Challenges Left and Right
At an art museum, three patrons gathered in front of a painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, executed by an anonymous artist. The first said, “Notice the great attention to detail in the vegetation. The artist must have been a botanist.” The second countered, “Observe how they’re naked and unashamed. The artist must have been a psychologist.” “I beg to differ,” replied the third. “No clothes, no house, one apple between them, and they’re convinced they’re in paradise. The artist must have been a politician.”
Not all politicians deserve to be unflattering punch lines of jokes. The majority enter public office with admirable motives for the betterment of their constituents. Other elected officials genuinely start out making legislative improvements, but they end up as inmates making license plates. My first assignment as a priest was ministering at a Louisiana retreat center that was built on the former estate of Richard Leche and his family. Leche—a successor to populist Governor Huey P. Long—was the first state chief executive to be incarcerated on charges of misuse of federal funds. Years later, I was invited to give the benediction at a birthday “roast” for another populist Louisiana governor after his release from federal prison on racketeering charges.
People in my home state of Louisiana tend to enjoy elections as much as we relish eating! Indeed, the state is known both for producing two pungent sausages—boudin and andouille—and for hot and spicy politics, which will certainly be on the menu in the run-up to the 2022 elections that will occur a year from this month.
But beware! People who wish to maintain their appetite for sausages and politics in Louisiana shouldn’t witness wieners being processed for consumption—or those being groomed for office.
Nevertheless, despite my native proclivity for politics as a spectator sport, I’ve lost my appetite for the game. While I credit my lengthy theological formation for steering me closer to one major political party over the other—even though I’ve done crossover voting—I’m disillusioned with both parties and the political partisanship of today.
I often find both parties lacking in civility, common sense, and bipartisan productivity for the common good, but my political views primarily reflect my Catholic faith rather than those of either political party. In 2017, Pope Francis said when Christians “take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, [we] become Christians of the ‘right’ or the ‘left’ before being on the side of Jesus.” By nature, then, a Christian may be someone who makes enemies left and right! “You have enemies? Good,” said Winston Churchill. “That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Christians taking “the side of Jesus” can note his message doesn’t align completely with any political party—despite the insistence of some elected officeholders and members of the Christian faith that it does. Unlike politicians who change their minds at will, Christians who supersede political loyalties to proclaim foremost the gospel according to Jesus Christ can declare with conviction, “That’s my position, and I’m sticking to it!”