Widening the Needle's Eye

Christian Democracy endeavors to be a scrupulously non-partisan publication. If we ever appear not to be, it is either us or the reader who is making a mistake. The reason is that Catholic social teaching is non-partisan, and Christian Democracy’s brief of business is to advance the cause of that body of doctrine. We support policies that conform to Catholic social teaching and oppose those that do not. The political source of any given policy is irrelevant.

That doesn’t mean we close our eyes to what is right in front of us. We don’t pretend that something isn’t contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply because someone will accuse us of taking sides politically. And we certainly don’t shy away from commenting on the fact that, in the United States, the Christian religion has been appropriated by political interests hostile to the poor and marginalized. 

Right now there are many who embrace the designation “Christian” who are congratulating themselves on a job well done in the United States presidential election. Donald Trump was their candidate, and he will now be the president of the United States. And since the Republicans will also control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, they have the wind at their backs to effectuate a program that should cause any follower of Jesus to shudder. They will doubtlessly bring cuts to the social safety net. Twenty million people could their health coverage, perhaps more as the cost of coverage spirals out of control. Freedom of religion for Muslims will now be threatened, which is a threat to any religious believer. The rights of working people to organize will likely come under assault. The income gap in America will be exacerbated. The United States will not be a welcoming place for refugees, and undocumented workers will continue to bear the brunt of blame for an economic model that does not, and cannot, work to the advantage of the great mass of people. Minorities, particularly Hispanics, will begin to feel like strangers in their own homeland.

Who will be at fault for this? The Christians. The Christians, including many Catholics, sadly, who brought a profound level of civic illiteracy to this election. They perpetrated the fraud, either as shills or as dupes themselves, that a Republican vote, indeed a vote for Donald Trump, was morally obligatory because of the abortion issue. Alas, we will find to our hurt that the acquisition of power by the Republicans will not rid us of the scourge of abortion at all. In fact, the problem may well be made worse because of the economic policies about to be unfettered by any effective opposition. Even if Roe vs. Wade is somehow overturned because of judicial appointments, a dicey prospect at best, abortion will remain legal in many states. Abortion is an abomination. But the Christians of this nation have chosen the least effective method of trying to bring it to an end, one that could very well make it worse, because they gave priority to the force of law rather than the transformation of culture.

At the same time the Christians told many of the most vulnerable in our society that it was their moral duty to vote against their own interests. The poor, the disabled, minorities, the elderly, working people, and the sick, were all told to sacrifice their concerns to the chimerical cause of bringing an end to abortion by legislative means while exacerbating the social conditions by which abortion is incentivized. Meanwhile, the rich were able to don the mantle of righteousness by doing nothing more than voting in their best economic interests. The needle’s eye has been made substantially wider by the dynamics of American politics driven by Christians.

None of this means that the Democratic Party hasn’t been an accomplice in its own demise. By placing the pro-abortion faction in the position of party gate-keepers, and by making a strategic attack against freedom of religion through such means as the HHS contraception mandate, the Democrats have alienated Christian voters, particularly Catholics and Evangelicals, in such a manner that it is hard to see it as anything other than deliberate. One wonders what political strategist told them to make a concerted effort to alienate such a substantial portion of the American population, many of whom are working people and minorities, the demographic they used to represent.

Christians are supposed to be the salt of the earth. Instead, in the United States, they have become the useful idiots of political intrigue. Christians in the Democratic Party should be influencing their parties in a Christian direction. Republican Christians should be doing the same. But all we see are accommodation and cowardice. Christians in the Democratic Party support abortion. Christians in the Republican Party support oppression of the poor and marginalized. Christians in both parties support foreign intervention and unjust wars. It is at once inspiring and sad to consider the social transformations we could achieve if only Christians brought the entirety of the Gospel to their political lives.

As for this last election, we have seen a substantial body of the Christian leadership in this country throw in with the Republican Party, even to the point of using their own religion cynically in the Republican cause. They have sold themselves for a very cheap price. We have the numbers to demand more than what is tantamount to a symbolic opposition to abortion. But now we are largely aligned with the interests of the rich at the expense of everyone else. Thus the Scripture says, “My name is blasphemed among the nations because of you.”

It is an age-old problem: religious alignment with the rich. Jesus confronted it during his time on earth, and, from a terrestrial and political perspective, it is what brought him to the Cross. This fact should remind us of one enduring truth: No matter what, no matter the reasoning, Christians should never align with the rich against the poor. Never.

Jack Quirk