Thursday, October 07, 2004

Just in case she was wondering

She said, "How can Catholics vote for a Protestant against a man who shares their faith, just because [the Protestant] agrees with the church on this one issue."

Her interlocutor nodded and murmured agreement.

"I've always wondered about that," she said. "And how can they support pro-abortion Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

What is the basis for electoral loyalty? Must Catholics vote for Catholics? Baptists for Baptists? Orthodox for Orthodox?

If Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D., Maryland, Orthodox, pro-abortion) is running against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah, LDS, anti-abortion), am I obliged to vote for Sarbanes?

I don't think so.

This is not about Sarbanes' relation to the Church or his relation to God, about the present state of his soul or his eternal salvation. I'm in no position to judge any of those things, and they make no difference anyway. If St. Basil the Great were running for the Oregon Senate, I'd consider his record and experience against that of his opponent. Sanctity doesn't prove competence--or vice versa.

I've observed that politicians' stated religious affiiliation is frequently an anti-predictor in life issues. Reagan was Presbyterian; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are Southern Baptist; George W. Bush is Methodist; John Kerry is Catholic. (There are Catholics who are pro-life--Henry Hyde comes to mind--but I don't know of any pro-life Orthodox). If life issues are high on your list of priorities, then you need to look further than denominations.

If she had asked me--and maybe she was wise not to--she would have found that alhough Republicans have a reputation for simplistic black-and-white decisions, in fact, they also weigh priorities with a complicated calculus. A pro-abortion candidate who opposes government payment for abortion is superior to a pro-abortion candidate who has never found an abortion he was willing to oppose. A statement of "personal opposition to" abortion does not trump a signature on a law banning partial-birth abortion.

Some people's view of the "common good" and "economic justice" includes leaving people as much of their money as possible to spend as they deem best.

Some people believe that war can lead to a net reduction in mayhem and murder.

And I may walk to the Communion cup behind Paul Sarbanes, private citizen and Orthodox Christian, and put my mark beside his opponent's name in the voting booth and not consider that I've withheld appropriate loyalty from anyone.

She doesn't read this blog, but just in case someone was wondering.

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