Confessions of an apolitical housewife

January 21, 2008 | Human Life, Struggles | 49 comments

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
– Mother Teresa

Here’s a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately: do I have to have an opinion about everything?

As the election season heats up, I frequently find myself in situations where people are discussing politics. I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with these conversations. What do I think about immigration issues, No Child Left Behind, Middle East policy, Homeland Security, Kyoto, minimum wage increase, welfare reform, healthcare reform, tax reform and social security reform? I’d been trying to keep up with it all, struggling to sneak in moments here or there to read political sites, even turning on CSPAN for a moment before feeling myself start to slip into a coma, when it occurred to me: maybe I don’t have to have opinions about all of this stuff.

I am not naturally interested in politics, so keeping up-to-date on all the issues takes quite a bit of effort. And I’m starting to think that maybe I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to keep up with it all right now, that next time someone asks what I think about Senator So-And-So’s immigration reform proposal, maybe it’s OK to say, “I don’t have an opinion about that.”

Don’t get me wrong: this is also not to say that there are no political issues that I care about. I am quite concerned about certain topics (mostly related to the respect of human life), and do keep up-to-date and informed in those areas. This is also not to say that I don’t think these things are important. I think they’re all very important. It’s just that I don’t feel called to make these particular issues my concern right now, and that since I’ve hardly had any time to read up on them, I feel far from qualified to voice my opinion in anything other than the most broad terms.

I’m starting to feel that for me, in this phase of life, it’s just not my calling to be all that passionate or involved in politics, to put much time or effort into trying to better the world through changes in government policy or other large-scale initiatives. Right now, as trite as it may sound to some people, I feel like my calling is to just make my little corner of the world the best that it can be: to work on the immigration issue by continuing to lend a helping hand to some friends of ours who are immigrants from Mexico; to preserve the environment by making sure that our household uses our God-given resources prudently; to reform social security by having lots of future taxpayers; to (as Kimberly Hahn once put it) change the culture, one diaper at a time.

Yet I feel like I’m violating some sort of law when I embrace that mentality, that it’s carved in stone somewhere that everyone must have an opinion about every issue all the time. And other people evidently know of this law, or would at least seem to from the looks I get when I say in social settings that I don’t have an opinion about certain major issues.

I thought it would be interesting to hear others’ opinions on this: what do you think? Is it OK to not have an opinion about certain major issues, or is that just a cop-out?

49 Comments

  1. Meredith

    It’s so totally NOT a cop out at all, sometimes there are bigger fish to fry right on our own home fronts!! Besides, who wants to chew the fat about politics when there’s so many more interesting topics going on in the blogsphere 🙂 Just my two cents, and even if you DO have an opinion, which I most certainly do, you don’t have to SHARE it with anyone unless you want to, kapische?? Good post!

  2. Patrick

    I think you are on the right track. Recently I’ve been heading the same direction. I used to be very active politically and had opinions about all those things that bore you. 🙂 Lately I’ve started to think it just isn’t important.

    Our politics is a reflection of our culture, and politics won’t change until the culture does. And the culture won’t change until the hearts of men and women are changed. If we Christians would all, as you say, just focus on keeping our own houses in order, we will be a much better example to the world. Then change will come.

    In a democracy I think we still have some obligation to stay informed, to vote, and to be good citizens. I am not advocating complete withdrawal. My point is that politics is not going to solve our problems, so we need to keep it in perspective.

  3. Anne Marie

    Girl Pleeeaaase. Ever hear that a Jack of all Trades is a master of none? Same goes for opinions. Unless you aspire to be a know it all, and I’m sure you’ve met a few and know that they tend to be quite a bore, then focusing on areas of interest is just fine. That’s why we majored in topics in school, can’t learn it all. That’s why we have the Magisterium, so we don’t all have to be great theologians, and that’s why we have Fr. Pavone’s voters guide, to give us an overview from a Christian perspective with out having to spend hours with the tedious details.

    1 Corinthians 12 is a great overview of diversity within the Body of Christ. Politics obviously includes Christians as well as non Christians, but the same principle applies. Everyone’s input is valuable for the whole, but slightly different from that of the others. Or to put it another way… Different strokes for different folks.

    Of course you could check out Tertium Quid’s blog for political stuff, he seams to be quite the political animal and his insights are always good.

  4. Adoro te Devote

    You know, I once had a very wise teacher (back in high school) who happened to be teaching Advanced Composition – the big final project was a research paper. (Mine was 63 pages…I tackled Emergency Medicine and it took on a life of its own.)

    Anyway, she wanted to make a point; that lots of people EXPRESS opinions, but that doesn’t mean they are really knowledgeable enough to be ENTITLED to that opinion.

    Having an opinion is an assertion that one actually understands the totallity of the issue at hand. Many people specialize in certain areas, thus they are entited to certain opinions. Other people have no idea what they’re talking about but if their favorite candidate spouts it, or if they heard it from Al Gore or Madonna or some other character, well, that’s good enough for them.

    So you see how the former example is a person entitled to an opinion; the latter is a person spouting off.

    We have a society of people who love bandwagons and want other people to jump on bandwagons also. And what that does is confuse the issues, doesn’t take things from all angles so it can be discussed intelligently, so what we end up with is a mishmash of half-truths and thinly veiled deceits by those with an agenda.

    How CAN you have an opinion in a political year unless you take the time to research each issue on your own?

    So, short answer is this: you don’t HAVE to have an opinion. It is far wiser to state you have no opinion because you are reserving judgement until you have the chance to look at the actual facts; not what’s being spouted in the media that seeks glamour, not truth.

  5. Anna

    The idea that we have to have an opinion on every political issue is often partly based on an underlying assumption that politics are how we make the world a better place. Christians ought to have an issue with this, because we put our ultimate hope in Jesus’ power to convert hearts, not a political system’s ability to bring about the best good. (Which is not to say politics doesn’t matter at all.)

    I think the representative system may have been intended to work by having people elect someone they trust to make wise decisions; these days the idea of *trusting* a politician is just about laughable. This is why we resort to trying to find a politician who expresses opinions closest to ours, and/or has a voting record similar to our opinions. It’s hard to do that if you don’t have opinions. (Although if you just want to say the issues that you do have opinions on are enough to outweigh possible disagreements on other issues that you don’t have opinions on – there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that).

    However, there is another approach possible for Catholics. The Catholic church doesn’t side with any particular party, but it does express opinions sometimes on certain policies. For instance, Pope Benedict, I think it was, spoke against us going into Iraq without the support of the U.N. The U.S. bishops spoke out on the immigration bill that came up in Congress in the last year, saying it wasn’t perfect, but it was a big improvement and it had their overall support (it got shot down). Catholics aren’t obligated to agree with the Church on these kind of political judgements, but IF you trust them to know what they are talking about and have considered everything wisely, then you could kind of go along with them.

    Ultimately, I don’t think every single person has to have an opinion on every issue. I think we should try to form our opinions wisely, but we have to do this according to our resources. The obligation to form political opinions comes pretty low on my list of what’s most important in life, so I think it wouldn’t be hard to have more important things leave no room for it.

    God bless,
    Anna

  6. Abigail

    We are on the same page on this one! In college, I literally was the President of the debate team. This meant that I read the New York Times every morning and not only had an opinion on nearly everything, I was able to debate any issue for 15 mins straight after zero prep time AND trained others to have that skill as well.

    Now I live in the middle of “opinion central” (Washington D.C) and I’m totally an apolitical housewife as well. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with my brother, who works on the Hill and had for force myself to pay attention to his latest political insight.

    For me, at least, the change has been two fold. First, instead of having an opinion about EVERYTHING, I have strong convictions about certain things. Catholicism has influenced me greatly in this area. For example, I encouraged my husband to quit his job rather than serve an embronic stem-cell research client. I didn’t fight about stem-cells during a cocktail party, I put my family’s economic well-being on the line. Words and positions and opinions don’t matter so much anymore.

    Secondly, I do my work with more prayer and less petitions now.

    Thanks for another honest post!

  7. Colleen

    I feel like I can’t keep up with it all either. At least not unless I neglect my motherly duties. But, my husband gets more opportunities to educate himself on the issues so I rely on his opinions. I think it’s just another example of why God put two parents in a family. Hopefully, between the two of us, none of the important stuff will slip through the cracks.

  8. TwoSquareMeals

    It’s good to know what is going on. It’s good to be as informed as you can. But we live in a culture with 24-hour news and access to more information than our brains can handle. Sometimes we, especially mothers, need to give ourselves permission to let some of it go.

    No matter how informed I am about all of the issues, I alone will not determine the next presidential candidates. I will take time to learn about each one once they are chosen, and I will vote.

    And no matter how many global tragedies there are, I cannot solve them all. I can pray when I hear of things and give what I can. I may even choose one or two issues that are important to me and become more involved.

    I think you are right to focus your energies in your own sphere of influence, especially at this season of life. It doesn’t mean you are apathetic, just human. And very, very busy doing a very important job.

  9. La gallina

    I am with you completely. I, too, feel like all I can do is make my little corner of the world a better place. Raise the best kids I can. Grow my little garden. Reach out to a neighbor in need.

    Politics is such a big circus. Most politicians base their opinions on what they think will bring them the most votes anyway. Not what they really believe. I think if more of us took care of our little piece, the world would become a much better place.

  10. Chelsea

    Jen,
    I know exactly what you mean! Obviously you can tell from my website that I am very politically motivated when it comes to right to life issues. I frequently go to our State Capital to sit in on hearings about certain pro-life bills and I am now on the board of Missouri Right to Life. But that is really the extent of my political motivation. More than once I have been told that I should some day run for office, and when that happens, all I can think is, “ick! Do you know all of the other issues you have to care about in order to run for and participate in elected office?!” My brain, and my patience, couldn’t handle it.

    That is not to say that I don’t care about other issues, but my mental and emotional capacity for real passion “on the issues” only goes so far.

    Peace,
    Chelsea

  11. Eileen

    Seems like some people who do have opinions on all these things would probably say that you, too, ought to have opinions; and, if you had any brains at all, you’d have the same ones they do.

    I share your perspective on this. Should it be wrong, we’ll at least have each other for company!

    I’m new to your blog, and have been enjoying reading what you have to say. Thanks for putting it all out there!

    Warmly,
    Eileen

  12. Jess

    You wrote:

    “I am quite concerned about certain topics (mostly related to the respect of human life), and do keep up-to-date and informed in those areas.”

    It has always fascinated me that this seems to be the key issue for most practicing Christians, regardless of their denomination or group affiliation. Sure, I think it is a very important issue but other issues, including the environment and global warming, health care in the US and the state of our public education system are also HUGELY important when considering human life. I am fine with people defending the rights of an embryo but I am perplexed at how after that baby becomes viable it no longer seems to garner as much care and concern.

    Global warming isn’t going to kill the planet, however it has the potential to eradicate the human race- pretty important human life issue there, IMO. Then again, it seems like many conservative Christians I talk to think global warming is some sort of liberal conspiracy so perhaps that is why this seems to not rate very highly as an important issue amongst a lot of Christians. Lack of access to health care by million in the US affect their right to life because people are denied care and can die from the complications from lack of access to quality healthcare. And our education system is shocking in many areas, is still riddled with class and race segregation and these children are set off in life without a fair start, which in most cases directly affects the quality of their life.

    Just my $.02! I am not trying to be obnoxious I just get frustrated that many Christians I am in contact with seem to disregard quality of life of those very embryos they felt so passionately about. And that boggles my non-Christian mind.

    I have been reading through your archives and I am finding your conversion fascinating. I am genuinely not trying to be snarky with this comment, I just have a strong conviction that those of us who are US citizens have the privilege of being an integral part of the process to determine what is best for ourselves. And when people choose to not be a part of that process by not being informed I find it both frustrating and disheartening.

  13. Anonymous

    There’s a difference between being a responsible citizen and being a political junkie.

    And yes, I think you’ve got plenty on your plate.

  14. Elizabeth...mommy...etc

    I think it’s great to have opinions on topics…while understanding that SO MANY issues are not right or wrong but preference (ie: school vouchers, budget issues, immigration)…though there are many that are black and white to many of us (ie: abortion, war). I am very political though I will likely never blog on it…I sometimes wish I could have your perspective, but God definitely created me to be very interested in politics. It is a good thing, I must say, b/c my husband is INSANE about politics so it definitely gives another thing to connect with. I am already getting sick of all the Presidential ads, media hype, and so forth…but I am hooked on FOX News at the same time…it’s actually on right now. *elizabeth

  15. A. Noël

    I think it’s better to admit you don’t have an opinion, than to use someone else’s opinion rather than thinking it through yourself. 🙂

    We hear the word “democracy” a lot these days, but we’re actually not a democracy. The Founding Fathers formed a republic – a representative form of government.

    Instead of you having to dig in and find out about everything, your elected representatives do the work of figuring out the right stand on the issues, and cast votes in your stead.

    It isn’t perfect … people are fallible … but, to me, it seems easier and more sensible to send someone off with my instructions for voting, than for me to have to learn everything about everything and then vote on it – which is what a democracy really is.

    Just my 2¢.

    By the way, I really enjoy your blog. You write so well, and it’s wonderful to hear how God is providing for you and your family. Blessings!

  16. the mother of this lot

    If everybody worked on making their own little corner the best it can be, maybe we wouldn’t have so many issues to have an opinion about!

  17. queenie

    Hi Jen, it’s true-it’s how you live that effects change. I’m always amazed at the lack of propotion there is between how much one knows and how vocal one is in his/her opinions. You’re smart to stick with what you know and care about. THanks for all you do!

  18. Kasia

    I for one do have a natural interest in politics – got my B.A. in political science, a.k.a. putting one’s trust in princes (as one poster alluded). However, I don’t have an opinion on every political issue.

    Furthermore, I would echo what several other posters have said:
    – better to have no opinion than an uninformed one, and
    – even if you DO have an opinion, that does not mean other people are entitled to know it.

    Yes, in a system like ours there is good reason to try to be informed, but frankly, there is a reason why policy wonks hyper-specialize in a particular area: because it simply IS NOT possible to know everything about every issue.

    In my experience, the people who look disdainfully at me for not having a particular opinion on a given issue (a) usually have an opinion on that because it’s one of their pet issues, and/or (b) have a lot of opinions that are based on relatively shallow research (i.e. dredging some stuff up on a blog that’s usually of a similar mind to them). And to be honest, I’ve caught myself doing the same thing for the same reasons.

    Bottom line: You, and only you, are accountable to God for how you spend your time on this earth. It is up to YOU to determine how you will spend it.

  19. Sarahndipity

    Thank you for this post!! I am somewhat interested in politics (and I find the current election quite fascinating), but like you, I don’t have a strong opinion on a lot of these issues. Aside from certain issues I feel are real moral issues, not merely political ones (like abortion and torture), I can honestly see both sides of most of these issues.

    I do like to watch the debates and keep up on what the candidates are saying, but it’s more because I like to watch the exchange of ideas. On most of these issues, I may lean one way or another, but I don’t think there’s a clear right or wrong.

  20. Magda J

    Jen, I agree, it’s okay to not have opinions on certain things. I even think it’s okay to say “well, I don’t have all the answers but on this small aspect that affects me directly I would want this result.” I esp. agree with whomever said that in this country we use government as a way to save the world, and I think that is absolutely wrong.

    As someone who used to think like Jess, I wanted to answer her (hope you don’t mind Jen, feel free to delete). In answer to Jess, here are two different but accurate metaphors to describe how the pro-life person thinks about life issues — they are different, but equally important (at least for me).

    1. Life issues are the foundation of a sound culture. They are like the table that you build a card castle on — if you have a rickety or broken table, the card castle is always going to fall down.

    2. Life issues are the most urgent and the most critical, like a heart attack in a wounded patient. To focus more attention on something that is not a life issue is like worrying about a cut on a patient’s arm when he is having a heart attack. Sure, the cut could get infected and kill him, or could get gangrene and you’d have to lose the arm. but the heart attack IS killing him, NOW, and until it is treated then everything else is superficial.

  21. scmom (Barbara)

    It’s not a cop out. You are working within the limits of your vocation. It’s not your responsibiity to know everything about politics. It’s not required for you to do your job.

    Now, voting is another issue, and you already stated that you’re in the know about life issues — the priority of Catholic voters. That’s within the limits of your vocation as a Catholic wife and mother.

  22. Liz

    If you were really going to have a truly informed opinion on all those topics you would spend all your time researching political topics and have no time for raising your children, doing a radical experiment in prayer, cleaning your house, cooking meals, loving your husband, serving your neighbors. So often people think they are informed because they spout the latest opinion of the talking heads on TV or the editorial staff of the morning paper.

    We are all on information overload much of the time and it can put us in a state where we can’ focus well on the things that we CAN do, the things we CAN have an impact on. We certainly can shop locally, use less gasoline, cook our own meals, take meals to neighbors, teach our kids, care for the elderly in our family, reduce waste, etc. Those things look small in comparison, but if enough of us do the little things, it will have an impact on the bigger picture.

    I know a lot of people with a lot of opinions about issues. Sometimes they are issues that I know a good deal about. Frequently, all the stuff they know isn’t worth a hill of beans. I had a twenty something this contend something about the pro-life cause which only proved he was too young to know some stuff. He thought he’d done his homework, but simply living through the 70’s (which he didn’t) gave me more perspective than he had.

    There are a lot of issues I know nothing about. I have to trust that there are people who do. On issues like immigration I look to people like the Holy Father or our bishops and try to ignore all the talking heads.

    Frankly, in the past few years while dealing with dying elders I’ve had a hard enough time getting really clear about end of life issues and what it means to have a natural death. Those were real life issues and we needed to protect some real people from the purveyors of a speeded up death. Other issues simply had to take a back seat.

  23. Jennifer F.

    Jess –

    I just have a strong conviction that those of us who are US citizens have the privilege of being an integral part of the process to determine what is best for ourselves. And when people choose to not be a part of that process by not being informed I find it both frustrating and disheartening.

    Fair enough.

    I am fine with people defending the rights of an embryo but I am perplexed at how after that baby becomes viable it no longer seems to garner as much care and concern.

    I would agree with what Magda said about why so many Christians place high importance on life issues. But I don’t think it is the case at all that their concerns for other people stop once the babies are born. I can see how one can get this impression from following some of the public discourse on the subject, but in terms of actually spending time and money to do conrete things to make the world a better place, I am amazed at what I’ve seen of Christians. Now that I am involved in Christian social circles, I have found that Christians do a tremendous amount of work to help both the unborn and the “born.” 🙂 Some examples off the top of my head:

    – Pope Benedict recently released a strongly-worded statement in which he admonished Christians to “commit ourselves to caring for the created world, without squandering its resources…sharing them in a cooperative way.”

    As for the Christians you’ve talked to who think that global warming is a liberal conspiracy, I obviously can’t tell you what’s going on with those people in particular, though Darwin has some pretty good summaries of some common concerns about the global warming message from a conservative / Christian point of view here and here. (I’m not suggesting that you’ll agree with his points, only that I think his posts illustrate that the thought process with many skeptics is a little more involved than flatly writing it off as a liberal conspiracy.)

    – My parish has a St. Vincent de Paul Society (almost all Catholic churches have something similar) which provides a huge amount of aid to people in need of all faiths, asking nothing in return. Our church is currently paying the rent of a local Hindu family in need (as well as quite a few other families), and people come through the door every day in need of money, food, clothing, coats for their kids, etc. Our office is a very active place, and that’s just at our parish. Catholic friends and relatives report that their St. Vincent de Paul offices are equally active.

    – Almost every Catholic church (at least in my diocese, though I think everywhere) has a sign out front that says “Pregnant? Need help?” that lets women in crisis pregnancies know that this is a place that they can go for help. There are also tons of Catholic maternity houses where women and their children can get free room, board, medical care, diapers, baby clothes, help with adoption if that’s what they choose, and anything else they need. There are also tons of volunteer-staffed helplines for women facing difficult pregnancies.

    Catholic Charities offers a tremendous amount of services to people of all faiths, from disaster response to legal services to financial assistance to medical care to just paying their utilities.

    – The people from our parish frequently go on medical missions to Mexico where everyone gets together to collect basic medical supplies, then doctors, nurses, and lay volunteers go down there to give basic medical services to the poorest of the poor. Again, this is just our parish. Many other Catholic churches (probably most in America) have something similar.

    – Our parish (as well as most others) has an active nursing home ministry in which volunteers just go down to the local nursing homes a couple times of week. They bring Communion to whoever wants it, and just hang out with the people. They’ll sit for long periods of time with people who are barely sentient in the Alzheimer’s ward, just to let them know someone else is there. Many of these people have no one else who visits them (other than people from other Christian church groups).

    I could go on, but you get the idea. I used to have a similar impression about Christians focusing exclusively on the unborn, but what I’ve found is that there is a *huge* amount of energy and money spent in Christian circles on helping humans of all ages, from the newly conceived to the elderly.

  24. Lynne

    Yes, you have a ton of things on your plate (I love your blog) but how do you figure out who to vote for if you don’t have a basic understanding of the issues?

    I go to FreeRepublic to keep aware of current events. If you get your news just from CNN or FoxNews, you’re not getting the whole story.

  25. Kerry - A Ten O'Clock Scholar

    And you know – those politicians who seem to have a perfect understanding and opinion on all these myriad of issues…they’ve got GOBS of assistants who do all that research for them. PAID assistants.

    So, until I ca afford a few paid assistants, I’m ok with saying “I don’t have an opionion about that.” Or even – almost blasphemous…”I don’t know enough about that issue to have a real opinion.”

    Whew – if more people would just ‘fess up to that one, we’d all be better off. 🙂

    Great discussion!

  26. Terri

    I feel the same way you do. Following politics heavily is just not something I have the time or inclination to do. I have opinions on some issues, but others I simply do not have the background knowledge to express a clear, coherent opinion about. I love what you said about making our own corner of the world better. That is my goal and for now I’m content to leave it at that and refuse to feel guilty for not doing otherwise.

  27. Dan and Janet Brungardt

    I think that it is most important to be informed on the top issues, which are the 5 Non-negotiables:

    1)Abortion
    2)Euthanasia
    3)Same-sex Marriage
    4)Embryonic Stem-cell Research
    5)Cloning

    These 5 are always intrinsically evil and it is important to find candidates who are opposed to them all.

    There are many other issues which are important and it is good to know what you can about them, filtered through the lens of solid Catholic teaching, but you can’t know all.

    I have been reading your blog with much interest.

    Thanks, Janet

  28. Jess

    Jen, thank you for your thoughtful reply. When I mentioned Christians seeming lack of social support for their fellow Americans I meant it in regards to our political system, not charity based through their own churches and organizations.

    As I mentioned in my first comment to you I am 99% ignorant about Catholicism because I was raised in an evangelical Christian home and locale. So, my own personal experiences with Christians are almost exclusively of the Protestant denominations with the exception of my wonderful sister in law who is an actively practicing Catholic. Most evangelicals that I have interacted with and discussed social issues with lean very far to the right politically and many seem to have a lack of sympathy for the social plights that face many children in this country and are not supportive of social programs that would help these people out. Obviously this is not true of every single Christian but I do think the Christian Right and their influence in the Republican party speaks volumes of what that group as a whole places importance on. I made my original comments with the assumption that the conversation was specifically discussing politics which is why I chose to mention those few issues.

    I recognize and appreciate the many charitable contributions religious groups all over the world make to help other people. I say that with great sincerity.

    (I checked out a few books about Catholicism from my library today. Are there any titles that are a good introduction into the faith that you can recommend? Thanks in advance.)

  29. Jennifer F.

    Jess –

    Thanks for your reply!

    As for books, I highly recommend:

    By What Authority? by Mark Shea
    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    Catholicism for Dummies is actually really good
    Mere Christianity is an excellent defense of belief in God, though not about Catholicism in particular

    Also, you may want to just go straight to the source and get The Catechism of the Catholic Church (the version I linked to, by Fr. John Hardon, is formatted to make it particularly readable). Or you can read it online here. It’s the official exposition of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Hope that helps!

  30. Jess

    Thanks for the book recs. My friend has lent me Mere Christianity and I have been reading it and it is great so far. Even though I do not identify as Christian, I definitely believe in God. I do have The Idiots Guide to Catholicism and In Search of Mary, both purchased for a term paper I wrote long ago in college. I plan or reading them both as well.

    Today I checked out:

    Catholic Customs and Traditions by Greg Dues

    The Catholic Woman by Pieper

    The People’s Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults by Lucker/Brennan/Leach

    Why I Am Catholic by Garry Wills

    *Just want to add that I am not trying to be contentious in my comments, and I do not think I am an expert on every political issue. I do not believe you need to research every nuance of an issue to form an opinion about it. Most of us can only hope to learn a little about a lot of different topics in our lifetimes and that is OK. But to use that as an excuse to remove yourself from the political process does seem like a cop out to me. For example, I don’t need to know every single thing about health care in the United States as it currently functions to have the opinion that it needs reform. Just from reading your archives, Jen, I can see that you are not a woman who is frivolous or ignorant about most important issues and you take the time to really think through why you believe what you believe. Even if you think you are apolitical I doubt that you truly are.

    Please know I was not trying to be offensive at any point. And I am bowing out of this discussion now because I think I am probably no longer adding to the discussion in a positive way. Back to lurk mode for me…

  31. Jordana

    I don’t think it’s a cop out at all. For a long time, I cared about politics and was fairly active. And then I realized that not only was it really not the most important thing in life, but it also made me a more hateful person. I thought a lot of very bad things about the other side. I would start to hate people over their political opinions. It brought out the worst in me. Backing off from politics was exactly what I needed to do.

  32. Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin

    Jess,
    one reason that we don’t put as much political effort into the born as the unborn is that a fair number of us (libertarians like myself especially) think that caring for the needy is something for volunteers within the Church, not taxpayers and conscripts commanded by the government.

  33. Tausign

    Can you believe it – I have run out of opinions.

    But I do have a favor to request and for some I reason I can’t get through your email. Based on you email policy I can only assume I’m being dumped in with the spam. Would you kindly look at my post “Super Bowl – The Divine Drama” and consider linking it on your very influential and award winning ‘Jen’s Links’? The url is:http://tau-cross.blogspot.com/2008/01/superbowl-xlii-divine-drama.html . (Just ignore the comment I made on the Dallas Cowboys)

  34. Jennifer F.

    Jess –

    I’m interested to hear what you think of those books — do keep me posted!

    One thing I would highly recommend is that you also check out a book or two from some more orthodox, traditional voices. Though I’m not familiar with all the authors, I know that at least Dues, Wills and Pieper (if that’s Jeanne Pieper) advocate for a more “progressive” view of the Catholic Church. Not that you shouldn’t evaluate all perspectives, of course, but what I’m afraid is that you’ll learn more of the watered-down view of Catholicism that we’ve all seen in popular culture: that there may be some nice aspects to it, but it’s largely antiquated and overly patriarchal and needs some modern voices to bring it into the 21st century.

    From personal experience, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you balance those views by reading some thoughts from the orthodox Catholic perspective. Some authors whose work fit into that category are: Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, Peter Kreeft, G.K. Chesterton, to name a few. I really encourage you to check out some of those authors as well.

    Also, last year I put together a PDF of resources for people interested in the Catholic Church based on a ton of input and research. I think it’s a really solid list of books that do a good job of explaining the Church. It’s here if you’re interested.

    God bless, and keep me posted! Thank you for your contributions to this conversation!

  35. Jennifer F.

    Tausign – you assumed correctly – I did not get your email. Sorry! I will check out your post though.

  36. Leslie K.

    It depends.
    I think our faith requires us to have opinions based on a well formed conscience. What is difficult to do and remember is that many times that makes us not-quite liberal and not-quite conservative. Therefore, other people may find us really weird to talk to about politics. But I figure it keeps them on their toes.
    (tee hee)

  37. FernandoDownUnder

    I think it’s okay not to have an opinion, because I don’t have an opinion on all political matters either. I also have the problem of being “on the fence.” I read one article about proposal X and I think it sounds like a fantastic idea and then I read something else and I think it’s a terrible idea. I do have a few issues that I feel passionately about, but with the other stuff, my opinion is pretty open.

  38. Rebekka

    I’m with you on this, even though I don’t have the good excuse of being a busy mom and housewife. My problem is that I live abroad, and have been here for 5 years, and am not moving back any time soon. And I’m apparently supposed to keep up with the 3-ring circus that is American politics–now at new heights of rabidity because of the upcoming election? To be honest, I’m more interested in the local (for me) Danish politics, because I LIVE here, it’s what affects my life. Even though I can, as a non-citizen, only vote in the local Copenhagen elections and not the national ones.

    I got my mail-in ballot for the California primary a few weeks ago… I recycled it without even looking at it. My husband was totally scandalised, but I’m completely at peace with it–even though I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18.

  39. Queenie

    Hi Jen, For Jess-How about watching EWTN’S the Journey Home? You get to see the story behind the person’s faith. It gives flesh and blood to our beliefs. The people come from all walks of life and most are excellent at explaining the Faith and how they were attracted to it.

  40. Charity Grace

    What can I say but amen?! I was raised in a very politically active household and this is something I have struggled with. I have had to realize that at this season of life, that’s not where my calling lies. And, as at least one other commenter said, politics don’t bring about lasting change–God’s power to change hearts and lives does.

  41. SH

    Jess-
    People on the right care a great deal about children, poverty, treating diseases, etc. But they think that raising taxes and having the government put in charge of these things is an absolutely disastrous idea. In other words, just because Republicans vote for lower taxes and smaller government and fewer government programs doesn’t mean they don’t care about the same problems as liberals. We all care about the same problems. We just have different solutions.

  42. Jess

    OK, I said I wouldn’t reply again but I can’t help myself. 🙂

    SH:

    We are getting off topic of the original post here but I just have to gently disagree with your assessment of the current Republican party. Yes, historically Republicans were for smaller government, fewer taxes and more local and state influence. That has changed and it is especially clear with this current “reign” of GWB. No president since the Great Depression (including LBJ!) has spent so much money. If Republicans find social welfare in the US objectionable then why don’t they get up in arms about corporate welfare, which costs taxpayers FAR more? And I disagree with you about the current breed of Republican supporting smaller government (ie. Patriot Act) or lowering taxes (yes, for wealthy citizens) but once again I know that Jen probably never intended for this to turn into an outright debate. 🙂

    This really will be my final comment on this post, I don’t want to wear out my welcome when I just found the blog!

    (I know this is a tangent and not directly related to the content of Jen’s post so if this doesn’t earn moderation approval, I totally understand.)

  43. Anonymous

    I am soooo with you on this. Especially in a year with a major and critical election, I want to be well-informed and be able to vote conscientiously. BUT like you, my #1 criteria are the pro-life/pro-family issues…echoing you, that’s not to say the other issues aren’t important (and yes, I’m starting to get concerned about some of them!) but that I simply don’t have the time and wherewithall (being a wife and mom, etc.) to cover them all.

    I’m convinced that truly there is no perfect candidate, at least not one whose name will actually be on the ticket in November….so….at this point in time I really have to let me pro-life values (and those of the candidates) lead the way…and hope that all else will sort itself out favorably with the assistance of the Congress and excellent advisors. Too much to hope? Nah, I’m a hopeful sort of person.

  44. Jennifer F.

    Jess –

    Allow me to meander off-topic with you for a moment, because something you said reminds me of another point that was made earlier. I agree with many of your points about the Republican party, and know a lot of other Republicans who do as well. A few years ago I considered myself a staunch Republican but have increasingly become disgusted with some things that they’ve let happen, not the least of which was the Bankruptcy “reform” here in Texas. …Yet I don’t like what I saw from the Democrats either (I actually used to work for a large Democratic political campaign).

    I think that a lot of people feel this way and perhaps that’s why so many Christians (as in the examples I cited above) work to improve the world through religious organizations rather than politics. Like a lot of people, they feel fed up with both parties and want to start taking action now rather than wait for some reasonable candidates to come along, so they just get on the medical mission team at their parish or start working with the St. Vincent de Paul society, etc.

    Of course I cannot speak for all Christians here, but it is a trend that I’ve observed, and is perhaps why you see a lack of interest among Christians in certainly political / governmental social initiatives these days.

    Just my $0.02. It’s too early for me to be awake, so sorry if this is incoherent. 🙂

  45. Tertium Quid

    Jen,

    Follow your vocation! My blog is full of social and political commentary, some of it, and probably most of it wrong!

    TQ

  46. Sarah

    It’s not like I have a lot to add to these comments, but I felt compelled to comment anyway (sorry ’bout your luck). I really relate with this post, and it’s why I avoid political discussions at just about any cost. But, you know, that’s not always the right answer either. But I don’t think you HAVE to have an opinion. To me, it’s no different than not really caring what color pants you have on, as long as they match. (That’s not to trivialize the importance of some of the issues.)

    I also think you’ve nailed it when you say you’re changing the world one diaper at a time. If you’re sacrificing your vocation to follow politics, then it’s not really what God would want, is it? Does he want you to abandon (at whatever level) the things he’s called you to do so you can have an opinion?

    Nuff from me. You know all this already. I’m basically commenting to say “me too” and “you go, girl!”

  47. Peter

    Jen, et. al,

    I know this is an “old” post, but I only recently began reading your blog (btw, I wish we could come up with some term more elegant than “blog”)and this is a topic I feel strongly about. Even if I do not refer to them directly, I have read many of your other posts (again, a really inadequate term) and the comments of others on this post, and they do inform what I say here.

    I am not sure if anyone is truly “apolitical”. I think politics permeates our existence, not necessarily in the narrow sense of political campaigns and public issue debates, but in the broader sense that we all have views on what is the source of our power to take action and what are the legitimate and illegitimate uses of power. In this sense, the t-shirt slogan “Because I’m the Mommy, That’s Why!” is a political statement (I once gave my mother a refrigerator magnet with the slogan “Question Authority, but not your Mother”).

    Those of us who are Christian believe, roughly speaking, that God is the source of all power and all good (I would say this is true for the other monotheistic faiths, but that is another big issue). Those of us who are Catholic seek, or are supposed to, through discernment, according to the teachings of Christ and His Church, to do God’s will, not to impose our own will. We seek to become His instruments or vessels (pick your metaphor). This is, as you often note in your writings, not easy.

    I happen to believe that Catholics/Christians cannot avoid the cross of engagement in public affairs. I think this is particularly true for those of us who have the privilege of citizenship in our constitutional democratic republic. However, we do not have to engage on the terms that the World (as opposed to the Word) seeks to dictate for us.

    I think the best advice we can follow when considering electoral politics or public affairs debates is to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (to paraphrase). The “wise as serpents” part does not mean that we need to be “experts” or cynics (I myself struggle with the temptation to descend into despondent cynicism). I think it means that we view all debates on public affairs with a skeptical wariness against accepting the “givens” of our political system. This includes the assumption that we have only one of two options in any given election. At times the best option may be to vote for a third party or independent candidate, write in a candidate or even just write in “none of the above”. I think it means we need to have a basic knowledge of how our government is structured, including the powers and duties of each branch and level of government.

    I think we need to each develop in our own minds as clear as possible an understanding of our premises regarding the legitimate sources and uses of power, governmental and otherwise. We need to develop an awareness of our political philosophy and be prepared to measure it against the teachings of our faith. The Church can provide us with guidance, but it may not provide us with all of the answers. For example, the Church advocates Sodality which I understand to mean that public matters should be administered at the most local and personal level possible. But, this concept leaves a lot of room for debate as to how it could or should be implemented in the “real world”.

    I emphasize the need to understand our own premises and philosophies because I think most public debate, intentionally or not (depends on how cynical you are), distracts us from these fundamental questions. I think the reason most people find public affairs and electoral politics so confusing and exasperating is that most public arguments focus on advocating conclusions from unstated premises. My views on why this is so would take too long to summarize here.

    A lot of us may want to avoid politics or public affairs because it plays to or tempts us to sin. Pride and Anger are particularly rampant here. But, as with any other situation we face in life we need to use discernment and evaluate our consciences. This may be part of the “innocent as doves” side of the equation. We need to believe that we can engage in this realm without being overwhelmed by it.

    I do not advocate the formation of a “Christian” or “Catholic” party. This presents its own dangers. I think a lot of “Christian” organizations, on both the “left” and the “right” have so bought into the underlying assumptions of our political system that they have lost their way. As an example, during the 2004 elections our state Catholic Conference (the advocacy arm of our Bishops Conference) held forums in some different towns for Catholics to learn about and discuss the issues from a Catholic perspective. I did not attend any of these, but I heard from some participants about one forum in particular that degenerated into a partisan battle with each side convinced they were advocating the “truth”.

    Maybe we can start by learning how to speak to one another about public issues with an attitude of humility, faith and reason. This is, of course, not easy. Each of us may do this in different ways, depending on our duties, station in life, vocation and gifts, etc., but I think we can each try to do this in some way.

  48. Anna

    Peter,

    “For example, the Church advocates Sodality which I understand to mean that public matters should be administered at the most local and personal level possible.”

    This is a very minor correction, but I think you mean the principle of subsidiarity, not sodality.

    God bless.

  49. Peter

    Anna,

    You are correct. I meant subsidiarity. Thank you.

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