Also, haven't figured out whether or not to restore comments over here. Not expecting to need them and you have to monitor them for spam. If posting activity back here becomes frequent enough, I'll restore.
Looking through the well-stocked "spirituality" section in your local bookstore, you may think that Americans are doing the same; in today's jargon, there seem to be a lot of "searchers" out there. Catholic faith, exemplified in this season's readings from Acts, teaches us something different about searching, however. Catholic faith teaches us that the spiritual life is not our search for God, but God's search for us --- and our learning to take the same path through history that God does. Our prayer must somehow reflect that truth.
I’ve tried in the past to offer answers to that question, but the truth is that I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer it. Because in the end, for me at least, it wasn’t a choice. I’ve never really sat down and analyzed the pros and cons of belief versus unbelief, or tried to compare the relative merits of various religious traditions. In my late teens, I tried to walk away from all of it. But in the end I was seized by something that pulled me back.
It’s one of the reasons I find the doctrine of “election” so interesting. Because that’s the way it feels sometimes. As the force of habit and custom in determining religious practice declines, it seems the churches are increasingly filled with people who need to be there, who were somehow called to be there.
And what of those who don’t have this call? I’m not sure. Subjectively, at least, it seems to describe a fair number of people I know, many of whom are “good people” by any reasonable standard. They are happy, well adjusted, and don’t give any outward sign that their lives are somehow deeply uncentered because they are oblivious to a central aspect of reality. Perhaps there’s something going on inside, but usually I can’t see it.
Since I’m still more of a failed poet than a theologian, I can take refuge in metaphor. It seems to me sometimes that the Church is a large ship manned by a reasonably competent but fractious crew who have been pressed into service. The ship sails through the seas, leaving a great wake behind it. There are many smaller craft who sail in the great space of calm created by this wake, sometimes unaware of its source. Perhaps it would be better to be aboard the great ship; certainly it would be safer. But as long as the great ship continues to move forward, the armada in its wake has a good chance of making it home.
But dangit, I’m never going to get the hang of tying these knots…
I'm still a little skeptical of this idea that you can create some kind of algorithm in which you crossmatch Catholic teaching with the candidates' positions and "poof" out pops the appropriate way for a Catholic to vote. What if, for example, you are opposed to the death penalty, but doubt that there will be any legislation of significance on this topic during the next four years. How does that weigh in your consideration? Does the possibility of a candidate doing something positive in one area outweigh the certainty that he will do something negative in another?
Or let's take another thought experiment: let's assume that one candidate wanted to strongly increase the penalties for infanticide, while the other candidate thought they were fine the way they were. Let's even assume that the penalties in that state were rather mild compared to neighboring states. Do I have to vote for the candidate who wants to increase the penalties, even if I think the legislation is mostly symbolic and will have no impact on the rate of infanticide?
One might argue that these scenarios bear little resemblance to reality, and I'm willing to concede the point. But if you are going to articulate some kind of "general theory of Catholic voting," you need to take into account that there is often a very large gap between what candidates say and promise and what ultimately ends up happening in the legislative process.
MICROCREDIT: The NYT takes a look at "microcredit." Organizations like the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh have been offering small loans--mostly to poor women living in rural areas--to encourage them to start small businesses. The idea has captivated development experts around the world, although the jury is still out on their overall impact on poverty and economic development.