Yesterday morning I very unexpectedly had my conscience pricked. It was an epiphany, a flash of insight that I suspect will forever alter how I see the world. Perhaps it’s appropriate that this would happen on the third day of the fast as I am trying to focus on prayer.
On this very blog just after election day I posted a short essay, Tears Of Joy, stating how much I supported Obama for president and how joyful I was that we would finally have an alternative to Pres. Bush. I understand now that instead of joy they should have been tears of anguish, tears of sorrow.
Within a few days of posting this essay I also posted a story about the horrors of child abuse. I said I was trying to shed light on this particular instance, that it was evil and needed to be dragged out into the light. Then this morning an Orthodox priest with whom I correspond told me that while the essay was well written he, of course, did not vote for Obama because of his pro life stance, and that he believed his position mirrored that of the Church. I was stunned and realized instantly that he was right. I had not looked at the most important issues. I basically had no idea what I was talking about.
I told the priest that one of my main reasons for voting for Obama was war fatigue. This response was in earnest, and I am greatly troubled at the waste of American lives in a country we will never convert, conquer, or even really understand. It is a tribal society and far removed from our sensibilities. I am appalled at these deaths and the grievous wounds (emotional and physical) the war is leaving on our brightest and best. In my opinion, veterans deserve our highest respect and an acknowledgment of our gratitude for all they have offered and lost on our behalf.
But while focusing on these issues I was ignoring the very real war being raged all around me. I can only plead ignorance. I know/knew in an abstract way that abortion is the American holocaust. That viable beings are killed every single day, and yet the cry of the slain innocents never made it past my ears. How can I hold up a pro-abortion president-elect one day and rail against child abuse the next? I am a hypocrite, I am the chief of sinners, and I am undone. Thankfully our Lord is always at work. I am embarrassed and ashamed by my own hypocrisy.
I wrote a paper about abortion in a college philosophy class. I argued that abortion up until the fetus became a sentient being (defined as capable of feeling pain) was acceptable but not after that point. To inflict such agony was a reprehensible, immoral act. I was looking only at the physical dimension, making a cold sterile assessment. There was no acknowledgment or even real understanding of our true nature. After the class, abortion was pushed to the back burner of my life. I saw both sides of the argument carry out heinous acts in defense of their belief.
Our Lord leaves us no middle ground.
As I thought about this and spoke with my wife I realized that many politicians/people may support abortion but not capital punishment. The opposite view is also held. Are the two mutually exclusive? How could a person support one and not the other? I have qualms about the death penalty for a number of reasons. Ironically, one of which is the possibility of killing an innocent man. Surely some innocents (especially the poor who cannot mount as vigorous a defense as persons of means) have slipped through the cracks and been executed.
I have often thought that is if the value of capital punishment is as a deterrent then execution should be public. Potential offenders could see what awaits them and our society could see itself perform what is for all intents and purposes state sanctioned and state executed murder. Instead, this public punishment is carried out for the most part in private, perhaps because we know it to be wrong. How many lives have we taken as punishment for the loss of another life through murder? Is the death penalty the state playing God, acting as the final arbiter and deciding who lives and who dies? Does this not reek of hypocrisy? Abortion and capital punishment are simple issues made needlessly complex. What does the Church tell us?
Thank you Fr. for being the catalyst of change, for opening my eyes to my blindness, for helping me to see myself as I really am. To those who read these words thank you for your patience as I fumble my way through life. I will strive to be more consistent and to conform myself to the teachings of the Church as established by our Lord. And no more politics.