When I was young, my father, who rarely spoke about such things anyway, advised me never to talk about politics or religion, so running a blog which combines the two is not, it is safe to say, what he’d have advised. The current culture clash in America is a good example of why his advice, although useful in social situations, could not be followed. The internet headlines saying that the Pope, the last Pope, the bishop or whoever is telling Catholic they can’t vote for Hillary Clinton are, as one of last week’s posts attempted to explain, inaccurate; but nonetheless, if you are a Catholic and you are intending to vote for her because of all the other issues, then you should bear in mind the effect that will have not only on the issue of abortion, but on the make up of the Supreme Court (could Obama be appointed?); the attitude of her camp towards Catholic beliefs should also give pause for thought. But then is Mr Trump in some way a better bet? His record of pro-life issues seems chequered, and his attitude toward minorities, women and just about anyone who he does not identify as a natural supporter, could hardly be said to be in line with Gospel teaching. However, if one starts down that road there is no end to before reaching the natural conclusion that no politician’s programme is wholly compatible with Gospel teaching – even if one could agree how the Gospel teaching ought to translate into the political sphere. It would no doubt be nice if, as the early Christians appear to have done, we could all dip into a common purse to which we had all contributed according to our means, but our fallen human nature has ensured that has not become the model for Christian communities.
In that sense, the Gospel is directed at each of us, at changing our hearts and minds, and by doing that, by conforming us more to God’s will, helping us be part of a change. Were each of us to behave as God wants us to behave, then the world would become a better place. But our impact, we might complain can only be local; local is good, and is better than no impact. We exist in a society profoundly suspicious of Christians and Christianity, and if we are honest we’d have to admit that the behaviour of some in all churches is part of what has created that atmosphere. As ever when one group in society preaches a moral reformation, any shortcomings in its members will be used mercilessly to smear the vast majority of people in that church who lead blameless and even priaseworthy lives; the critic with a hostile agenda is not interested on those people, he obsesses only on the black sheep. But, of course, he does so not for the reasons Our Lord did – to save them – but to use them as sticks with which to beat others.
Which, of course, brings us back to where we started, which is that our faith becomes a political weapon in the hands of those who would seek to mobilise us for agenda which are not our agenda. Attempts to do this are best resisted. The individual can make up his or her mind as to how much their faith would let them vote for candidate x or y – but no one should pretend that that will advance the kingdom of God as much as dealing with their own sense of sin and walking with God’s laws would.