Breaking Our Partisan Chains

Jason Hall - Partisan Chains


If you’ve been following the litigation challenging the now-infamous Health and Human Services mandate requiring employer-provided group health plans to cover abortifacients, sterilization, and artificial contraception, you may be aware that a company named Eden Foods has filed one such lawsuit. Eden Foods is an organic food company that began as a co-operative venture with the mission of providing products “that are not nutrient depleted and without toxic chemical adulteration.”

Eden Foods’ mission and business model is very straightforward. They buy all of the food they distribute from local, small farms that engage in no genetic modification and use no potentially harmful chemicals. In effect, they exist because they believe people should have the choice to avoid putting artificially enhanced, mass produced substances into their bodies.

Looked at in this way, it makes perfect sense that Eden Foods would want nothing to do with artificial contraception or abortifacient drugs, which are artificially produced hormonal products that do not even offer the nutritional value of chemically-adulterated foods. And yet, their challenge to the HHS Mandate has generated fierce opposition from many who claim to agree with the company’s founding principles.

Irin Carmon, writing for Salon, provides the clearest example of the often over-the-top rhetoric directed against Eden Foods. In a piece published on April 11, Carmon accuses Eden of employing “marketing…designed to appeal to liberals” while it has “quietly pursued a decidedly right-wing agenda.” Reading the piece in its entirety, it becomes clear that Carmon feels betrayed. For her, every decision, even what we choose to eat, is a political decision and must be interpreted in a Left vs. Right paradigm. The organic food movement, in Carmon’s opinion, belongs on the Left. Opposition to the HHS Mandate belongs on the Right. So, the folks at Eden Foods must be either hypocrites or con artists. In fact, she closes her piece with an accusation that Eden Foods has been “marketing itself to a liberal clientele and then quietly harboring a right-wing, ideological agenda.”

There is a critical lesson to be learned here, particularly for Catholics. Coming from a very partisan political background, I know well what it’s like to develop that bunker mentality where the other party is so dangerous that political debate becomes little more than a no-holds-barred effort to defeat them at all costs. Certain news outlets are trusted (Fox News? MSNBC?) while another is completely mistrusted. A Republican who supports poverty programs or comprehensive immigration reform will be called a “moderate squish” and will often be purged in favor of a “true conservative.” A Democrat who supports true marriage and the right to life will be deemed insufficiently “progressive,” unless they can offer assurances that their views are still “evolving.”

The Catholic Church has a body of social teaching that predates and transcends these hardened partisan categories. We are called to defend the inherent dignity of each and every human person, whether in the womb, trapped in a cycle of poverty, or forced to migrate to provide for his or her family. Our political culture is constantly telling us that we have to pick and choose among these things and oppose the rest. We are told it’s a wonderful thing to remove all artificial hormones from your diet, but only a crazy ideologue would remove them from their medicine cabinet. (And just try to get a fair hearing if you want the chance to articulate the actual reasons the Church opposes artificial contraception, not to mention the redefinition of marriage. By siding with the Church, one becomes a ritually impure source to whom many feel they need not listen.)

When we succumb to these social pressures, we lose both our evangelical witness in our nation’s political life, as well as our prophetic voice. We are told we must pick one of the two sides to be relevant, but is that really true? Has that ever really worked for us in the past, or resulted in the Church’s voice being co-opted by political power players?

We are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. To the extent we are involved in political life, we should be a positive influence, not allow ourselves to be influenced. Our mission requires knowledge of our principles, a desire to be truly consistent with them, and a willingness to boldly proclaim what we know to be right. Only when we embrace this mission will we cease to be used by the political process and begin to change it.

© 2013. Jason Hall. All Rights Reserved.

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13 thoughts on “Breaking Our Partisan Chains”

  1. Pingback: Ideology and Idolatry : Catholic Stand

  2. Pingback: Reflections of a Paralytic » Breaking Our Partisan Chains

  3. Good points. I would go so far as to say that if we ignore what the two parties say they believe in and only look at what they do, both parties are irreconcilable with Catholic morality. One party is pro-death while the other only pays lip service to being pro-life while managing to never alter the status quo. Both (despite rhetoric) have wanted illegal immigration: immigration as a source of labor and illegal so they don’t have to be paid a fair wage. (Although Dems now want Dem-leaning Hispanics to have the vote.) Both parties support undeclared wars and endless military adventures. Both parties support profound economic injustice e.g. bank bailouts that combine public risk with private profit. Both parties agree during campaigns to exclude other candidates in debates. And whichever party wins the election, things continue in the same direction and have done so since JFK. Believing that either party will bring change is insane.

    People often get the government they deserve. Despite symbolic gestures to the contrary, the two major parties and governments for the last half century have reflected a value system that makes wealth and pleasure the greatest goods, whether one pursues them in a collectivist context or a Randian libertarian context. We have unthinkingly bought in. I fear too many Catholic voters are Catholic on Sundays and moral relativists through the week. As the first pope wrote prior to his martyrdom, judgment begins at the house of God. But we don’t do martyrdom these days; we martyr those who get in our way either literally or figuratively through hateful rhetoric and marginalization. We have met the enemy and it is us.

  4. Would that women “that are not nutrient depleted and without toxic chemical adulteration” were more abundant.

    How did America become a land where dessert is called sinful yet abortion is called a right?

    Everyone who has been siding with the Church has been “ritually impure” in the eyes of the pop culture for centuries, Mr. Hall. Side with the Church regarding divorce and “many feel they need not listen.” Side with the Church regarding contracepting, the same. Regarding sex outside marriage? Abortion? Euthanasia? The same, the same, the same.

    “We are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.” Yes and where the bishop is, there is the Church. By the way, where is the bishop?

  5. Pingback: Confession Confess - Big Pulpit

  6. Great thoughts, Jason! We are called to be Christians first, before clinging to any Democratic or Republican ideology. It takes intelligence and courage to evaluate issues with the mind of Christ. It takes even greater courage to promote those ideas to a world that resists any Christian influence. But that is the difference between living a lukewarm faith vs. one that is on fire.

  7. I understand exactly what you’re saying, Jason. This is an excellent and timely piece. There is absolutely a “third way” that transcends the political party system. It might just be the way out of the knot we have tied ourselves in.

    For what it’s worth, I’m one of those crunchy conservatives who embrace what is good and true in the land where many conservatives dare not tread. Yes, at my house we have an organic garden in our backyard; my ingenious rugged individualist wife is very active in organic concerns.

    Since the disloyal and fickle customers of Eden Foods seem to be using their wallets to extort political purity, I wonder if Eden Foods might benefit by doing some market research to identify what I suspect is a pretty decent market among people who try to live naturally out of a love of something higher than themselves.

    Wonderful essay.

  8. Rose of Sharon

    Jason Hall, If we are to be light of the world and salt to the earth we need to be doing some internal cleansing. Remember it is the ‘Catholic’ vote that elected and re-elected Obama. “Catholics” are chameleons, going along to get along and not being that stark contradiction to the modernist/hedonistic culture Jesus Christ intended for His Church. It is the Catholics responsibility to bring this country to Catholicism. How often instead we are given just the opposite examples by men in high places creating confusion. Is this deliberately planned? Yes, it is. One source is:
    “Animus Delendi-I Desire to Destroy” by Atila Sinke Guimarâes

  9. Politics can only achieve its victory by throwing out the Bible saying its not a good book.
    Or homosexual marriage is a real marriage. Or what does it matter to the dead people in Benghazi there
    still dead. But lets talk straight out.
    God’s Word is still the only Law that gets you into heaven. The schools can’t teach anymore intelligence.
    The professors are criminally insane. A homosexual act is still a immoral act. The people in Benghazi were betrayed by our Government. Obama and Clinton were failures who hid when the fight was on. Obama went
    on a campaign trail for money and Hillary hid in her million dollar house saying I don’t feel good or I fell down.
    But it doesn’t matter anymore. They will never fix the schools without true laws of God. People living sinful lives can never be saved by their sins. And the Government like this one can never be honest or trustworthy. Let’s be honest.

  10. Rose of Sharon

    Jason, When did you convert? I challenge you to investigate the internal turmoil created by the sexualized catechetics that is in the U S bishop’s schools. You distract with your issue by not facing into the real problems within and one of them is the raising of the new barbarians as Randy Engel speaks about in her book, “Sex Education the Final Plage”. For the most part youth are demoralized and led towards a hedonistic lifestyle. Even strong parents steeped in the True Faith cannot repair the damage done in claimed Catholic schools. Who will counteract what is being taught in series such as “Growing In Love” in parochial schools? See: – Part 1 – Part 2

    Catholicism is being destroyed using our youth as fodder. Sexualized catechetics communicates a sharp contrast to the Apostolic Faith. God is trampled upon in view of innocent young minds. Over and over it is proven that claimed Catholics are not making a sharp distinction. Their habits and lifestyles blend into the culture. Jason, I challenge you to begin a crusade against these kinds of curriculae for the sake of saving souls. If not you, then who, Jason? Or is this a uncomfortable issue and politics is an easier route all the while our most precious possession – our youth are being assaulted?

  11. Pingback: Breaking Our Partisan Chains - CATHOLIC FEAST - Sync your Soul

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