I do not talk about politics often, but I've occasionally found myself reading articles or chatting about the election with other pro-life individuals. And, in the vast majority of these occasions, the articles or conversations are steeped in fear. People will express disgust at Donald Trump and talk about how they do not want to vote for him, but will then begin listing off many of the policies and actions of Hillary Clinton which are not in line with the pro-life message. As this list grows, fear builds and builds, until it crescendos in a statement: I cannot let Hillary win. I must stop her. It kills me to vote for Trump, but I can't let Clinton win...so I'll vote for Trump.
If a person broaches the topic of third party voting-because his conscience does not sit well with voting for Trump-he will be often struck down. Voting for a third party candidate is giving Hillary your vote! We can't let her win! I have seen and heard much anxiety, stress, and terror weighing on the minds and hearts of different people, and I can no longer be silent about this.
Why we are letting fear control us?
Months ago, the night before voting in the primary election for the state of Oklahoma, I was immensely stressed out. Should I vote for who I want to vote for, or should I vote for who I think will pose the greatest threat to Trump in this state? I hated it. I hated that I was thinking about voting for someone mainly in an attempt to keep Trump from winning our state. I hated that I was looking at an election as a popularity contest, and not as a chance to freely use my vote and voice to show what-and who-I stand for. I hated that the stress of it all was breaking me down, tearing at my mind and heart, leaving me exhausted.
After talking with my husband and thinking it through, I realized that I need to vote according to a well-formed conscience. I should vote for who (and what) I stand for, and not according to who is most popular. And I shouldn't utilize my vote simply as a way to "vote against" another candidate. I breathed deeply, let the stress slide away, and determined that I wouldn't worry about it. I decided that I need to do my best, with what God has given me, and let Him handle things. I let myself be at peace.
There are many people who are not at peace. They are letting this election destroy them, letting the stress wreak havoc on their minds and hearts, just as I did on the evening before the primary election. If you are experiencing ridiculous levels of stress just thinking about this election, if you keep replaying in your mind what another Clinton presidency may look like, and if you shake and shudder in fear of it all, I propose that you ask yourself this question:
Am I entrusting everything to God in the present moment?If we are continually playing videos in our head of what the future may look like, I question how much we are living in the present moment.
If we are living anxiously, being overshadowed by fear and terror, I question if we are making God's peace a priority in our lives.
If you are scared that it is your fault if you don't vote for Trump-and Clinton wins-I ask you to consider this: Your vote, while being an important, valuable expression of your voice, beliefs, and leadership as an American citizen, is probably not going to hand the presidency to Clinton. Treating single voters as one block is not very sound logic, good math, or the way that the electoral college works (this article discusses some interesting points). Some people are treating this election as if it will happen by popular vote at a national level; that all Americans will toss our votes together, and whichever candidate obtains the most votes wins. Please read up on the electoral college if you need refresh your memory about how elections work. Again, let me reiterate: Your single vote, numerically speaking, is not weighed so heavily that it is your fault if the winning candidate is not the one you chose. So why are so many people stressing out about it and being overcome by such immense fear?
I care about our country, and I care about our freedom. I believe that it is important to create a pro-life, pro-family, pro-woman culture. I also believe that it is important to utilize the right to vote. Countless people have fought for the right to vote, and I appreciate the sacrifices that they made so that I can walk into a polling place and vote for who I believe would be a good leader of this country. As a pro-life woman, as a Catholic, and as an American, I need to form my conscience, learn about candidates, and vote. But I don't have to vote for one of the two main candidates.
In fact, Bishop Conley notes, “No Catholic should feel obliged to vote for one candidate just to prevent the election of another.” And, as Stephen Weese discusses, "People voting out of fear of the worst candidate is a self-perpetuating cycle. If no one ever has the courage to vote outside of the two main parties, it will never be broken." Many people perpetuate the idea that because we have a two-party system, votes for alternative candidates are wasted. To this idea, I post the following questions:
Is my vote only good if it wins?
Why isn't it acceptable to vote for a man or woman of integrity instead of voting for someone of weak character, who may not follow through on his or her promises?
Is a vote truly wasted if it is cast by a responsible citizen who is voting according to his or her conscience?
I think we would do well, particularly during this election, to remember the value of acting according to a well-formed conscience. Just think of Jean Valjean, from Les Miserables. He finally made a life for himself as Monsieur Madeleine, factory owner and mayor, and all was well. But then, he heard that "Jean Valjean" was convicted. Realizing that he could let his name die with the death of an innocent man, Valjean ponders the idea of staying quiet, and living out the rest of his days as M. Madeleine.
Providence has done it all. This is what He wishes, apparently. Have I the right to disarrange what He arranges? What is it that I ask for now? Why do I interfere?"
As he mulls the issue from the depths of his conscience, however, Valjean ultimately sees that his initial thoughts, while he could justify them, were not to be followed.
"...to do nothing, finally, was to do all! It was the last degree of hypocritical meanness! It was a base, cowardly, lying, abject, hideous crime!"Just as Jean Valjean courageously acts according to his conscience, so must we. It is heartbreaking that following one's conscience has been taking a backseat in this election season. Often, it seems that if a pro-lifer speaks up about not wanting to vote for a major candidate because of his or her conscience, this will be drowned out by the protesting cries of others. "But Clinton! But Trump!" But what about the conscience??? Pray, form your conscience, and act accordingly. Stop being ruled by fear. And please, stop thinking that you necessarily have to choose the "lesser evil." As Archbishop Coakley recently wrote,
"In choosing among flawed candidates, we ought never to fall into the trap of thinking we must choose the lesser of two evils. We may never choose evil. However, we can choose a candidate who with reasonable probability will be most likely do some good and limit the amount of harm done. "
Regardless of who you vote for, I ask you to please not vote in fear. Countless times in Scripture, God told his people to "Be not afraid." Let God continue to speak this in your mind and heart today as you prepare to vote in the coming weeks. Listen to the Holy Spirit's promptings, and live accordingly.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. ~Gal 5:19-25It is time to let go of fear. It is time to let go of the hatred, anxiety, and factions that we've been building. Instead, let us live in peace, form our consciences, pray with confidence and trust, and vote.