Maintaining Faith In The Political Sphere – Anna Aversa

The United States now more than ever is suffering from political polarization. The upcoming presidential election mixed with social and modern media has led to turmoil amongst families and friends. And like everything else in life, politics involves religion.

I recognize that the United States functions with a separation of church and state. Yet I also recognize that even in 2020, there isn’t a total separation between them. But I do however, believe that voting based on faith and running a political platform based on faith are two different things. There should be a separation of church and state in our political parties; however, not allowing one’s faith to inform how one votes would be separating a large part of one’s life from an important decision.

I was raised in a household where politics were simply not talked about. For example, I never saw my parents watch anything but local news; no Fox News or MSNBC. But this doesn’t mean that my upbringing didn’t inform my political beliefs. In my mother’s words, my parents raised me as a Catholic “to give me a good moral backing,” and I believe my religion has given me just that. And so, I vote based on my faith. 

I am a Roman Catholic white woman which comes with many privileges. When I talk politics with people I often get the question “Well aren’t you Catholic? Aren’t you supposed to vote for _____?” . And while the answer to that question is complicated I usually say “nope.” And yet I do vote based on my faith.

When I tell people that, they are often angered, assuming my political stance. But the reality is that I use my faith to make morally-informed decisions. As a Catholic, I was taught to love thy neighbor; and I look to Jesus, specifically the example of his life and teachings, to help me evaluate the hot button issues of today.

There is a saying that says “if a supreme court case never made a ruling to decide your rights, you have privilege”. And as a female identifying person I have had the Supreme Court decide if I had the right to vote and more recently whether I have access to reproductive care. But the privileges I hold are much greater than the disadvantages I face. Jesus taught me that we are to give voice to those who cannot be heard. I feel that my right and capability to vote is one of the greatest powers I have when it comes to speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

It’s interesting to engage in conversation with my fellow Catholics who have a different political standpoint and yet say they also vote based on their religion. Different people find different aspects of their religion more important than others. For me I strive to be as christlike as I can be when I fill in the bubbles on a ballot. For me this means I prioritize the needs of others, the needs of those that do not have the privilege I yield. Others might prioritize the needs of themselves and the people they know personally, or they prioritize things of monetary value.

And overall, I think if Jesus were physically present on Earth today, would I feel guilty if he saw me fill in my ballot? I strive for that answer to be no. 

To my fellows: How has your religion shaped the way you vote or your politics more broadly? Do you think the way you vote differs from others in your religion?

 

5 thoughts on “Maintaining Faith In The Political Sphere – Anna Aversa”

  1. Hi Anna, I can relate to your stance here as I am also a white Christian woman and have many privileged identities. I agree with you that the Christian faith tells us to stand against injustice. Jeremiah 22:3 tells us “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.” It is unfortunate to see how many Christians overlook that command and instead as you mentioned, prioritize wealth and personal comfort. In my personal life I see many Christians who are in fact oppressors in our society by virtue of their race, class, and gender identities — myself included. That is why I personally feel as you do that we are called by our faith to stand up for others and challenge injustice with our votes and our voices.

  2. Hi Anna! Thanks so much for touching on this issue. As a fellow Catholic, I also vote based on my faith, which can be really difficult to express in conversation. I find it very difficult to take a political side without neglecting some aspect of my faith. What is particularly interesting is how Catholic opinion on politics has (or has not) changed over the last four years. It raises such interesting Catholic existential questions, like “what does it REALLY mean to respect life?” and “what would Jesus do in this situation?” This was a beautifully written post, and it is especially relevant in light of Pope Francis’ statement yesterday and America’s reaction to it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Anna! Great post – I think you brought up a very important and relevant issue considering there is a very high-stakes presidential election coming up. I think my religion does inform who I vote because I want to make sure that I am voting as if I were not a privileged person. In other words, if I did not have some of the privileges I have now, which candidate could best support my needs. I try to imagine this with not only the privileges I have/don’t have but also with privileges other people may not enjoy. In this way, I think the way that our faiths inform our vote is similar! I imagine what the spiritual leaders of my faith would do in this situation, and this definitely influences my decision (I believe in a good way). I think it’s unfortunate that people make assumptions about who you may vote for simply based on your religion.

  4. Hi Anna,

    The separation between church and state is very important to me. Our Constitution has never been a perfect document, and struggles for rights continue to this day, but this was one idea they got right. Ironically, separation between church and state is the very thing that allows these debates to be had in the public sphere, as no one religious group can set the terms for debate, as occurs today in many countries around the world. I appreciate that religions often inform people’s morals. It would be indefensible to expect someone to leave aside their moral life when entering the ballot box, but a secular political system benefits us all in the end.

  5. Great thoughts, Anna! I think the most important influence on my voting decisions and all other aspects of my life are my deeply held personal beliefs. These beliefs are largely influenced by my religious identity, as well as personal experiences, and they form the basis for my personal morals. They are part of who I am and not something that I can seperate from or leave behind in any situation, so they most definitely shape the way I vote and view the world. 

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