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.


Victor S E Moubarak said...

I am confused. Honestly, I am.

You say: "Choosing the "lesser of two evils" is still choosing evil. We cannot do this."

None of us is perfect; and in elections it is often the case that all candidates' policies are not perfect in the Christian sense. There will be some policies which, to a greater or lesser degree, are "evil" or morally non-Christian. What do we do then? Not vote at all?

Thank you for a thought-provoking article.

God bless.

Rita said...

Hello Victor,
Thank you for your comment. What I am trying to say is that (as I see it) we can't approach voting in a moral way. The choice will always be between options that are to a greater or lesser extent morally bad. If we approach voting morally, we'd never vote. We have to consider voting as morally indifferent. The political state exists, with or without our participation in it, so to that extent in can be called "perfect", as it can not be "perfected" or enhanced by any individual act. We are called upon to vote at certain times like we are called upon to have vaccinations or pay road tax, these are morally indifferent acts, they have to be complied with. But at least with voting we still have a choice as to our level of compliance. (I dread the imposition of compulsory voting.)

So, our choice is one as to the degree of participation we wish to have within the political state we find ourselves in. It can never be morally good and nor will voting ever build the Kingdom of God.

I'd add that writing to your MP to get the Christian message across, getting involved with local issues and helping empower the local community are all are all far more worthy political acts than voting. These are acts with a moral worth (because they are entirely voluntary) and meritorious when done with a sincere heart.

Joe said...


re your point (3): Is the choice of who to vote for (or not vote for) an essentially prudential judgement rather than a choice defined by a definitive moral approbation?

.... and a prudential judgement made in the light of your point (2)?

That a "politics in favour of the other" (rather than of self interest or party interest) is possible can be seen in Focolare's Movement for Unity in Politics:

Perhaps we need to learn to exercise our vote in this manner ...