It’s the height of midterm election campaigns right now, and the only thing I am amused by is the shear number of political flyers I am receiving on a daily basis. Despite almost never watching TV (expect at work in the breakroom), I’ve been surprised at how many ads I’ve been seeing, including one at the gas station pump! Normally, I can let it all roll off my back, but one particular mail flyer grinded my gears:
The Faith and Freedom Coalition sent me a Voter’s Guide for my governor and senate candidates. Now, I did not know much about the organization until I checked out their webpage. It is quite easily to tell that they are aligned with Republican values, if it were not already apparent from their mailing.
But what frustrated me about this flyer is all the issues they did not address, such as living conditions for refuges and immigrants, education reform, a living wage, racial discrimination in prisons, etc. These are pro-life issues as well, and I am so frustrated that Republican candidates boil pro-life issues down to abortion. Yes, abortion is a huge issue, but life does not stop in the womb: it begins.
The Catholic Church teaches that Christians ought to follow a “consistent ethic of life.” Cardinal Bernardin in 1984 proposed a “seamless garment” life ethic named after the vestment that could not be broken at the Crucifixion. The idea is not perfect and has been convoluted by many (more information here and here). However, it makes inherent sense that life issues are complex and interwoven.
“A consistent ethic does not say everyone in the Church must do all things, but it does say that as individuals and groups pursue one issue, whether it is opposing abortion or capital punishment, the way we oppose one threat should be related to support for a systemic vision of life. It is not necessary or possible for every person to engage in each issue, but it is both possible and necessary for the Church as a whole to cultivate a conscious explicit connection among the several issues. And it is very necessary for preserving a systemic vision that individuals and groups who seek to witness to life at one point of the spectrum of life not be seen as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life. Consistency does rule out contradictory moral positions about the unique value of human life. No one is called to do everything, but each of us can do something. And we can strive not to stand against each other when the protection and the promotion of life are at stake.”
This is why when I receive a mailing that looks only at abortion, child tax credits, tax cuts, defunding Planned Parenthood, ending Obamacare, and the border wall, I get feisty.
Obamacare is not perfect, and I will be the first to say it. But it did offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions who were going bankrupt over medical costs. It tried to address growing gaps in health care and improve the quality of care for patients. I do not think it is perfect, but I also fear it being dismantled and making health care worse.
Planned Parenthood is not my favorite organization, to say it nicely. I have very strong moral opposition to some of the care they provide (aka abortions), and I roll my eyes every time we get a transfer from them because the care seems sloppy at best. As one of my physicians said, “Do they even know how to take care of pregnant women there?” But I also know of people who received care there not related to abortion when they could not get care anywhere else. And I also know of even worse health care facilities in my area who are blatantly negligent who are not being defunded.
I cannot even type about the border wall without getting mad. I think people think the border wall is this be all end all thing when really, it’s quite imperfect. My views on immigration are quite clear here and here. I even wrote to my senators (Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin) over the summer when children were being separated from parents and living in inhumane conditions. Only Tammy Baldwin wrote me back, detailing the work she is doing to provide humane living conditions for immigrants and refuges.
What about defunding education? What about the cycle of poverty? What about cutting programs for the poor? What about truly supporting families? What about war? What about violence? What about worker’s rights, especially for pregnant women, like this recent New York Times article brought up? And do not even get me started on sexual assault because harassing women and cheating on your wives ain’t pro-life.
All I’m saying is political issues are more complex than flyers allow for, and it frustrates me when some group tries to boil my faith down to voting for a particular political party. Catholic values transcend American political parties, which is why I have always been a mixed voter. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a lot of solid information about forming conscience and voting, which is an excellent resource. As it outlines, there are a variety of issues we must consider including marriage and family, abortion, euthanasia, a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, health care, migration, discrimination, caring for the planet, and much much more.
Still, I have to take a step back. Ultimately, the government can only do so much. It is our hearts that truly need to change. Too, no matter what the government does or dictates, Jesus Christ is our King and who we ought to follow.
Do not forget to vote in November! See you at the polls!