A little over a week ago I reactivated my Facebook account after a year away. I have one of those personalities that gets easily sucked into the news feed. I have been watching the news since I was 5 years old, so old habits die hard. My problem is I become immersed in it. It isn’t good for me or people like me. I knew this a year ago and it is still true today. I am deactivating my account and trusting that God will provide for our adoption through His ways.
I went back on because social media is an invaluable tool in running an online fundraising campaign. My husband and I discerned that we need to humble ourselves and begin an online fundraiser to help us pay the astronomical costs associated with adopting a child, or Lord willing, children. I built our fundraiser and then I reactivated my Facebook account to share it. Upon my first scroll through the news feed I could see why so many of my friends have come to me saying they left Facebook for good. This election cycle has brought out the absolute worst in people on all sides.
The problem with the war being waged in social media is that many Catholics are involved in the constant battles and nastiness. It is true that we are called to take an active role in political life; however, it is hard to tell the difference between believers and non-believers at present. Christ tells us in the Last Supper account in the Gospel of John. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So my question for people is: Can people tell we are disciples by our love for one another? Can they tell our love for others? Christ commands us to love our neighbor. The constant fighting, offensive and overly simplistic memes, and the dehumanizing of one another accomplishes nothing except Satan’s desires for division. And there is a lot of division.
Fear and ideology have blinded so many that common sense has been lost. Catholics are forgetting that there are in fact laws, principles, and virtues to follow. Things are so upside down that a priest can commit sacrilege on an altar harming the pro-life movement while Catholics applaud this abuse of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and violation of the dignity of the dead. Catholics keeping throwing around mortal sin, without fully understanding moral theology or Catholic Social Teaching. The blindness to Clinton’s radical pro-abortion agenda and her constant apathy towards the dignity of the human person is ignored by her supporters. Trump’s waffling and indifference on pro-life issues is supposed to convince me that he is the great harbinger of the culture of life. In reality they both subscribe to intrinsic evils, are are wholly unreliable, corrupt, and bullies. I couldn’t buy the arguments of either side in the cacophonous din.
In full disclosure I have never voted for a Democrat because of their radical abortion agenda and the fact that faith is not divorced from public life. What I do see on both major sides is a lost sense of the good and how fear has come to rule the day; any and all scare tactics can be used to elect someone is the claim of the ideologue. We can do anything as long as she isn’t elected. This is false and immoral.
I just voted–and in full disclosure–I didn’t vote for either major party candidate. For the first time in my life I wrote someone in. I went with the American Solidarity Party. I walked out without the slightest tug at my conscience. I don’t agree with their call for single-payer healthcare, it violates the principle of subsidiarity and eventually the other three principles of Catholic Social Teaching in practice, but I didn’t have to choose between Moloch and Ba’al, as someone put it so well on Facebook. I could not stomach (I actually felt sick to my stomach) voting for either candidate, so I said a resounding “no” to the evil of both candidates. That is what I decided to do based on my conscience, which is properly ordered to the Catholic teachings on faith and morals. Others may arrive at a different conclusion and still be in line with CST.
I don’t expect people to agree with me, but I am fully within my right as a Catholic and acting in line with Catholic Social Teaching. My conscience could no long accept the consequential argument of the lesser of two evils. The “lesser” part kept on tripping me up this time around. I couldn’t see much of a distinction between the two. We reached the point–I knew we would soon after I plugged my nose to vote for McCain and Romney–when my conscience couldn’t do the mental gymnastics anymore. While folks from either side may not agree with my decision, they are required to respect it, which is the problem on Facebook these days.
There is no respect for others and a total dehumanizing and labeling of “other”. I have been accused of committing a mortal sin because I did not vote for Trump. That is the argument of an ideologue. I commit a mortal sin by abstaining from evil? It takes astonishing mental gymnastics to reach that conclusion. An example where this might actually fit might be: I vote for Clinton because she is for partial birth abortion. That violates the moral law and Catholic Social Teaching. Let’s try to keep our facts and theology straight.
The use of “other” to separate people has been in use since the Fall and it is always dangerous. It is used to take away the dignity of another group of people; to forget that they are human beings made imago Dei. The memes demonizing both sides does this task quite easily. Anger, fear, and the irrational are fueled and the volatile situation we now find ourselves in becomes reality. Social media provides an endless onslaught of real-time information, much of it false, anti-intellectual, offensive, or overly-simplistic. Yet, we ingest it and share it en masse without the slightest nod to prudence.
Fear is the word of the day. Far too many people are worried that if she gets elected the world will come to an end. There will be open sacrifices of the unborn on altars around the country, all Catholic Churches will close on Inauguration Day, and the apocalypse is upon us. The problem is, this isn’t an exaggeration of what I have seen. It reminds me of the scene from Ghostbusters where they talk about the End Times as they wait for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Fear is not a reasoned response to evil. Fear makes people do, say, and think stupid things. Yes, stupid. I think stupid things when I am blinded by fear. I will freely admit it. There’s a reason Christ tells us to hope and not fear. I can understand a reasoned argument in favor of Trump, but I do not accept the argument based on fear that if she wins the end is nigh, so I must vote for Trump. I don’t vote for one because of the other. That isn’t a sound evaluation of the candidate as he stands. We are called to use our God-given reason, not succumb to fear of the unknown.
There is a tremendous lack of hope right now, which is the antithesis of the Catholic understanding. Catholics live in present history, but also in the past and the future. There has never been a perfect time in human history since the Fall. Horrors, evils, torment, and intense suffering have always been a part of our experience. Even in that pain the joy of the Paschal Mystery renews all of creation and us. We now dwell in the hope of entering into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. We live in the hope that God will use us in His divine plan. We are called to transform the temporal order within our sphere of influence. Yes, vote, but our system is completely broken. We have to start from the ground up and evangelize the culture. It’s the long view. It’s the Catholic view. We don’t obsess in impending doom. We transform the culture where we are and come what may, even if it is martyrdom. Our eyes must always be fixed on Christ and not the storm:
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.t once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
People who come across us in social media or in person should be able to see that we are Christ’s. We share our political affiliations–if we have any at present–in hope and joy that no matter the outcome, Jesus Christ is King now and forever. We do not rant in irrational fear. We do not overlook evil and call it good. We do not dehumanize others. No matter who is elected this evening, our mission remains the same: to become saints. We can’t do that if we are blinded and attached to ideology. We cannot become holy if we harbor any hatred in our hearts. We cannot become holy if we wallow in fear. Admitting things are broken is not to give up. It is to reassess and figure out how to begin anew. That has been our job in every age. The culture collapses and we are there to pick up the pieces. We cannot pick up those pieces if we are screaming, ranting, or posting obsessively about politics in a doomsday manner.
Fellow Catholics, does our social media presence point to Christ? Is it filled with hope and joy even in the midst of suffering? I am very open about my own pain, grief, and suffering, but I also walk firmly with Christ by my side even as sobs engulf me. Vote today, trust, become holy, love others (including those you disagree with), and ask God for your mission in transforming the culture.
Read these to get started:
Gaudium et Spes
P.S. Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference between sinful anger and righteous anger. Do we know ourselves well enough to tell the difference? Most of us are not developed enough in the spiritual life to truly know the difference. We need to be careful for the sake our souls and the people around us.