Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Put Faith in Your Vote: Election Day Shouldn't Be a Time to Leave Our Faith at Home

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Put Faith in Your Vote: Election Day Shouldn't Be a Time to Leave Our Faith at Home

Article excerpt

"RELIGION IS THE PROBLEM," SAID A FRIEND AT A LATE summer barbecue. "If we could keep religion out of politics, things would be a lot less crazy." Heads nodded. Being the only active churchgoer in the room, I tried to protest--but then had to admit that my faith often steers my vote, as if that was some kind of civic failure. At the same time I found it odd that no one thought money or partisanship was the problem in our stumbling political system.

The conversation came on the heels of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "The Response," which gathered 30,000 at a revival-style rally just prior to his announcement as a Republican presidential candidate. Minnesota Congressional Rep. Michele Bachmann, a darling of the Tea Party, was speaking openly of feeling called by God to run for the presidency. Neither connected their faith to specific policy positions. Their public devotion to Christ as evangelical Christians was their political calling card.


Catholics, on the other hand, seem to be keeping their faith out of the voting booth, at least when it comes to following the U.S. bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document, an outline of principles to help guide Catholics on Election Day. A study released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in September showed that in 2008, only 16 percent of Catholics were aware of the bishops' statement; only 10 percent actually read any of it. A mere 4 percent of

Catholic voters surveyed said it would have had a major influence on their vote whether they read it or not. Even among regular Mass-goers who were aware of the document, only 9 percent said it held major sway in their electoral choices.

That ought to be cause for concern to any Catholic as the next election cycle begins, no matter what one's political leanings. At a time when the social safety net for the elderly is described as a "Ponzi scheme," when medical care for the poor is on both state and federal chopping blocks, and when the very idea of the common good--the foundation of Catholic social teaching--is dismissed as "socialism," people of faith cannot be silent. Any politician who openly claims to have faith in Jesus must be asked how that faith will affect their approach to the poor, the sick, the dying, and the unborn.

But integrity demands something more of a Catholic voter: asking those same questions of ourselves. …

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