The upcoming U.S. presidential election will be the first in which my oldest son is eligible to vote. I feel pretty confident that he’s ready for the responsibility, because . . . you know that old maxim about never talking religion or politics at the dinner table? Well, we don’t listen to that.
Dinner table conversation, especially about religion, is a big part of our family culture all year. Politics is important too. As parents, my husband and I try to model a thoughtful interest in the issues of the day for our kids. A discussion about politics with family and/or friends is an opportunity to learn to present our positions charitably and listen and respond to others with charity. Even when we disagree.
In our home, we strongly believe that, as Catholics, we have a mandate to learn about and participate in politics. As we were created in the Image of God, a Trinity of Persons, we are meant to live in community. While our ultimate community is in Heaven, we must work to create as just a world as possible for each other while we are on earth.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is cornered by some disingenuous folks hoping to entrap him. He is asked whether or not a religious person ought to pay the census tax to Caesar. Jesus tells them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21).
I really appreciate the way that, a couple elections ago, Archbishop Chaput took those words and presented them to Catholics as a challenge to engage ourselves in the democratic process.
“It means that we each have a duty to study and grow in our faith, guided by the teaching of the Church. It also means that we have a duty to be politically engaged. Why? Because politics is the exercise of power, and the use of power always has moral content and human consequences” (source).
I’m hoping all my children will grow up knowing how important it is to take the time to read and study Catholic teaching and form a strong Catholic conscience, to always vote, and to always vote according to that conscience. And—perhaps even more miraculous than that—to be capable of charitable conversation about difficult topics over dinner.