I love our Pope; I really just need to start with that. Pope Francis has a big heart for helping the poor, which also needs to be mentioned. Most of the world, regardless of gender, race, or creed feels that Pope Francis is indeed the shepherd meant for the Church at this crucial moment in history. Most of the staunch conservatives cling to the words of the Pope when he spouts off ‘pro-life’ messages while criticizing him as he calls for ‘redistribution of wealth’, and vice versa for liberals. Everyone takes what they like about the pontiff and leave what they don’t.
In any sense, I am fairly confident in my assessment to say that Pope Francis and the public’s view of him is an accurate depiction for the relationship between the Church and the political party system. When I hear or read the word “Republican”, slogans like “Southern by the grace of God”, images of guns and Bibles side by side, and contradictory ideology that is somehow “pro-life” and “pro-death penalty” simultaneously race through my mind. Many of these values are enough to make most decent Americans cringe. The Republican Party has even gone on to claim that they are the Christian Party. Consequently, most of your pro-life, bible-belt Christians blindly herd themselves into that party. On the other side of the coin we have the so-called liberals, commonly categorized as being “Democrat”. These “pro-choice”, “contraceptive-pushing”, “rainbow-wearing” tree huggers are typically the epitome of “conservative” ridicule. Yet, when it comes to helping the poor, promoting eco-friendly causes, etc. these “liberals” are leading the way.
To be honest, I think both political/ideological groups still thrive today because people want to be a part of something good. We want to believe that we are making a positive difference in our communities and improving the quality of life for future generations. The main word we need to focus on from here is: compromise.
As Christians, we tend to gravitate towards one political party or another wherein every decision we make will be criticized by other Christians. You see, joining a political party or subscribing to a certain political ideology is usually more of a moral compromise than it is a commitment to a set of values. The absolute truth of the matter is that a political party does not exist that fully aligns itself with Church teaching. This is primarily because the Church is not in authority over any political body. As Christians we should be slow to pride ourselves on our political affiliations while boldly living and proclaiming the truth of our faith. If we live out our faith in its entirety, we will soon find ourselves becoming less and less “Anti-Obama” or “Anti-Romney” simply because of their political connotation. When we participate in public exercises of social justice and democracy, let us look to the saints instead of the forefathers and let us cling to Church teaching over party values. When we head to the poles or participate in public debate, let us be ‘Catholic’ first and foremost, no matter the cost.