“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness like the crime of idolatry. “(1 Sam 15:23)
On October 1st, the American people saw the effects of stubbornness come to fruition. Many people will not be going to work for an indefinite period. Under these circumstances, it is time to ask ourselves if we have turned our political parties into idols.
As Catholics, we hold strong beliefs on different issues, and it is right to hold fast to our beliefs. Within a two-party system, it is easy to take one or two key issues and find the party that speaks to those points in a way that is in line with Church teaching. But there is a fine line between supporting a party and idolizing it. There is nothing wrong with donating money, putting up bumper stickers, placing signs in our yards, and campaigning for a party we support. That falls easily into the realm of “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” However, we cross over into idolatry when we decide that the party of our choosing is the only party with anything to offer, thereby assuming that the other party is evil and can do no right. That is, when we only look at the points of agreement with our party on a few narrow issues and disregard the rest, we’ve lost sight of the importance of choosing a party for faith-related reasons, and created an idol. The mere presence of liberal and conservative media is a testament to Americans’ idolization of their chosen party. Some of the news media personalities even have their own followings. People align their views to those of the writer, radio host, or television reporter before they stop and align them with the teachings of the Church. These views are strongly tied to one party or the other. Political parties are, it seems, the new idols of our day.
It’s easy to do this on specific issues as well. The present government shutdown is the result of holding up a vote over a few key issues, most notably, in order to eliminate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” When issues are so important that the government is shut down, those issues have then become idols. Evidently, it’s now acceptable to take people out of work and hurt the reputation of our country out of stubbornness and an unwillingness to accept a legally passed piece of legislation. This stubbornness is not confined to one party or one issue. On both sides of the aisle, the devotion of lawmakers to these idols is remarkable.
Now is the time to crush the idols of our time. Now is the time to turn back to the heart of our beliefs. Now is the time to isolate issues and reflect upon them in light of Church teachings. Now is the time to communicate our beliefs to our lawmakers and party leaders focusing on the issues one at a time in accordance with our faith. Now is the time to break free from the chains of excessive partisanship and minister directly to God’s people. Now is the time to use the words of Ronald Reagan when we address the barrier between our two parties: “Tear down this wall.” Yes, now is the time to destroy our idols and work for the good of God’s people, each and every one.
Where do we start? We can revisit issues in accordance with Catholic teaching, most specifically through the use of the USCCB’s “Forming Catholic Consciences” document. We need to contemplate our reasons for choosing our alignments. Most importantly, we need to answer this question: to whom is my allegiance? Is it God, a political party, a media voice? We need to turn ourselves to the light and let the idols crumble.