Sunday, 13 November 2016
The elephant in the room
Does voting for any political party, voting in any referendum, indeed voting for anything actually build up the Kingdom of God. In other words is voting a human act whose outcome ever has merit? Because, if we are going to get all Catholic about this, and we ought to be getting all Catholic about this (if that is who we are), then the only merit there is, the only rewards of our acts that have any meaning at all are those which brick by brick build up the Kingdom of God.
Here are some possible tests of the intrinsic worthyness of our vote:
(1) It must be done to please God. We can vote, or not vote (which is still a type of voting) based on this consideration. Though in any day, most of our acts will be far more pleasing to God that this occasional act. God's unfathomable love for us probably doesn't register elections and voting as more meritorious or delightful than a gentle smile to a disaffected youth at the supermarket checkout, or remaining civil whilst speaking to persons in distant call centres.
(2) Voting must be disinterested. It must be done without a wiff of self-interest. It must be done in charity, thinking entirely about "the other"; ie thinking of God and neighbour. I'd say we can vote in this manner, but it is not easy.
(3) If our acts are to be meritorious then they must be morally good (as opposed to bad or indifferent). I personally think voting is morally indifferent. It is something that happens and it affects us all. You can be involved to a greater or lesser extent. It is part of the fabric of society, but the act of sticking a cross on a ballot paper is morally indifferent. That the choice of vote may cover some morally troubling issues, some gravely so, doesn't lessen this fact. Choosing the "lesser of two evils" is still choosing evil. We cannot do this. Therefore our participation in the voting procedure has to be amoral. Morality is not the be-all and end-all of everything. Charity "trumps" morality.
(4) A necessary outcome of any meritorious act in ourselves ought to be greater humility. It is only in our humility that we can serve God. So when "our party" wins, so when a referendum goes "our way", there ought to be no smugness, no dancing on the tables, no elation. We ought to act like the losers we are and see the faults in our arguments, see the goodness in the opposition (and there is some) and get on with getting the message of the Gospel out in whatever subversive manner we are called to do so.
Far more important than any media-hyped vote is to be a voice for God in the tragically secular world; standing up for His rights, His laws and our dignity as His creation. And what happens on election day is trivial compared to what we ought to be doing the rest of the time.