By Jeanette Arnquist
Here we are again, in the shadow of a presidential election that has left our nation and our faith communities deeply and bitterly divided. In 2016 and in 2020 the election was won by just over 300 electoral college votes. That sounds like a substantial majority, but in reality, the difference in popular vote was a small percentage, something like 2% in 2016 and 3.6% in 2020. In both years a lot of people were on the losing side and experienced grief.
I had a friend who thought voting was a violent act because it created losers. While I never agreed with the idea of not casting my ballot, I have to admit that he had an important point. It is an understatement to say that losing an important election does not feel good.
Within the Catholic community, data tells us that the vote in 2016 and in 2020 was about evenly split between the candidates. Based on what people have told me and what I’ve seen in social media, many Catholics of deep faith, supporters of Democrats and Republicans, have justified their vote with religion or sacred scripture.
I went out to a ranch the other day. As I was walking around with Pat, the owner, I noticed that there were painted targets with a bullet hole right in the bull’s eye all over the ranch. They were on fences, the side of the barn, on a tree, on a sign post. I asked Pat “Did you do that.” Pat answered “Yep.” Trying to make conversation, I commented “You are an excellent shot!” Pat replied “It ain’t so hard if you shoot first and paint the target later.” (This story was told to me many years ago by Peter Ediger, one of the founders of Nevada Desert Experience. He passed away in 2012).
Take a moment to ask yourself if you shoot first and paint the target later, or, in other words, if you start with an opinion that you already have and look for a quote from the Bible or a Pope to support it.
If we, on the other hand, start with our faith, then we will vote for things that support vulnerable people (unborn and born.) We will look at our brothers and sisters who are suffering with eyes of compassion and we will want to make the world better for them. We will strive to love one another, and love our enemies, as Jesus so clearly taught us. This might not be easy, but it is what we are about. We will understand that God’s dream is for us to live and vote to promote the common good, for everyone on the planet and the planet itself.
The voting is over for now and we are left divided. Let us be compassionate with one another, understanding that about half of us are grieving.
Saint Paul urges us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15). When our hearts do this, they are capable of identifying with others without worrying about where they were born or come from. In the process, we come to experience others as our “own flesh” (Is 58:7). – Pope Francis – Fratelli Tutti, # 84
Let us be gentle with each other. Avoid demonizing the political “enemy.” Don’t call each other names. Don’t argue, because sometimes disagreeing means not understanding. So listen to each other.
Because (hopefully sooner rather than later) we will sit next to each other at Mass, hold hands at the Our Father and hug at the sign of peace.
Jeanette Arnquist is a former Director of the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She is retired and living in Tuscon, Arizona where she remains active in social concerns ministries.