Frj82’s Blog

October 28, 2008

October God’s Field Article

This is my “Election Edition” article that is up for publication in the PNCC’s official newspaper “God’s Field.”  I think it gives a good taste of my brand of writing.

Being Politically Apolitical


I actually would have preferred the title “Being Politically Unpolitical,” but turns out that “unpolitical” is not a word.  No matter, it simply helps to convey the message that has taken over our country for the last few weeks and will certainly only grow more predominant over the next few.

Politics.  A tough thing to talk about in America because of the system in place that has a “if you are not with me, you are against me” sort of feel to it.  It is rather funny, as it brings me back (only) a few short years ago to a politics class at the University of Hartford, my alma mater.  An entire week was spent on how somehow in our nation’s history, democracy got sort of crumpled up and when we uncrumpled it (sorry, another fake word), we ended up with a two party system.  Sure, there is nothing “broken” about it, it is just a little crumpled, if you will.

That brings me to the knot that will tie these politics to our religion.  The noted American historian Lindsay Lohan once said “I don’t like to talk about politics. If you say you’re a Democrat, that’ll turn off Republicans, and that’s half of your fan base.”  Ha ha, I know.  There is nothing noted or historical about one Lindsay Lohan, but maybe she is familiar with our 32nd President, Franklin Roosevelt, who said “No political party has exclusive patent rights on prosperity.” But it echoes the feelings that I have and that have been shared to me by a number of clergy not only in the PNCC, but in other denominations.  And I thought I wouldn’t meet anyone at the YMCA.

Being somewhat of a public figure, as any clergyman is, people want to know about you.  They want to know your opinion of things.  Once they get past the on-the-surface stuff (which for me seems to be sports) it moves on to more serious things.  Who will be the next Prime Bishop?  Who will be elected next?  What do you know?  After the church things, things get political.  I have little interest in local politics, probably to my own detriment.  Oftentimes, I have no idea who people are talking about when they mention a local politician’s name.  I guess it’s because I see myself more as a Scranton visitor, knowing that as an assistant pastor, I could be moved any day on the whim of the bishop.

However, no one can avoid the questions concerning the presidential elections.  Turn on the news, you have candidates visiting state battlegrounds.  Turn on the radio, you have campaign updates.  Turn on Saturday Night Live, you know, just to get away from reality, and you have (sometimes really funny) political parodies.  Go to church, hear the message of Christ, go downstairs…and talk about McCain’s speech or Obama’s suit.  Nope, there is no escaping it.  As the assistant here, the school kids ask, curious parents ask, and, as was the case this past Sunday at our Elementary School’s Polish Food Fest, a radio station asked. 

Kindly, apologetically, and dare I say wisely, I pleaded the fifth.  No answer.  No answer was needed.  What good can possibly come out of myself, your priest, or our Prime Bishop coming up to the pulpit and telling us who we were voting for?  Three things would happen if I did this: you would like me more, you would like me less, you would think I was crazy for stating political views from the pulpit. 

The British philosopher John Locke is the man who is credited with the contemporary idea of the separation of church and state.  And although the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America is where the idea is drawn from, the phrase is never explicitly mentioned.  It reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  

In Scranton, something happened a few weeks ago which could and would not happen in the PNCC.  The local Diocesan Bishop wrote a letter to the diocese which was to be read in place of the sermon at weekend liturgies on October 4th and 5th.  He says “As wrong as abortion is, I don’t think it is the only relevant ‘life’ issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.” This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does.” 

Furthermore, the bishop states “Furthermore, public officials who are Catholic and who persist in public support for abortion and other intrinsic evils should not partake in or be admitted to the sacrament of Holy Communion.”  Now, I know that I am not one to give an opinion on a matter that falls outside the jurisdiction of my own church, let alone on a man who absolutely has much more pastoral and theological experience than myself.  I am out to let members of the PNCC know that in this era of free and accessible media, this is what took place in many houses of worship in Northeast Pennsylvania. 

Anyone who has done their homework knows where each candidate stands.  And yes, Catholic teaching tells us that life begins at conception.  But do you need to be told that from the pulpit?  That the only thing to look for when voting is the highest moral issue, neglecting all others because they simply aren’t as urgent?  I note this because of our view on the sermon, which would be deemed as part of the Sacrament of the Word of God.  This couldn’t happen in our church because who would I be to simply read a statement from the pulpit?  Where is the Holy Spirit in this?  We sing to the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength before every homily.  I’d be a liar if I said I never felt that presence during a sermon, taking me off one path of preaching and leading me to another.  I also note this issue because it struck a chord with many people in this area – I don’t know how many times I have heard that Pennsylvania is one of the main battlegrounds that may very well decide the election, and I really don’t know what kind of influence these words of the bishop may have.  And I absolutely don’t mean to cause trouble or anything like that.  It is the bishop’s discretion to oversee what is done liturgically within his own diocese in any Catholic church.  I don’t question his decision making, I just see how that “wouldn’t fly” in the PNCC. 

To close, and as embarrassing as it sounds, I think I’m going to side with Lindsay Lohan.  I am going to vote, and I am proud that I have that right.  But I don’t think I’m going to tell anyone who I’m voting for.  I’ll tell you that I’m so taken with this secrecy that I am a registered member of the Green Party.  We are a church after all, and we have some pretty big fish to fry within our own parish walls and within our respective dioceses.  After all, as our 33rd president Harry S Truman once stated “All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.” Hey, he said it, not me, but maybe he knew of the indecisiveness of the multitudes of presidential elections to come. 


1 Comment »

  1. Actually, the United States of America is a republic, not a pure democracy. I learned this from John Welch in the year 1967.

    Democracy may be a word familiar to most, but it is a concept still misunderstood and misused in a time when totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships alike have attempted to claim popular support by pinning democratic labels upon themselves. Yet the power of the democratic idea has also evoked some of history’s most profound and moving expressions of human will and intellect: from Pericles in ancient Athens to Vaclav Havel in the modern Czech Republic, from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 to Andrei Sakharov’s last speeches in 1989. Do remember that for all his swell ideas, Jefferson was NOT a Catholic, nor a Christian of any stripe, but a deist, removing the parts of Holy Scripture that did not suit him. Don’t we all from time to time? However, there is no evidence that Mr. Jefferson ever did penance for this, in fact, the Sacrament was not available to him having rejected the True Faith.

    In the dictionary definition, democracy “is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” In the phrase of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”


    1. A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.
    2. A nation that has such a political order.
    1. A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.
    2. A nation that has such a political order.
    3. often Republic A specific republican government of a nation: the Fourth Republic of France.
    4. An autonomous or partially autonomous political and territorial unit belonging to a sovereign federation.
    5. A group of people working as equals in the same sphere or field: the republic of letters.

    In truth, an absolute democracy is impossible, and results in anarchy. “Chaos replaces order”, as VNV Nation puts it very clearly.

    If the election of Mr. Obama is in accord with “the supreme power of the people” we are in very dire straits indeed.

    Conclusion: we Priests had better wake up and preach the truth. The blood of the murdered may well be required of us if we don’t. This not spoken lightly:

    Isaiah 59:2-4 (American Standard Version)
    American Standard Version (ASV)

    2 but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.

    3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue muttereth wickedness.

    4 None sueth in righteousness, and none pleadeth in truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

    Ezekiel 3:18-20 (King James Version)
    King James Version (KJV)

    18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

    19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

    20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

    Number of abortions per year(in the US): 1.37 Million (1996, I am sure this has increased)
    Number of abortions per day: Approximately 3,700

    Number of abortions per year(worldwide): Approximately 42 Million
    Number of abortions per day: Approximately 115,000

    That is a lot of blood.

    Kyrie Eleison


    Comment by Fr. Ken Strawhand — November 19, 2008 @ 10:21 am

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