The Discerning Voter: Obligated by Faith

Image above by myJon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the latest episode of “The Discerning Voter: Gospel Values for this Election Season,” Fr. Ron Will, CPPS, tells a story about the time he got the Creed and the Pledge of Alliance mixed up.

“Quite a few years ago, I was celebrating Sunday Mass, and at the end of the homily, I walked over to the presider’s chair, and I invited the congregation to stand for the Profession of Faith,” Fr. Ron recalls.

“I began, ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag …’ and the congregation just unconsciously went into automatic pilot and started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. After a paragraph, I said, ‘Stop, stop! Do you hear what you’re saying?”

The anecdote illustrates, Fr. Ron continued, how easy it is for us “to unconsciously go along with the values of the culture, the society around us, but it takes a deliberate decision, a conscious decision to follow the values, the commitment to God.”

Fr. Ron told this story as he and Dennis Keller, a member of the Amici group of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, discussed the scripture passages, Matthew 22:15-21, which is known as “Caesar’s Coin” or “Paying Taxes to the Emperor,” in the latest episode of the Renewal Center’s video series reflecting on gospel values and how those values shape voter behavior during this election time.

The Gospel values that Fr. Ron and Dennis identified in that Gospel passage are:

  • We have obligations to the world
  • We also have obligations of faith
  • The image of God is imprinted on us (we belong to God)
  • Are we Americans first or Christians first?
  • We live by a higher set of standards and we bring those into the world

“I think the gospel sets the scene for us about the world in which we live,” Dennis said. In the story we see the religious-minded Pharisees form an alliance with the non-religious Herodians to trap Jesus. They tried to make Jesus choose between endorsing payment of the Roman tax, hated by the Jewish people, or denouncing the tax, which would be an act of rebellion against the Roman rulers.

With his answer, “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” Jesus changes the focus of the question from taxes to our obligations as believers, Dennis said.

“Jesus is telling us that we live in the world and that we have obligations to the world and to how it is operated, how it is run,” he said. “But we also have obligations of faith, which arise, not so much from law and rationality, but from issues of the heart.

“We are either in love with God or we are not. And that permeates everything. And really helps us decide how to respond to the needs of society,” Dennis said.

New videos in this series will be posted on Tuesdays. All the videos will be collected on this page: The Discerning Voter: Gospel Values for this Election Season.

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Fr. Ron continued this thought. “I’m struck by the question ‘To whom do I belong?’ ” he said. “When Jesus looked at the Roman coin, he saw the image of Caesar imprinted on it. We have the image of God imprinted on us. We are created in the image and likeness of God. And because we’re baptized, we are baptized into Christ and we’re called to put on the mind and the values and the attitude of Christ.”

“So I asked myself, ‘Are we giving God the worship, God deserves?’ Are we Americans first or Christians first? Some time ago, I heard a preacher say that if we put the flag above the cross, we are in deep trouble. That is another way of asking, ‘To whom do we belong?’ ”

Dennis added that Jesus’ answer, “Pay Caesar what is due Caesar,” makes us today ask, “What is Caesar due in our own situation? What is the state due? … We depend on the state for safety, security, education, health care, order and trade. All of those things.

“For what do we depend on God? We depend on God for the very quintessential part of who we are — our life. The image and likeness that [Fr. Ron] mentioned earlier makes each one of us unique, a one of a kind. So basically what we owe God is thanksgiving. We owe God gratitude, and we owe God love,” Dennis said.

Political people tend to make one issue a benchmark or a tipping point that we all have to deal with, he continued. “In reality life is a heck of a lot more complex than that,” he said, and cited a teaching from Bishop McElroy of San Diego on the sacredness of life.

“How do you judge the value of a life between the life of the unborn child and the life of a child trying to cross the Rio Grande River and who dies, trying to flee from violence from slavery, from tyranny? How do you measure this?”

“So all life is sacred, or no life is sacred. That’s one of the things that I learned from this [gospel message]: as we go into the voting booth, we need to be very, very concerned about all life and not just one form of life.”

Fr. Ron conclude the episode by reading from the recently released Statement Regarding Voting issued by the Provincial Council of the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.

In a perfect world, there would be ideal political candidates whom we could choose from. But no candidate is perfect, and no candidate models the values mentioned above perfectly. That means we must decide which candidates come closer to living these values and vote for them.

This is hard work, and it would be easier to cast our vote based simply on one party, or one person, or one issue. But that would be shirking our personal moral responsibility to make our choices based on all the values we hold dear, and which the gospel calls us to uphold.

May the Spirit of Wisdom guide us as individuals, as a community, and as a country as we cast our votes in November.

Statement Regarding Voting
Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood

More from the video

To learn what candidates and issues are on your local ballot, visit ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup. Type in your address and you can  view a sample of your local ballot.

You can read the full statement Provincial Council Statement Regarding Voting, from the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood here: https://preciousbloodkc.org/voting/

Image above by myJon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Opening and closing music in the video is “Salute to A New Beginning” by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets.

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