I realize that I am in a church that stands divided amongst itself. With the results of this term's elections less than a few hours away, I can look back and really see the polarization that exists, and the problems in dealing with that rift.
I belong to a church who's leaders plead for it's followers to vote solely on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. This is the stance of many bishops, in spite of the fact that 12.5 million people are illiterate in this country, the fact that your child has a 40% chance of being offered drugs in the 9th grade of an average public school, and we spend billions on a senseless war that has already been cited: "Post war findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessment that 'Iraq has biological weapons'" source
I belong to a church that teaches charity and justice to all people, yet when I look out into the see of faces during a Mass, they are always one color. Even at integrated parishes, each "group" attends their own Mass; a contradiction in the idea of being the unified Body of Christ.
I belong to a church that reaches out to the needs of the poor and needy, but those people refuse to accept our theology with regards to Christianity. Whether it be from not understanding our Catholic Tradition, being disgusted with the treatment of priests acting immorally with children, or feeling neglected for so long from the Church, many of the people we serve feel unwelcome or distanced.
I belong to a church that continues to change, both for the good and for the bad. There are people who are still stuck in the 60's, trying to radically change things to a more modern approach. We've gone from the "Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit" to "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier," all in the name of inclusive language.
I belong to a church that struggles between the legalistic and hierarchical structure that has kept things going for so long, and the inner conscience that drives their sense of right and wrong. Until the end of time, this battle will continue to wage between what is "canonically correct" and what is "of pure conscience and of the Holy Spirit."
I belong to a church of elitist white suburbanites, dirt-poor illegal aliens, old European immigrants, young people rediscovering Traditional Catholic roots, liberal post-modernists, social activists, gay/lesbians dealing with faith, social conservatives, and guys like me who try to find that one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church in the midst of all these people.
As this election day comes to an end, I think about all these people who make up the Catholic Church. Perhaps the example we've seen play out for the past two years is something we need to look at with regards to our church. Are we willing to denounce those whom we call brothers and sisters in Christ because of our perspective on what is "right and proper?"
I like to think that the divisiveness that exists is the opportunity that God has given us to practice the Gospel as Jesus lived it. If, by some miracle of charity, we're able to set aside our differences and become one Church that is unified in spirit and not just in observance to the succession of St. Peter, perhaps that is when we'll no that we really "get it."
Vote for the candidate that most reflects your sense of self. May we be blessed with the opportunity to turn back from some of the earlier mistakes, and use that chance to become closer as a nation and as a church.