Letter to a Concerned Friend

[A friend of mine (a good Catholic mother as well as daughter of longtime family friends) wrote me recently expressing her distress and concern over the present state of our politics and society. She asked for my thoughts; here they are.]

Hi. I am glad you asked for my thoughts on the current situation, because this is helping me sort them out – a bit. I hope this helps.

Our political life has become much more polarized and hostile in recent years. This may be because the issues involve culture and morality in addition to economics and defense. Elections were always important, deciding who is the best person to lead us, the best way to preserve peace, and the fairest tax system.  But now they are also about re-defining morality, and even what we may say out loud.

Choosing the best person for the job is important; character counts.  We need good people in the White House and Congress. But policies are also important, and now far more important than ever before.

When government re-defines morality (abortion) or reality (same-sex marriage, transgenderism), politics moves into very dangerous territory. The so-called “life issues” are at the heart of who we are and how we deal with reality.

These things are of concern to many, but especially to religious believers: Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.  The push to re-define morality is a direct attack on all who believe that the biblical and common-sense view of reality are the correct basis of morality.

These cultural or moral issues are usually defined in absolute terms, and that can give rise to extremism all around: extreme opinions, extreme decisions, and extreme actions.      This can leave little room for (and little interest in) compromise. But compromise is essential to a stable democratic society.

We haven’t seen much appreciation of compromise in recent years, especially from the left.  The years-long rioting in our cities (by “Antifa” and “BLM”), along with the riot-tolerant leftist bias of the media, have been very frustrating for many Americans.  And now we face a period of time in which the left is in near-total control of our government and media.  Tough times ahead.

Prayer, for our friends and for our enemies, will be more important than ever, if we are to retain our faith and our sanity. Without religion, the natural result of left-wing violence is right-wing counter-violence.  But for those of us claiming to be Christians, that is unacceptable.  

My duty, as a Christian and a citizen, is above all to put myself on the side of morality, as I understand it through a conscience informed by biblical teachings.  That can make for a difficult decision at election time, as in 2016 and 2020, when one side is clearly supporting a more moral agenda, but is doing so through the person of a man of very poor character.  Trump is a bully and a hot-head; but the Democratic Party agenda was and is  dramatically hostile to Christian values (and even to their open expression). People who like and admire Trump tend to agree with his agenda, and had no trouble voting for him. Those of us who dislike him but want to vote for a moral agenda faced a tough dilemma. The worst possible choice is to vote for bad policies because we think the candidate is “nicer”.

But I have a Christian duty to think, speak, act, and even vote with humility. I must never forget that I can be wrong, and that disagreement must still be done with love.  If we keep a humble and loving heart, God will not let us go far wrong.

As for Covid-19, the Coronavirus, I think it is simply a nasty infectious disease that we haven’t known how to treat.  The Trump administration has done a good job, especially in developing the vaccine in record time.   The left has tried every shabby trick in the book to blame Trump for each and every death.  And Trump has, as usual, let his temper and bullying get in the way from time to time. But it is important to remember that this is a worldwide plague, starting with China and devastating every nation on earth.

My wife and I are careful but not crazy: we wear masks whenever we go into a store, we avoid crowds, and we will get the vaccine as soon as we can.  

You ask about QAnon, the conspiracy theorists.  I do not buy into it.  Conspiracies no doubt exist, but in most cases bad things result from individual actions. Looking for conspiracies is rarely helpful, and often harmful to our ability to function. In the recent voting, for instance, I suspect there was some cheating that stole votes from Republicans; but it could not possibly have been enough to change the national results.  In light of four years of constant vicious and untruthful attacks on him, it does not surprise me that Trump lost; it rather amazes me that he got as many votes as he did.

The bigger problem is our society’s drift towards “modernism”, meaning a belief that new ideas are always better than old ones.  The same drift carries us away from the oldest truth we know, which is God.

Here are my suggestions for getting through these strange and difficult times.  Pray often.  Trust in God. And don’t hesitate to visit with a priest to discuss any issues that trouble you – even political issues.  And we (you and I) are also blessed with the good and loving counsel of your Mom and Dad.  Give them my love.

Let me know if any of this helps, or if I have missed any of the points that interest you.  Or if I need to clarify anything. I am happy to help if I can. And I love you for asking.

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