It’s that time of year again…election season.
I can honestly say voting is one of the most conflicting things I do in life. It feels like we are constantly reminded of how important it is to vote so that our voice gets heard. Looking at the ballot for this year, and for previous years I’ve been able to vote…my voice feels anything but heard. I look over the issues each year hoping someone will really be my voice; but in the end, I sift through my mind and think, “Which issues do I want to compromise on this year?”
What bothers me the most out of all of this isn’t the frustration I feel towards voting, but the comments I hear from other people in regard to voting (i.e. other Catholics). “As Catholics, it’s our duty to vote! We’re pro-life, so we have to vote for the pro-life candidates!” At face value, I agree with these statements. Voting is important, so we need to vote; and we are Catholic, so we are pro-life. Where I have problems, though, is when we really get down to what people mean by saying they are pro-life.
Most Catholics I know often equate the statement “being pro-life” with “being against abortion,” but the pro-life movement is about so much more than just abortion. The pro-life movement is about respecting life from conception all the way to natural death. A lot of people get stuck on just the beginning of that phrase. They seem to forget about natural death and about life between conception to natural death.
Yes, we are a Church that believes life begins at conception, but we are also a Church that believes in the beauty of family and in the beauty of helping the less fortunate. We are a Church that focuses on being charitable to others and focuses on loving everyone regardless of where they are in life. We desire hope and peace, and the pro-life movement strives for all of these things.
Abortion, poverty, bullying, education, suicide, addiction, unfair wages, health care, immigration, war, capital punishment…the list of pro-life issues is endless. If I had to sum up the pro-life movement in one word, though, I would use the word forgiveness because if we don’t have forgiveness for others, we don’t have respect for life.
My heart breaks every time someone contradicts him/herself by condemning the act of abortion but just as easily refusing to provide help for the homeless. Maybe the deeper issue lies in the fact that we are condemning people for their wrong actions, in the first place. We have to give people a chance at redemption. We have to let people make up for their mistakes before writing them off.
My heart further breaks every time someone contradicts him/herself by standing up against bullying but just as quickly pushing for the cruel punishment or death of a criminal. I am fully aware we can’t allow criminals to run free and do as they please and that there are criminals who don’t want salvation or change in their life. As a counselor, though, I’ve seen more times than I’d like the pattern of the abused becoming the abusers, generation upon generation of people who have never known anything but abuse in their lives. Punishing criminals in cruel ways only lets them know it’s okay to treat others in a cruel way. It doesn’t show them a better way to behave, it doesn’t teach them that people in their right mind don’t kill or abuse, and in the end, it just makes us the abusers…it makes us the cruel ones.
Forgiveness…sometimes, we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made or for not living up to our goals. Other times, we have to forgive others for their heartless actions and for all of the pain they’ve caused…and still, other times, we have to forgive God for letting us down, for not letting us take the easy way out, and for having a plan different from the one we’d like.
So, this year, when November comes around, I will, once again, vote for the lesser of two evils. My voice may be just a whisper in the election results, but as long as I remember to keep forgiving, then the pro-life movement in all stages and journeys of life will be heard in my tiny corner of the world. My voice may fail at times, because I’m only human after all, but maybe if other voices join in with mine, I’ll finally be able to stop wondering which issues I’ll have to compromise.
Originally Written and Posted: October 21st, 2014