Reconciling Faith and Politics | Observations Ott | Republic-Times


When time permits, I attend a Saturday morning men’s focus group at my church. We review the Sunday scripture readings, then discuss what they mean to us in our lives.

One week our reading was from Genesis, telling the story of Abraham being tested by God. God orders Abraham to sacrifice his only son, then at the last minute rescinds this instruction because Abraham has proven his fear and obedience to God.

Imagine today if God told you to kill your son, you didn’t get a last minute change and had to explain your action to the police. The best we could find in our discussion was that the lesson was to obey God but not to take the story too literally.

A few years ago there was the movie “Hacksaw Ridge”, which told the true story of Desmond Doss and his service in WWII. Doss’ religious beliefs prevented him from killing anyone or even carrying a gun. Still, he wanted to serve and was assigned as a combat medic.

His company despised him as they could not count on him to fight with them. Enduring multiple injuries, he ended up saving dozens of men, becoming the only conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. Doss did not compromise his faith even in the cauldron of war.

But what if all Americans had done the same? Or all the people around the world?

After attending a religious retreat several years ago (I would recommend a retreat to anyone), I made the decision to convert to Catholicism. As I learned about the faith, I became aware of the social teachings of the Church. These teachings teach us to value life, by opposing abortion, but also by opposing capital punishment, armed violence and war.

They teach us to stand up against racism, social injustice and unjust immigration policies. They teach us to help the poor, the weak and the marginalized with life. And they tell us to protect the environment which is a gift from God.

Many of our Saturday readings and discussions present issues that polarize us politically. Often times some tell me that if our government follows these teachings then we will sink into socialism and economic ruin, or we will have unsecured borders with rampant terrorists and rapists.

There are certainly practical considerations, such as taking the story of Abraham at face value. But we have social security and medicare, which help millions of people without falling into socialism. We are a nation of immigrants and to this day we have new immigrants who make significant contributions to our society… without terrorists or rapists among us.

I don’t really have an answer on how to reconcile faith and politics. Maybe you’ve got it all figured out, but maybe you shouldn’t be so sure of yourself.

I increasingly feel that an absolute response is not as important as a continuing quest to be pragmatic AND to better practice the teachings of our faith – including what we expect from our government.

We can certainly do much more in accordance with our faith without destroying our economy or the fabric of our society. It is something to ponder.

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