October 09, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Give to Caesar What is Caesar's and to God What is God's

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In the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, each report the response of Jesus to a vexing question of whether we should be involved in politics. The trick questions about taxes had more meaning than this issue might hold for us today, but it seems to reflect God's position on our involvement in our shared responsibilities of being good citizens in our time. St. Ignatius tells us that God is in all things, without placing an exception in politics. The election cycle in the United States is an appropriate time to reflect on our opportunities and our obligations as citizens.

Given the campaign cycle, seemingly endless, we may think Nov. 6, Election Day, will never arrive ... but arrive, it will. We may be exhausted by the endless stream of political news, but we need to remember that we are a crucial part of this process; we are not just observers. Some pundits observe that politics isn't a spectator sport, and that the political process isn't for sissies. They're right: we're called to be active participants so we can help decide our future, the future of our country and our society. We need not let others decide that for us.

We may feel confused by the issues. Or we might rationalize that my single vote really does not make any difference. Or we may simply find this whole process distant from our daily lives and concerns. Four years ago, less than 64 percent of eligible citizens bothered to vote, a disturbing national trend historically.

If we truly believe that the Kingdom and presence of God can be found all around us, in all things and people, we may need to work a bit on our attitudes concerning elections and citizenship.

We believe that regardless of our faith tradition, we have an implied, real, responsibility to be good citizens, regardless of our country, our national origin. Jesus, asked a trick question about allegiance to authority, responded that the supposed dualism of Church and State is a false dichotomy, and that all believers are called to be good citizens — not only of a worldly kingdom, but also as importantly — more importantly? — citizens of the Kingdom of God.

To be those good and faithful citizens of both kingdoms, means we must be as informed as we can be, so we may carefully exercise our rights and responsibilities, so we can make our choices and opinions known in elections. Our faith clearly tells us our single vote matters, and our faith gives us the strength to deny the lie that it does not.

We know that God works in the actions and movements of individuals. Our faith can deliver us from the tedium of the long political process, to this point. Our faith keeps us from being uninformed about the particular candidates or issues. Our faith encourages and supports us as we register to vote. Our faith encourages us as citizens to vote — not just to be good citizens of any particular country, but to be citizens of our world, of the Kingdom of God.

As we all try to live our faith, every day, and give God what is required, let us also remember the other side as well. Prayers, good deeds, religious actions are all fine, but we are all also called to find God's will as we see it for our nation and culture. We are called to take an active part in the process of being good citizens — citizens who take the rights and responsibilities of being truly part of the process of selecting national leaders seriously, completely.

St. Ignatius still calls us to find God working in and through our participation in this process, as citizens of the United States, as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

As citizens, we're called to Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

When we VOTE, we can do just that!


A. M. D. G.

~ P. Stark, S.J.
~ D. Highberger, S.J.

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