This morning I’ve driving up to Bangor to attend the Maine State Republican Convention,
Some other day I’ll have to write out the full story of my reversion to Faith, and to the Catholic Church; today I’ll limit myself to that part of it that was a conversion from a sort of secular religion that we can call the Church of Progressive Politics. Now, we Catholics understand that conversion is a life-long process, but there are numerous dramatic fits and starts along the way. The most dramatic moment for me came on January 25th, 1992 (The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul), when an experience of the Risen Christ permanently banished my agnosticism and set me on a trajectory that continues to this day.
It took a rather long time, however, before I fully extricated myself from all my emotional attachments to the Progressivist Faith . I did know right away that I would have to take a stand against abortion; I even wrote a fan letter to pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania Robert Casey. Yet, somehow, I still managed to vote for pro-abortion Bill Clinton . . . twice. Later, I dabbled in Democrats for Life for a while before concluding that it was going nowhere. The final break came when I realized that even if all the progressive social welfare programs worked as intended, they would still fall far short of the damage caused by other progressive causes that were undermining the traditional family; and of course, once the emotional bond was broken, it became obvious that those social programs fell far short of their promises in any case, and sometimes made things worse. I changed my voter registration to Independent, twelve years after my return to the faith, and after twenty-four years as a registered Democrat.
That’s where I expected to stay. After spending almost a quarter century in thrall to one political party, I wasn’t about to sell my soul to another. Only three years later, however, I was convinced to join another party. First of all, there was a strong pro-life candidate running in a Republican primary whom I wanted to support. Also, some pro-life friends were looking for like-minded people to attend the state Republican convention as delegates to work against the latest attempt to remove the pro-life plank from the party’s platform. Despite its official pro-life position, many Maine Republicans, including some of its most prominent (do the names Snowe and Collins ring a bell?) are pro-abortion. I decided that it was important that at least one of the two major parties be publicly committed to the defense of innocent human life, and so I abandoned my unaffiliated status, and a couple months later I was a delegate at the Republican convention (I should point out that the American political parties don’t correlate exactly with political philosophies; while there are today virtually no conservatives in the Democratic party, there are plenty of progressives in the Republican party). I have attended every convention since, often bringing one or more of my children with me.
So, have I simply switched my allegiance from one false political god to another? Not at all. The god of the Left is a greedy god indeed, who uses politics to swallow up everything he sees. That’s why leftists try to make everything political, even things like marriage and religion that are properly outside the scope of politics. Because they subordinate everything to politics, they look to politics and political leaders for “salvation” (hence the messianic nonsense surrounding certain progressive politicians). To the Left politics is an offensive game, as they try to use it to impose their vision on the rest of world.
Politics is a largely defensive game for those on the political right, at least in the United States (I can’t speak for other countries). It’s primary goal is to keep the other side from taking over absolutely everything. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at some current controversies: who is trying to overturn understandings of basic social institutions that have been settled for millennia? Who is trying to shut up, shout down, intimidate and impoverish anyone who simply disagrees with them? Let me point out again that there are plenty of people on the right who make an idol of their political party or program, but it's not an essential part of the package as it is on the left. And at its best, the American Right follows our Founding Fathers in looking to provide ordinary people with the greatest practicable freedom to order their own lives and the life of their community.
That’s why I’m still involved in politics. It’s not that I expect any party, political program, or politician to save the world as I did in my progressive days (I now know that there is only one Savior, and his name isn’t Barack Obama). I don’t engage in politics to transform the world, but to oppose those who seek to impose an essentially idolatrous and totalitarian vision on everyone and everything. I believe in rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but Caesar has no claim on my Church, my marriage, or my soul.