Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vatican Simplifies Voting Guidelines for Catholics

For all you conflicted Catholics out there in this election, I've found help for you. The Vatican has published a guide for people who have a hard time choosing between abortion, economics, environmental issues, poverty, stem cell research, etc. In the Church's eyes, however, the most important thing is to preserve the sanctity of life.

Here's a link to the article.

Archbishop Ronald Talinger, Chairman of Catholics for Ethics and Family, has created a guide that is aimed at reaching all Catholics, even those that are not necessarily devout. "The Church does a great job of solidly stating their position," explained Archbishop Talinger, "but it does so in a way that not everyone can easily understand. That's why the common Catholic needs something that speaks to them about how they are required, as Catholics, to vote this year."

I found this article through the Catholic/conservative blog Southern Appeal, which I casually follow. I highly recommend the site. (Also, it has a cool picture of a bayonet.) One of its regular contributors, Francis Beckwith, is currently a Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

Senator Government

At first, I was just going to let that one go, but apparently John McCain's slip of tongue is pretty well-known at this point.

Yes, during the debate, John McCain (mistakenly) referred to Obama as Senator Government. I can't think of anything more appropriate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Re-envisioning Leadership for a Hope-filled Future

I’m writing this for you at 9:19 pm from 33,000 feet. I’m on my way back to Washington from the fall conference at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. I have to say that the moon has never looked so bright as it does from seat 27F right now. However, even here above the cloud cover, that brightness is unaccompanied by the billions of stars out there. In light of the theme of the conference, “Re-envisioning Leadership for a Hope-filled Future,” the current view out my window reminds me of the words of Dr. King: Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.

I don’t think anyone has any illusions about the state of the world. Those of us who read a newspaper or an internet wire service know fairly well that these are indeed the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times because never have so many people had so much food to eat, shelter under which to sleep, and education of which to avail themselves. Simultaneously, the ambitions and technologies that have made those miracles possible also allow more people to die of preventable disease, kill each other with the weapons of war and starve from lack of understanding of the environment. Perhaps we are in the stage of King’s analysis in which it is dark enough to see the moon, but not yet the stars. We can take ourselves in either direction, to light or to darkness.

The three keynotes at the conference were about children, the environment and interreligious dialogue.

Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman spoke on behalf of American children. Given the rather asymmetric quality of education in this country the issue of children should be no surprise. States spend more on incarcerating than educating and many kids still aren’t at grade level. The upside is that No Child Left Behind as flawed as it is, has helped close gaps in our education system; but based on current progress it won’t be enough to meet its own goals. To fill the rest of the gaps, religious institutions take an active role. As it is Catholic high schools educate a disproportionately large percentage of the college-matriculating African-American men in this country. Something about their model works when it is accessible. Increasing that access should be a goal.

Richard Cizik, lobbying point man for the National Association of Evangelicals in Washington, was a seemingly unlikely choice to speak on behalf of protecting the environment. He expressed a difficulty in bringing the environmental issue to evangelical congregations across the country but also a noted progress. Tongue in cheek as well as serious he noted that even if evangelicals couldn’t understand climate science, they could understand that “going green” can save them money. The real challenge though is convincing congregations that God’s creation is worth protecting. For those who believe in an apocalyptic end to the world, protecting it seems like a waste of time. But Cizik has done an admirable job of quelling evangelical apprehension about hippies and has given them a religious (and financial) framework within which to work in tackling environmental issues.

Given the strained relationship between America and the Middle East since pretty much the invasion of Tripoli, interreligious dialogue cannot be underestimated as a source of peace and understanding. Dr. Eboo Patel, a Rhodes Scholar from Chicagoland and founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps, spoke fervently and earnestly on his efforts to make interreligious dialogue an enriching reality for young people. Drawing on the fact that much of America is still insulated from and ignorant of religions other than Christianity, Dr. Patel stressed the importance to our future as a religiously diverse nation of understanding one another as neighbors. America is the most religiously diverse nation to ever exist, and that is a potentially dangerous moniker to bear if we are not also the most religiously pluralistic. Only a religiously pluralistic society can grow as one and support the religious diversity that has made America so strong and so desirable a place to live, the city on a hill.

All in all the conference was a deeply enriching experience—for a college student, free food is always good. But I don’t think “enriching” is descriptive enough.

I do have a special affinity for Emory, and would positively love to be a divinity student there one day. There is a certain kind of attention that you get when you are a Catholic from California among Protestants from the South. By chance, or by fate, I ended up at an alumni awards luncheon sitting next to the former Methodist bishop of Charlotte, who is a graduate and long time faculty member of Emory. I never really thought of having a Rolodex but with all the business cards I have after being at the Conference of Catholic Bishops and spending the last few days in Atlanta I think I might need one. I also think that I might goad the Office of the Architect at Notre Dame to plant some more trees on campus, we really are lacking in the arboreal category.

Yet, what I take away from this experience is that there is hope for the future. There are leaders willing to step up to the plate. There are youth who want to contribute to those of other faiths because it is their own faith that will be strengthened by that caritas. There are youth who desire to serve God’s creation because all creation is indeed His. There are youth that want these opportunities and the basic right if education but the agenda of adults are not giving them that chance. Because all it takes is a chance. Give a kid a chance to rise to a standard of expectations and he will. Ask her to articulate her beliefs clearly for students of other faiths and nations can understand that she is a human being worthy of love and respect and she will.

In the different concurrent session lectures that I attended there were a number of ideas and challenges thrown out. I’ll highlight just a few:
Pay for the college application for a student whose family might otherwise struggle to cover the cost.
Be a tutor for grade school kids. Really, they do think that college students are the coolest thing in the world.
Go to your parish and convince them to conduct an energy audit.
Go to your parish and convince them to start a dialogue with a faith community of a different tradition.

Lastly, and this is my own bit, I think the simplest task is to be Christ-like. Live the Gospels, teach the Gospels. Or as St. Francis put it—and you’d be surprised how much Protestants love St. Francis—Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain Spices It Up

McCain has been down in the polls significantly, but the economy is improving and McCain is unleashing a whole new wave of campaigning for himself and against his opponent.

Obama has accused McCain over and over of being the same ol' Bush (no doubt, the words "maverick" and "the last eight years" occur in direct proportion to each other) and a status quo kind of guy. It is an accusation that is supported by earlier attacks against McCain's age; the adage, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," I'm sure is never very far from the minds of voters, and this is just the way Obama wants it.

Yet, considering recent speeches (check out and a boast by McCain that he will "whip Obama's 'you-know-what,'" I will place all my credibility as a political pundit--which at this point looks something like doubling down with a nickel on the table--in a solid John McCain victory on Election Day. Let me tell you why.

First of all, like I said, it looks like the economy is going to come around. It went up nearly 600 points today, and it might drop another 600 tomorrow, but we've already broken all the records we're going to see broken. Nothing barring the most ridiculous financial surprise will make Americans more worried about the economy than they were before. This plays into McCain's favor, not because he doesn't have just as well articulated position on the issue, but because Democrats, by the very nature of their policies, will fare better when people fear they are losing control of their assets. This will give McCain the opportunity to present his policies while being more believable, though he does have to seem more knowledgeable about his own position than he has been. Nevertheless, McCain will improve among voters whose number one issue is the economy.

Secondly, McCain is able to play the maverick card, whereas Obama is not. In this troubling time, voters are drawn to Obama because he offers a sense of security and peace, of confidence in the Oval Office and the ability to work consistently on improving the common welfare. Therefore, Obama CANNOT change his message, and especially not so soon to election day. Up until Nov. 4, you will be hearing the same thing over and over; Obama cannot change. McCain, however, can. By changing the race up in such a "maverick" but "presidential" way, demonstrating that his unpredictable character truly is predictably for the common welfare, McCain can easily overcome Obama. The question merely is what stunt to pull. He tried to do it when it came time for the economy, but reading point #1 above, this did not work nearly as effectively as another stunt might in the future.

That brings me to my third and final point: the debate. McCain will not let this third debate be the second most boring debate in history. Considering the above two points, expect McCain to nail Obama on foreign policy, perhaps specifically his anti-free trade policies. He would do well to tie his own foreign policy experience, which is undeniable, to his policies regarding the economy. He will make arguments for nuclear power, for free-trade, etc. in the light of his foreign policy and he will do it passionately. Obama wants to paint McCain as erratic; but I think McCain will come out passionate, but controlled. Just like his acceptance speech at the RNC, as well as his most recent speech in Virginia, McCain can pull "controlled passion" extremely well.

Now that my one and only dime is on the table, let's hope I get dealt that Ace I'm looking for.

p.s. There are certain people who would prefer I not post about politics, but the Rover is a Catholic AND conservative paper.

p.p.s. My opinions are my opinions only and not necessarily the opinion of the Rover at large.