I read several things the other night that really made me wonder: what are we aiming for?
One was a submission to a weekly digest of Catholic blog posts. In it, the author bemoaned the difficulites of standing up to the parish hierarchy when they “drew a line in the sand” over… something. Apparently, she didn’t want to say what the issue was, although one could guess from some of what she said that the hard line was over abortion. As in, her parish had the audacity to say, “You can not be pro-abortion nor vote for a politician who is and be a Catholic in good standing” and she complained to the pastor.
The second item was one of the comments to the above-mentioned blog post. “Oh, it’s so good to see another moderate Catholic out here! Most bloggers are such hardliners!” Um, that’s sort of the nature of blogging; nobody gets excited enough to blog about mush. My knitting friend can rhapsodize at length about yarn dye lots, needle sizes, and knitting patterns. She didn’t start a blog to say, “Well, I knit once in a while, and it’s kinda ok, so here’s my knitting blog…”
Finally, item #3, actually a collection of items, was several articles, both in the paper and online, asking is the Republican party dead? Should it re-imagine itself (i.e. move left)?
To blogger of item #1: While I appreciate the difficulty of going against your parish hierarchy, I’m going to have to say she was in the wrong on this one. Why do we consider it a virtue for our Church to be vague in what it believes? If, as this blogger stated, she started as a “cafeteria Catholic”, but moved into a “fuller faith”, then why wouldn’t she want the Church saying what that “fuller faith” is? Continual vagueness will not lead anyone out of a wet paper bag. Eventually, you’re going to have to say where you’re going!
And, to quote one of John Adams’ lines from 1776 (it’s a musical; really good, trust me. You’ll never look at history as boring again.), “It’s a revolution, dammit, we’re going to have to offend somebody!”
To commenter of item #2: What the heck is “moderate” Catholicism? Is that the kind that doesn’t really challenge anyone to change their life to conform to Christ? Sort of a feel-good, no dogma, I’m-ok-you’re-ok thing? We can disagree on what music we prefer in mass, what type of church architecture we find most welcoming and/or inspiring, whether we prefer to volunteer at the soup kitchen or the crisis pregnancy center… but what the commenter seems to be looking for is “niceness” defined as no hard-and-fast rules to be annoyed by. Sorry to inform you, but that isn’t Catholicism. Try Barney the purple dinosaur; he’s very nice and non-dogmatic. Not very inspiring, though.
To the various pundits suggesting #3: What are we aiming for?
Are we just aiming for the middle of the population? Does that mean the middle of what people practice or the middle of what they think the goal should be? (For example, many women who have had an abortion have come forward to actively campaign against it remaining legal. What they did and what they advocate are not the same thing.) Are we aiming for the middle of the political spectrum? By average or by mean? Are we aiming for mere politeness? Sort of a “let’s all be gray together so nobody is offended by black and white dogmas” tack?
I don’t know about you, but I am aiming for Truth.
Be what you are, be clear about it, be enthusiastic about it, and people will be inspired, whether your candidate is a mesmerizing young speech-giver or not. Losing an election by 6% does not mean that conservatism is dead; it means that a significant percentage of the country, in spite of the swooning media adulation, the flood of money, and the draw of electing an “historic” president… still voted for the boring geezer who talked about policy, personal responsibility, and ideals with practical consequences instead of “hope” and picked a conservative, decisively pro-life running mate.
Truth is neither left nor right. In religion, I like some Latin, but really dislike the all-Latin masses I have been to. I enjoy both guitars done well and pipe organs done well (but, unfortunately, our parish is usually subjected to one or the other done poorly, which can be equally obnoxious, but in entirely different directions). I think immigrants should be welcomed (and the USCIS desperately needs to be overhauled), but they should also be expected to respect the sovreignty and laws of the country they are trying to immigrate to. I think abortion should be illegal, sex outside of marriage should be strongly discouraged, and that moms in unplanned pregnancies should be embraced and helped. I do not find these positions contradictory, although some would be categorized as “liberal/left” and some as “conservative/right”.
Please note, that I said “aiming for Truth;” in this life, we are all only imperfectly on our way there. Even the saints are quite aware of the faults they have remaining, tiny though those faults may look to us, slogging through our long daily lists of “usual” sins and failings.
I submit, however, that aiming for Truth and falling short is vastly better than aiming at the mushy middle and successfully sinking into it up to our ears.
As Catholics, we belong to a Church which is continually holding up the example of the saints. (Other denominations do it, too, the process just isn’t as formal.) We are all supposed to be aiming for that level of perfection: to follow Christ whole-heartedly in everything we do, in such a radical way and with such great love for God that it shines as an example before others, not to our glory, but to His. Saints are not mushy people of indistinct convictions. They are both loving and dogmatic.
If you love someone, don’t you want them to find the Truth? To do that, wouldn’t it help to give clear directions?
While political parties and individual politicians have their failings (as do we all), they should be judged against Truth, not left/right, liberal/conservative, and especially not “is he/she moderate enough?” I would rather have people and churches solid in their convictions and ready to defend and explain those convictions with respect and candor than “nice”, waffly, “moderates” aiming for a can’t-we-all-just-get-along false consensus built on ignoring reality and our real differences of opinion to acheive a lack of conflict.
We should be aiming for Truth, not false peace.