After divisive election, we should look at politics through lens of faith

Published: January 19, 2017

By Father Erik Pohlmeier
Director of Faith Formation

The inauguration of President Donald Trump continues to highlight the contention that exists in our society over political differences. The political campaign that brought us to this point was marked from the very beginning with drawing lines in the sand and closing off any who see things differently.

The election did little to quell that anger for some. Many people of faith have felt trapped all along, unsure where it would all lead and how to respond to the barrage of opinions and comments.

This column is not an effort to make sense of it all or predict which promises or warnings will come true. This column is an appeal to take a step back and consider the lens we use to take it all in. We can see through a lens that is only political or we can see with the eyes of faith. It takes a concerted effort to examine the world we live in according to faith.

Church leaders like Pope Francis and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor are often misunderstood precisely because they are judged with a political lens.

It is all too easy to allow the political lens to shape not only our politics but also our faith. This can cause us to criticize those who don’t share our outrage at something a candidate does or says. It can cause us to presume the opinion of another on a whole range of issues, even when they only speak about one.

A political lens can cause us to choose sides when we should see more of the whole picture. In practical terms this can be judged by our reaction to what takes place on the political landscape. We should never be overly excited or threatened by whoever is in power. Whoever gets elected will neither resolve all our concerns nor destroy all we hold dear.

Jesus is very clear about this: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." (John 16:33) Church leaders like Pope Francis and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor are often misunderstood precisely because they are judged with a political lens.

In writing about the environment Pope Francis has been labeled in many ways, and yet the only true understanding of his position must account for faith. In “Laudato Si” 233 we find: “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. … The ideal is to discover God in all things.”

Bishop Taylor speaks often about issues related to human dignity and the path to eternal goods and is at times accused of disregarding such things as laws governing national borders. Such accusation is incorrect and misses the larger point, the greater good.

The lens of genuine faith allows us to look at President Trump or any candidate differently. We can and should support whatever leads to eternal goods. We should be critical of whatever restricts those goods in the lives of real people.

The political lens can too easily divide into conservative or liberal labels. When applied to Church leaders it can cause us to make presumptions about deeper motives that are entirely wrong and cause us to overlook eternal goods that are the real motivation.

The Holy Spirit is actively leading us to salvation in Jesus Christ. Our work here should cooperate with that effort above all else. As President Trump takes office it would do us well to consider our lens and maybe we can see our politics in the light of faith rather than our faith in the light of politics.

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