Our choices matter. They hurtle before us into eternity, dragging us in their wake. And in this election, more than any in the United States since 1860, they matter desperately. I wish they didn't.
The single most damning objection raised by atheists is this: Why would a loving, omnipotent God permit sin, suffering, and the eternal damnation of souls? And our answer is stark and comfortless: For the sake of freedom. To give our choices consequence and meaning. To make our existence real.
Our reason accepts this. One's frontal lobe can process the logical steps entailed and determine the absence of fallacies. But our hearts aren't always moved. Personally, I don't think it's worth the risk. If God were to offer me Limbo, or certain annihilation after death, in return for the guarantee that I would never spend five minutes in Hell, I would jump on that offer faster than my beagle pounces on a squirrel. Susie has no free will, no sin, and no eternity. Lucky dog.
But that's not the way things work. As I've explained more than once to Catholics who dissent over birth control: "I don't make the Natural Law, I just enforce it."
Likewise in the economy of salvation: We may think what we wish about God's decision to give man a lethal freedom. But wishing won't make it so.
And so we must decide. Readers of this site have heard extensively about the extremes to which Sen. Barack Obama pushes his support of legal abortion. They know that he is likely to appoint enough justices to the Supreme Court to keep abortion out of the hands of democratic lawmaking for 20 or 30 years -- in other words, indefinitely.
Failing a campaign promise on the part of Sen. John McCain to start a nuclear war that would kill more people than the four million children who face legal execution during an Obama administration, the abortion issue alone should convince every orthodox Christian that voting for Obama is a grave sin -- the kind to damn one's soul. Yes, even if you're black and voting for him out of racial solidarity, or white and voting for him out of racial guilt. Apart from simple ignorance, there's simply no excuse.
I want to go further and explain another implication of an Obama victory, one that should convince Catholic voters who despise McCain even more than I do to offer him their vote. Pardon me for quoting a piece I published elsewhere: I'll tell you one thing, just one, that will happen, if Obama is elected with a large congressional majority -- with perhaps enough votes in the Senate to quash a filibuster. And that one thing should be enough.
"Senator Obama has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would repeal every restriction on abortion in every American state, right up through the ninth month. But then, we knew that about Obama, the whole infanticide thing. But there's more. The FOCA raises abortion to (in its own words) a "fundamental right." According to legal analysts at the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the act's language is so sweeping that it will snuff out any state's "conscience" clause -- the laws allowing hospitals, doctors, and nurses not to take part in abortions. To do so would amount to illegal discrimination, denying a citizen her fundamental right. Christian hospitals could no more decline to perform abortions than they can currently refuse to operate on black people.
"So President Obama and his congressional supermajority would force every Christian hospital, doctor, and nurse either to abandon their faith or go out of business. By federal law, believing Christians would be banned from a major industry (and apostolate). This is literally equivalent to a law banning faithful Jews from owning newspapers.
"History tells us that steps such as this aren't where religious persecutions end; it's where they begin. Things are already scary enough in neighboring Canada, where Christians are now routinely hauled up before human rights tribunals for repeating what the Bible teaches concerning sex. Who knows what some Obama-appointed judge, 20 years from now, will make of a pastor whose sermons attacked the "fundamental right" of women to kill their children? How many churches and seminaries will face crippling civil judgments and have to close?
"It can happen here. It is about to happen here."
What should we make of Catholics who vote for the persecution of their Church and the ongoing killing of millions of unborn children? That's between them and God. I'll just offer this little catechetical reminder: Holy Communion received in a state of mortal sin is itself a still graver sin -- one of blasphemy. Perhaps when Obama Catholics see their local Catholic hospitals close, or their Catholic friends in nursing get jobs giving pedicures, they'll throng the confession lines. Let's pray that they do.
By this time tomorrow we will have a good idea of whether Christians have any lasting place in this country. In a few months -- if FOCA passes, and is applied as the bishops predict -- we'll know whether we should continue to participate as citizens, serve in America's armed forces, pay taxes except under protest, or think of our government as anything but an occupier -- like the Hungarian or Czech regimes from 1948-1989. We will know if the democracy our military exports to other countries is any better than the tyrannies it replaces. We will know if there is any future, however fraught and fragile, for pro-life laws -- or if the Berlin Wall constructed by Roe v. Wade will stand unchallenged for yet another guilty generation.
If the persecutors take power on the anger of voters rightly outraged by eight years of mismanagement, arrogance, constitutional abuse, and unjust wars, we must face the consequences -- as the Israelites did when God answered their sins with the Assyrians. Like the Israelites, we will have lost our country. Unlike them, we'll have no Covenant that promises we'll ever get it back. With God's grace, we'll be ignored and tolerated, like the Amish. To assume that we'll always be safe is, well . . . gratuitous.
It will be time to make some choices -- the kind that redound to eternity. It will be time, after 35 years of noble effort, to stop expending our energies trying to change abortion laws, or to fight for a vanished public "morality." We should keep on running pro-life pregnancy centers as long as they're legal. We should go on voting against all anti-life candidates and speaking our minds. But our time and treasure should be withdrawn from the bottomless pit of politics and transferred to fighting on the only ground where we have the advantage. Let us turn from the bloodied public square of an illegitimate regime to the care of souls, and focus our efforts on the propaganda fidei -- the propagation of the Faith.
Readers know that I've argued it's in America's national interest to restrict immigration. If America turns to persecution of the Church, I will turn on a dime from trying to save the country from immigrants to saving the immigrants from the country. I hope that other Catholics will drop their various political efforts and do the same -- pour their thwarted civic energies into a massive, lay-directed campaign to offer orthodox catechesis to incoming immigrants and evangelizing those of other faiths. (Do they print the Baltimore Catechism in Spanish? In Arabic?) If we showed one-tenth the energy and courage of the underground Church that survives a far worse persecution in China, our work would benefit numberless souls. Made subjects in our own country, we could prove ourselves patriotic citizens of heaven.
I dread this prospect, of course. I wish for a long and comfy, moderately fruitless life -- one that peters out in a state of grace and a haze of gin and tonics, in a house full of happy dogs. Like the English Catholics who followed the marital prospects of Henry VIII, I nervously hope for the best -- and pray to be spared the worst. Like most of you, I'd rather schlep my way to purgatory than sweat blood storming heaven. But wishing won't make it so.
Printed with permission from InsideCatholic.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.