What IS A Catholic’s “Job” When It Comes to Voting, Anyway?

Image Shutterstock

Image Shutterstock

This is not a political blog, nor is it about to become one, but I have seen so many comments lately about what Catholics “must” do in this next election and it seems to me that every single one of these posts is missing an obvious point.

Once Upon A Time…

I once had a conversation with a prominent bishop in which I expressed my frustration that he and his brother bishops were not more strenuously and publicly opposing Catholic politicians who proclaimed themselves to be “good Catholics” while advocating positions that were virulently contrary to the gospel.

He explained to me, in a tone one usually reserves for a small child, that any time the bishops did this, the public reacted poorly to church leaders “meddling” in politics and their comments ended up getting the person elected.

I responded, “That may be. But I thought it was our job to proclaim the gospel, not win elections.  People can certainly reject the gospel if they want to. We have no control over that.  But they shouldn’t be allowed to say that the Church never proclaimed it in the first place.”

Needless to say, my comment was not well-received.

The Same Story

Be that as it may, I still don’t think Jesus came, suffered, died, and rose again so that we could win elections.  It is not our job to hold our collective nose and vote for the candidate who  is most likely to win no matter how execrable his or her policies or personalities are.  It is not our concern to worry about “throwing away our vote” because we cast a ballot for some obscure candidate who actually does hold verifiably socially just and life-affirming views but has absolutely no chance of winning.  It IS our job to preach the gospel with our vote.  To proclaim Jesus Christ to the world in the way we engage the political process every step of the way.

All Catholics are certainly free to vote as their well-formed consciences dictate.  But let me respectfully propose that if you are casting a vote for any other reason than that “this is the best and loudest way possible I can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a hurting world” then you may be a Democrat, or you may be a Republican, but you are not a Christian.

People might be inclined, as the bishop I began this article with, to think of this view as naive, pie-in-the-sky, too idealistic, or not reflective of reality.  To those who would argue this I can only say that, to my way of thinking, there is nothing more real that the cross.  Nothing more pie-in-the-sky than the hope of Heaven.  Nothing more idealistic than proclaiming the gospel in a world that is, literally, hell-bent on rejecting it.  If my desire to not simply win elections, but actually proclaim Christ with my vote makes me naive, I guess I can live with that.


In this election cycle, especially, when every popular candidate is more foolish than the other, I would suggest that the question is not “how can Christians avoid looking like fools?”  Rather, it seems to me that the real question is,” who will Christians be fools for?”

To my mind, it is better a fool for Christ than a fool for the latest, two-faced demagogue who promises salvation with one hand while stealing it with the other.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled blogging….


Parenting Style Most Significant Factor Predicting Support for Trump, New Study Finds

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Readers of Parenting with Grace, in which I discuss this very issue (not as it relates to Trump, but to other historic, cultural and political trends) will not be surprised by this latest study from the Univ of Massachusetts which found that what draws voters to Trump is not church affiliation, political leanings, socio-economic status, or educational level–but the parenting style in which you were raised.

Sound crazy?  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  In fact,  are 60 years of research backing up the connection between parenting styles and voting patterns.  Here is the latest contribution to that body of literature as reported in the Washington Post.

One of the reasons that Donald Trump has flummoxed pollsters and political analysts is that his supporters seem to have nothing in common. He appeals to evangelical and secular voters, conservative and moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats. Many of his supporters are white and don’t have a college degree, but he also does well with some highly educated voters, too.

What’s bringing all these different people together, new research shows, is a shared type of personality — a personality that in many ways has nothing to do with politics. Indeed, it turns out that your views on raising children better predict whether you support Trump than just about anything else about you.

Matthew MacWilliams, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted a poll in which Republicans were asked four questions about child-rearing. With each question, respondents were asked which of two traits were more important in children:

  • independence or respect for their elders;
  • curiosity or good manners;
  • self-reliance or obedience;
  • being considerate or being well-behaved.

Psychologists use these questions to identify people who are disposed to favor hierarchy, loyalty and strong leadership — those who picked the second trait in each set — what experts call “authoritarianism.” That many of Trump’s supporters share this trait helps explain the success of his unconventional candidacy and suggests that his rivals will have a hard time winning over his adherents.

When it comes to politics, authoritarians tend to prefer clarity and unity to ambiguity and difference. They’re amenable to restricting the rights of foreigners, members of a political party in the minority and anyone whose culture or lifestyle deviates from their own community’s.

“For authoritarians, things are black and white,” MacWilliams said. “Authoritarians obey.”

…MacWilliams found that the likelihood that participants in his poll supported Trump had little to do with how conservative they were — no surprise, as Trump’s positions on many issues are relatively moderate. Trump also appealed more or less equally to the likely Republican primary voters in MacWilliams’s sample regardless of their age or sex, income and level of education. Regular churchgoers and evangelicals were no more or less likely to support Trump, either.

Those with authoritarian views on raising children were, however. READ MORE