Abortion is not going to be outlawed. It’s just not. The fantasy that it will be has been dashed again and again–by Republicans–for forty years. So what can prolife Christians do in light of that fact?
The first and most fundamental thing is simple:
Repent and believe the Good News.
Stop acting as if God died and made you the Savior of the world, and that in order to win your fantasy you must lie, cheat, kill, achieve victory by any means necessary, and do any evil you feel necessary in pursuit of your wholly imaginary end of outlawing abortion. None of that is Christian. Forty years of such tactics have have done one thing and one thing only: make the gospel a stench in the nostrils of man and God as the MAGA Cult prostituted itself to a grifting con man and a pack of nihilist predators.
The reality is that God died and rose and made himself the Savior of the world. It is through trust in Jesus Christ, not in Donald Trump–or Joe Biden–and most especially not in yourself and your superior holiness to “liberals” or anybody else that the Church and the unborn, and refugees, and COVID victims and everybody else shall be saved.
That doesn’t mean we do nothing and expect that mere “thoughts and prayers” are sufficient. Thought and prayer–allied with active obedience to Jesus Christ–are precisely what Christians are commanded to do. That is why Jesus commands us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves and warns us not to go around yelling “Lord! Lord!” as we ignore what he says to do.
To be wise as a serpent is to practice Prudence, which is the foundation of all other virtues.
Prudence means having a clear-eyed sight of what is actually so, not of what we wish was so.
Prudence learns from reality rather than, as the Cult of Trump does, projecting its wishes on reality and indulging in magical thinking. And Prudence tells us that the overwhelming lesson from the experience of nearly forty years of the MAGA “prolife” Cult is this:
Unless You are Committed to Being a Disciple of Jesus Christ, the Primary Thing Your Vote Changes is You
The colossal failure of the “prolife” movement is that, instead of conforming itself to the image of Christ Jesus and seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness, it has conformed itself to the GOP–and above all, to the image and likeness of Donald Trump.
The problem was not so much that conservative Christians voted for Trump on 11/8/16. It is that every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year since then, they have rejected obedience to Jesus Christ in favor of obedience to Donald Trump. Instead of listening to the gospel, they have listened to him and regurgitated every filthy lie, defended every sadistic act of cruelty, and cheered for every crime and sin. From mocking the disabled to calling war dead losers and suckers, from kidnapping children and disappearing them into a prison system to be sexually abused to bragging that he saved the ass of the Saudi prince who ordered the brutal dismemberment murder of a reporter, from lying 200,000 Americans to death in a Pandemic to grabbing ’em by the pussy, you could always count on one thing: “prolife” MAGA Christians would always drop their defense of the unborn and the gospel to defend whatever Trump said or did, no matter how nauseating the stench of their hypocrisy was–because the ends justified the means and someday they would be rewarded with the magicking away of abortion. Only the magic never happened, and all they will ever be remembered for was their passionate defense of evil which, at the end of the day is what really mattered to them, not the unborn.
And because Trump is the King of projection, eternally using accusation as a form of confession and declaring his enemies to be guilty of what he himself says and does, the Cult likewise lied itself into imagining only one alternative to conforming itself to Trump’s image: conforming itself to Biden’s image.
But that, of course, is rubbish. The alternative to conforming yourself to Trump’s image and likeness is to conform yourself to Christ.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Ro 12:2).
Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
That means evaluating what we do in light of the gospel and the Church’s teaching–the Church’s whole teaching, and not in light of whether a Democrat or a Republican likes it. And it means trying to come as close as we can to the Church’s teaching, including this:
A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons. – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
As we have seen in this series, there is no prolife party. It was the will to believe that lie that has done more to damage to the prolife movement and the Church in the US than anything the most passionate external enemy of the Church or persecutor could have ever hoped to do. So the obvious thing to do is this:
Since there is no prolife party, we need to vote in light of that fact. And that means we need to look at the rest of what the two parties stand for. When we do, it immediately becomes clear that on almost every question the Catholic tradition speaks to, the Dems are closer to Catholic teaching, while the GOP under Trump constitutes not only the gravest domestic threat to the United States since the Civil War, it also constitutes a mortal threat to human life with Trump’s criminally negligent handling of the Pandemic, not to mention a mortal threat to our economic health and, most of all, a mortal threat to the witness of the Church.
The reality is that the hyper-focus on the illusion of outlawing the supply of abortion has blinded Christians to the question of demand. And in that blindness, allegedly “prolife” Christians have come to embrace GOP dogmas that are, in fact, huge drivers of that demand. Conservative zeal for punishing the poor, for suppressing a living wage, for denying healthcare, for making marriage and family increasingly economically difficult and putting parents in the position of both husband and wife having to work two low-paying jobs to get by, of making education costly, and of giving tax breaks to the hyper-rich and not the poor and lower middle class only place enormous pressure on women in pregnancies that are increasingly what are described as “crisis pregnancies.”
In this situation, the reality is that both parties regard abortion as a pressure release valve by which the violence and neglect visited on the poor and weak by the rich and powerful can be vented down the food chain from the weak to the weakest rather than back up the food chain via revolt against the powerful predators at the top. It’s the same mechanism whereby the rich tell lower class and poor whites to take out their anger on people of color, not on them. As Catholics, we can and should be a witness against this food chain and work to push back against the predators at the top.
But we also have to realize that the Millennium and Utopia are not coming today and not make the Perfect the enemy of the Good. Both parties have no intention of getting rid of abortion. But at least one party–the Democrats–tend to pursue the policies that reduce the demand for it. It is therefore prudent–given that neither party has the slightest intention of outlawing it, to lessen the evil by reducing the demand.
At which point, another question arises: Why not vote Third Party?
Here’s Why Voting Third Party is a Terrible Idea in 2020
There are two arguments against voting third party, one of them bad and the other good.
The bad argument against voting for a third party (or any candidate) is this: “You owe it to Major Party Candidate X to vote for him! Voting third party robs Major Party Candidate X of the vote that rightfully belongs to him!”
No. Wrong. False. Bad partisan zealot! Bad! Stop that! You don’t owe any candidate a damn thing. They are job applicants. You are the Boss. You are hiring somebody to do a job. If they suck at that job or cannot do it, you should not hire them and you owe them nothing.
That said, one of the considerations you have to make in hiring a job applicant is, “Can this guy make it to work?” If you have a) one candidate who is the worst crook you ever saw and who mumbles to himself about burning down the place if he doesn’t get the job, b) one who is competent and decent but not absolutely ideal and c) another candidate you like a bit better, but who has to commute from a hundred miles away and has no car, then you do the sensible thing and hire the competent and decent guy who can get to work on time and do the job.
That is why, especially in this election, it is insane to waste a vote on a boutique third party candidate, because they will never ever ever make it to the White House. It’s not going to happen. The winner is going to be either Biden or Trump–and it absolutely must not be Trump, the gravest threat our democracy has faced since April 12, 1861.
And that reminds me:
Stop Doing Evil that Good May Come of It
Another lie that needs to be dispelled is the pious MAGA falsehood that “God can use sinners. Trump is a sinner. Therefore God wants him to be President.”
This is just selective consequentialism, the lie that the ends justify the means.
God can turn any evil to good. That is the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. But woe to him who does the evil, as Judas Iscariot illustrates. Jesus promises only a millstone necktie to such folk. God brought good out of the election of Adolf Hitler too. But for him, the state of Israel might never have been founded. But that didn’t save Germany or its millions of victims. Nor did it save those who may very well be in hell for worshipping that dress rehearsal Antichrist and cooperating with his vast murder machine.
Moreover, this highly selective lie is always used only to justify voting for Trump by the Cult. Biden, who is also a sinner like the rest of us, never gets this “God will bless my sinful vote” treatment from the Cult of Trump. Whenever Dems are the subject, the Cult shrieks to the sky that if America votes Dem, the Divine Wrath will destroy us all–even though America seems to have been doing reasonably well when Obama left office, what with our lowest abortion rate, a recovering economy and a Pandemic Response Plan. Heck, we even had an Administration that took climate change seriously (just like the Church does): a point that looks more and more salient as the entire Western US burns to ashes.
This brings me to another point.
Live in Christ, not Fear
For the love of heaven, stop falling for the stupid MAGA trick of posting pictures of civil unrest in American cities, or the entire West burning down and then saying, “IF BIDEN IS ELECTED, THIS WILL BE THE FUTURE OF AMERICA!!!!”
Hello? This is the present of America! This is happening right now, under Trump. And all he has to offer is… fear itself: nameless, unreasoning terror.
And MAGA Qhristianity drinks deep at that well. Conservative Qhristians, including Qatholics, live in the conviction that they are victims of persecution–or are just about to be. They are terrified of the first death, not the second, and see harbingers of it everywhere because they do not trust God and act constantly like they are on their own. That’s what drives the Gun Cult. It’s what drives the selfish narcissism of the anti-mask brigades. And it’s what drives the absurd fascination of that Cult with QANON and its ridiculous conspiracy theories. Like the ancient gnostics, they have abandoned trust in the gospel, reason, or even common sense and now fill their hearts and minds with absurd myths about Pizzagate, 5G, vaccine conspiracies, Alien DNA, hydroxychloroquine, nonsense about the Deep State and paranoia about Pope Francis the Heretic Stooge of Satan and Biden the Communist who is coming to kill us all.
Meanwhile, it is they who are the biggest backers of religious persecution and the biggest enemies of religious liberty, the Constitution, and the Catholic tradition on our soil. It is they who cheer for kidnapping Christian children from their parents at the border, for murdering Christian refugees by thirst in the desert and for persecuting those obeying Jesus’ command to give drink to the thirsty. It is they who delight in confiscating rosaries from those refugees. It is they who celebrate the deportation of Chaldean Christians back to Iraq where they are killed or die without insulin. It is they who sent up a roar of joy when Trump attempted his Muslim travel ban. And it is they who fan the flames of good old fashioned Jew-hatred with their incessant mythology about Soros the Jew puppet master:
…because religious liberty only matters when it is their own liberty.
Which brings me to my final point:
Stop worrying about winning and get back to witnessing to Jesus Christ.
Far more important than voting, in the end, will be the quality of our witness to Jesus Christ. The United States is, in the end, a mortal and human thing. The Church is the sacrament of salvation to the world. The sole achievement of the MAGA Cult is this: God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them. And they are scandalizing his little ones in the Church and tying up a heavy millstone necktie for themselves as they drive people away from the only one who can save us, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the paradox of our time is that while conservative Christians are having panic attacks that “liberals” want to persecute them, the reality is that the overwhelming bulk of liberals are yearning to see Christians just practice the gospel they claim they believe and are filled with heartache over every spiteful “NO!” from the selfish people who won’t be troubled to wear a mask, or who needlessly lust for the blood of death row inmates, who cheer for kidnapping children at the border, who defend the religious bigotry of Muslim travel bans, and who selfishly cry “Don’t blame me! Don’t touch my gun!” but who never give a thought to traumatized kids they spit on as “crisis actors”. Liberals are not fantasizing about killing MAGA cultists as MAGA cultists are fantasizing about violence against them constantly.
Rather than plotting to kill MAGA Christians, Liberals like Biden are doing things iike going to Mass and mourning their dead while the sadistic Cult of Trump mocks them for doing so and calls them “fake Christians” while their Cult Leader golfs on Sunday and calls their beloved dead “losers” and “suckers”.
Meanwhile, unbelieving liberals are looking on in horror at the contrast between Christians like Biden and MAGA Qhristian sadists like Brennan. Such unbelievers make the logical conclusion that if that is “real Christianity” then any decent person would not touch it with a barge pole. Yet many unbelievers, for all the horrific scandal they endure from conservative Qhristians, still keep returning to the person of Jesus whom they admire and search for real disciples in hope of finding goodness and holiness and beauty. Because the truth is that, in my experience, the fields are white for harvest, as Jesus said they were. People still desire him. It is we and our sins who so often block the view.
Jesus says that we are not to fear him who can harm the body, but him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. That is you and me. His point is that the Church should fear seduction, not persecution. MAGA Qhristians have been thoroughly seduced. They applaud and enthusiastically support all Trump’s grave evils while using the unborn as human shields, not defending them. What the MAGA Cult has been taught to do is not treat the unborn as “non-negotiable”. Rather it has been taught to treat Trump as non-negotiable and to sear their consciences about nearly everything the Church teaches from capital punishment to just war to torture to health care to gun violence to a living wage to refugees to racism, because it is against the will of Trump. Fighting the Church in order to punish Trump’s enemies, not defending the unborn, is the real non-negotiable for the MAGA Cult. And the result is scandal, not life mortal or eternal.
In the end, this election will soon be over, as will the lives of everybody in this generation, including Trump. But the choice we make will be written not only for our descendants to read with pride or disgust but, more importantly, in Heaven where our Judge will see and know with perfect clarity what we have chosen and give us our deepest desire. Will that desire be Jesus Christ or some demented fantasy of raw nihilist power?
Much of voting is an enormous complex set of calculus about a host of competing goods. In most elections, there are honorable candidates on both sides and honorable people voting for a host of honorable motives. In this election, there is only one honorable major candidate. He is a sinner like all men, but a reasonably decent and competent person who, in every way, outshines the criminal Mob Boss Trump, a man who steal from charities, mocks the disabled, robs health funds for 9/11 responders in much the same way that he robbed charities, and takes no responsibility for the millions he recklessly exposed to a plague and the 200,000 he helped to kill thereby.
It is not my business to judge the sin, ignorance, stupidity, or folly of those who still, for reasons opaque to me, support this monstrously bad President. I cannot see how, knowing what we know of him, they can claim to be acting in conscience, but then it is not my job to see their conscience. I leave that to God. Nor have I any intention of sitting in judgment of those who cannot bring themselves to vote for Biden and instead choose a third party candidate.
But neither will I lose one second’s sleep over the arrogant denunciations by the ignorant who declare that you “cannot vote Democrat and claim to be Catholic.”
The hell I can’t. And the hell you can’t either. For myself I will say in the sight of God Almighty and with all my heart in Christ Jesus that I not only feel free to vote for Biden, I feel bound in conscience before Almighty God to do so and believe I would be condemned in the eyes of God if I do not.
God our Father, open our eyes to make wise prudential judgements, to repent our heresies, to work for the whole common good, to cease using the unborn as human shields for the evils we love, to genuinely fight for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, and to return to making our political political judgments the servants of the common good, the least of these, and the kingdom of God, through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Mother of the Church and Patroness of the Americas, pray for us!