parents–requires an ongoing, proactive commitment.
The Church teaches that our primary means of social participation is taking personal responsibility for matters within our own direct sphere of influence, such as family concerns and one’s work. In addition, as far as possible, we are called to take an active part in public life, in a spirit of generosity, solidarity, and solicitude for the poor and marginalized, especially the unborn.
The Church calls all the faithful to let their light shine through their participation in public life (cf. Mt. 5:16). The Lord challenges us to reveal in our own lives of virtue how obedience to lawful authority–both secular and ecclesial–can be reconciled with true freedom and, especially when authority oversteps its limits, legitimate expression and defense of individual rights. With God’s grace, we are able to discern the path of charity–”the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse” (Catechism, no. 1889).
Every vote matters because every person matters. This fact alone should give us plenty to think about this election season.