I am writing this post in response to both the MacIntyre article that has been copiously posted on Facebook, as well as a post by Joey. They can be found in links below.
Why I Must Vote for John McCain
The Only Vote Worth Casting in November
I think there are problems with both positions, Joey’s and MacIntyre’s, neither of which truly represent the Catholic position.
First, regarding Joey’s post:
The problem with this kind of look at the election is that it is just where the pro-abortion activists want the debate to be perpetuated: in the realm of ideology. We will not, at least at the point we are at right now (and I would venture to say never), be able to stop abortion. What would that even entail? The real problem is that most people do not value life. This is the real problem. Even many anti-abortion activists, deep down, do not value life. An ideology, in the sense that Giussani uses the word in The Religious Sense, cannot value life; every ideology is an idol, a part of reality exalted to the status of totality. I am NOT primarily anti-abortion. Let me say it like this: being anti-abortion is not what motivates me in politics; it is not a label that I want. I am pro-life. That means, the ones who die in the war, those who are euthanized, those who are murdered, those who are on death row, those who cannot afford housing or food, those who are immigrants, are just as valuable as the unborn. To say that these issues take the backburner to abortion is an ideology, a dangerous one. Life is life. As my friend Steve puts it, “People always bring up the sheer number of children killed in abortion and use that to justify the fact that it is more morally imperative than any other anti-life position. Honestly, this is not a Catholic moral argument. What is one life or one million in front of the infinite? In the end, we don't respect the dignity of a lot of human lives, but EACH human life. That's a 1:1 ratio.”
If we were to approach the election with a single-mindedness, focused only on abortion death tolls and numbers, it would not be reasonable to vote at all, to engage in such a utilitarian and futile exercise. Really, where is the unrealistic expectation of perfection that Joey refers to? I would say it lies in this single-issue mentality of the anti-abortion activists just as much as it is in those who maintain that the best way to vote is not to vote. This brings me to the MacIntyre article.
I agree with what Joey said in his post, that it does not help anything to disengage from politics with so much at stake. But I have to confess that I am tempted and fascinated by MacIntyre’s proposal. It is certainly eye-opening, to say the least. At this point I agree with certain points of his argument, but disagree with his application of it to American politics (a tenuous rejection, but I am leaning more and more towards rejecting it.) I agree with MacIntyre in the sense that he does not see any value in engaging in ideological debates that censure position as Catholics. It does not make sense to perpetuate a system that does not care about us, that throws us bones labeled “pro-life” or “anti-poverty” to keep us coming back to the polls. Then what do we do? Forget our original reason for our involvement in politics? Play the numbers game? This isn't engaging in politics, but giving way to enemies that are burning ground before us as we retreat.
If we do engage, and in the arena of abortion decide to play the numbers game, (which is how the pro-choice advocates want the battle to be fought) we can talk about numbers all day and never get to the real question concerning the value of life. The problem is this: “do you recognize the fetus as a person?”…I would add, in the same breath, “do you recognize the weary immigrant crossing the border in search of a better life as a person? Do recognize criminals as persons? Do you recognize the women seeking abortions as persons?” This further question is required, namely, what does it mean to be a person? I want my political question to be that one. Do you recognize the fetus and the immigrant to be equally important because they are the kind of thing that has the potential for happiness? THAT HAS A DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS THAT YOU CANNOT ANSWER, OR EVEN STIFLE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH POWER YOU POSSESS?
With that as the starting point, to be pro-life is not to be anti-abortion, but rather to be an advocate of the common good via the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Subsidiarity, because life consists of individuals and their communities (not ideas and issues), and people should not be deprived of their ability to tend to the needs to which they are able to attend without the interference of government. And solidarity, because solidarity is the mutual discovery of the desire for that happiness that we all seek, which I mentioned above, which facilitates education and the building of true culture. Succinctly put, I will vote for the candidate who allows me, and the Church, freedom. That is, the one that allows for the education and building of society and culture, foundational blocks without which our problems will never be addressed, regardless of our prevention of 6 abortions or 6 million.
The political situation may be bad, but, when in Rome, we should do as the Christians did; testify to the beginnings of a new world and a new freedom that cannot be granted by any political institution. The Romans feared the Christians because they were free. I think we need to seriously ask ourselves if we are free in facing this election. This is what changed my outlook on going to the polls in November, and it is why I ultimately disagree with MacIntyre. Would you describe yourself as free in this election? Why or why not? What is freedom? If we don't live with an experience of freedom, that is, the taste of fulfillment, given to us by Christ through the Church, really, let's not waste our time to go vote and think that anything is actually going to change. Unless we recognize this, MacIntyre is dead right and we can expect our retreat to continue.
For those who haven’t encountered Christ, it might seem to make sense to vote for Obama, the “messiah” as a last desperate grasp at salvation. But salvation does not come from politics. I will vote for John McCain not because he is anti-abortion, but because I believe he doesn’t look at me as someone in need of being saved by politics. (I have not given enough specific examples here, but this is not a post about the candidates.)
Pope Benedict, regarding one of his first encounters with Fr. Giussani and the movement Communion and Liberation, said that he was surprised to find a group of people “for” something rather than “against” something. Let’s be “for” something in this election; let’s not play down to the abortion activists and engage in the numbers game, and let's not just be "against" the whole system because we are dissatisfied. My friend Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said that our primary (in the sense of essential or ultimate) responsibility in politics is not to end abortion or the war but to build the Church. "To build the Church is the task of the saints, and that is not a bad party to belong to."
By the way, Albacete will soon be running on his own ticket as the leader of the Mystical Party. Contact me for more information, I am one of his grassroots members.