Politics: the Substance of the Secular, not the Sacred.

Barack Obama has won reelection. It is what it is. I’ll leave speculation about what it means for now, but in this moment I’ll just share a thought that might help some of you in some way, hopefully.

I worked in politics and political activism in DC for a number of years before going to seminary. When I was accepted to seminary I would joke with people that I was “leaving politics to go into the Church….”

A laugh line, of course.

There is a difference, however. An essential, very significant, difference.

Politics, the back-and-forth of compromise and coalition building to craft public policy and move the body politic in a particular direction, is the substance of the state. Sure we have a Constitution, but it’s only as good as it is applied by the legislators, president, and judges, according to their thinking and ideology.

In the Church, the politics are ancillary. Jockeying for position within the chancery, the Curia, the monastery, the parish, the religious education office; pushing your brand of Catholicism, your preferred spirituality, your devotions, your preferred form of the Mass… All important, as far as they go, but none is essential to what the Church is and what it is here for. The Church is the earthly institution of God, guided by His Holy Spirit. The substance of the Church is the life of God in the world, and our actions, machinations, and pursuits will not alter God.

We might believe disaster is about to befall the country, we might think this election signifies a dangerous and possibly irreversible fundamental change in this country, and we may be right.

We may think certain leaders of the Church are failing the Church and therefore the world, and we may be right.

But in both cases the way forward will not be in our own machinations but it will be in embracing the substance of the Church and bringing her to the world and the world to her. We make a difference when we affect hearts, which move minds, and the heart is moved when the Holy Spirit is allowed to move in the heart.

We are children of God before we are citizens of any nation or subjects of any sovereign. We fight the good fight in the politics of the world to bring about the good and true in the world precisely because we are first children of God, and we have been called to affect the good in the world, so that more of us might end up in heaven with God in eternity.

Let us forge ahead with full hope in the promise of God’s love, anchored in God’s Church, affecting the world for the good and the true.

In the end, God has already won anyhow.



57 thoughts on “Politics: the Substance of the Secular, not the Sacred.

  1. GREG SMITH says:

    Dear Tom:

    I’m leary (and weary) of talking head analysis 2 nano seconds after the polls close, but here are a couple of preliminay take aways as I see it.

    1: A lot of conventional wisdom was born out in the results. The presidential election was the GOP’s to lose. It did. Demographics e.g. younger voters replacing older voters reversed the direction of referendums on gay marriage.

    2: As our mayor, DiFi said that SF was best governed from the middle. In this very complicated election, voters rejected extermism on the right and, to a lesser extent extremism on the left

    3: I believe my position was validated that abortions will not be greatly reduced through re-criminalization. I’m going to do my best in the coming years to lobby the American Church to provide women with support to make the “right choice.”

    4: “Mean People Suck” Two of the nastiest members of congress, Pete Stark, a very left Democrat in the East Bay and Tea Partier Joe Walsh lost. Thier viciousness was rejected by the voters. Though he wasn’t as bad as the aformentiond duo, Scott Brown’s challanging Elizabeth Warrens family heritage seems to not have gone over well w/ the voters.

    5: It was a victory for civility that Tammy Baldwin’s lesbianism was non issue.

    6: On a note closer to home, I’m hoping we can all take advantage of the new format here without the nastiness, and just plane nuttiness, that’s devloped in the heat of the election season.

    That’s all for now. I’m sure we’ll have much to discuss in the weeks ahead

    Pax tecum, Greg

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      Greg— I dispute a number of these.

      1) If we’re going with conventional wisdom, the presidential election is *always* the incumbent’s to lose. He and his campaign and the media did enough to keep that from happening. The amazing young vote turnout was a testimony to the effort of Jim Messina’s operation.

      2) Barack Obama is much more extreme to the left than Mitt Romney could ever be accused of being to the right. Could you please point out an area where he is as extreme as Obama’s position is on abortion? Energy? Taxation? Class warfare? Redistribution of wealth? others could be listed.

      3) Good luck with that. Your position was not validated in the slightest. Any effort to suggest that an intrinsic evil could be a legitimate option is born of the devil.

      4) Alan Grayson won. He’s Pete Stark nasty. I have no idea why Scott Brown lost and Warren won, but the stuff about her family heritage was likely the only reason she didn’t win bigger.

      5) She also won because Tommy Thompson is our Fritz Mondale–tired retread, uninspiring.

      6) Meh.

  2. emme says:

    The election is hardly over 12 hours and already we see statements like, “We might believe disaster is about to befall the country, we might think this election signifies a dangerous and possibly irreversible fundamental change in this country, and we may be right.” If we are truly of God the correct response would be that we work towards the good of all, that we are not of our political leanings, that we are all equal in His eyes. And using this, we then reach across to all our brothers and sisters and find the path to continue to make the country and the world a better place. Through listening and discussion. Through being open to hearing ideas that are different than ours. It is very clear that when we don’t, it’s worse for us all.

  3. Bill says:

    In our letter from the Bishop, he told us to vote our conscience. Our priest reminded us last Sunday to vote our conscience. My conscience tells me that abortion and gay sex are sins. Most Catholics voting their conscience believe that abortion and gay marriage are good. Unless we are told frequently in clear language by our priests and bishops that these things are sins, a proper conscience will never be formed.

  4. Fitz says:

    The Church has been through turbulent times in the past and has endured and God will prevail. Look at the times of when our Church began during the Roman Empire. The United States at times mirrors the Roman Empire but, the persecution of Christians is much less.

  5. Guest says:

    I have to believe this was a big wakeup call for the Catholic Church. I have always struggled with how and why the church allowed its Catholic members to participate in the promotion of abortions without consequence or excommunication throughout the world. Now the church and its teachings have become quite inconsequential to so many in how they think and vote. Sad really. I know about 50% fewer Catholics than I did a day ago.

  6. texasgrandmom says:

    USA – R.I.P.
    Now that there is no stopping the abortion mandate, it seems that Catholic hospitals and schools will have no choice but to treat/educate Catholics only. That is the only way to get around the mandate, or pay millions a day in fines. One out of 6 residents in this country are treated at Catholic hospitals.

    1. cammy says:

      1 in 6 residents are treated at Catholic Hospitals when they themselves are not Catholic. Many have no other choice in hospital. Many people that aren’t Catholic also work in those hospitals.

      Why do Catholics get to dictate what type of medical care those people receive and what their employees can and can not have covered under their insurance? It seems that Catholics want to control non-Catholics and deny them liberty and freedom.

      1. Tom Crowe says:

        Those who are looking for treatment or employment can choose not to go to a hospital at all rather than to a private hospital. That choice is theirs. Their choice to come to a Catholic hospital because they perceive it to be their only option does not mitigate our freedom of religion and conscience.

        Contraception and abortion are only “medical care” if pregnancy is considered a medical problem. Do you consider pregnancy a medical problem? Further, no one is denying anyone the ability to purchase contraceptives here—but don’t require us to buy it for you because doing so infringes upon our freedoms.

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