Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Partisanship

Partisan is defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as "a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person."  However, in terms of the modern usage, "partisanship" is used to accuse the other side of not being objective.

The implication is that the person who is a strong supporter of the wrong cause can't be objective or he or she would be agreeing with us.  The irony is the the person who uses the accusation of partisanship is often guilty of this in themselves.

So how does one avoid partisanship?  Ultimately the way we do this is to recognize that our loyalty to a party, to a cause or to a person can only be carried out to the extent that it or he promotes the truth. 

Ask yourself this.  Would you rather vote for a candidate who holds views directly condemned by your religious beliefs than to vote for a candidate of the other party?

If the answer is yes, then this is an example of partisanship.

Would you condemn something which was done by the other party, but tolerate the same thing when done by your own party, because it is "theirs" or "yours"?

This too is partisanship in the wrong sense of the world.

Now we have to clarify things here.  I am not talking about indifferentism.  I am not saying we need to consider all views equally valid.  There is a strong streak of relativism out there denying that there is any objective truth.  We do need to challenge what is wrong.  But the question is does one wish to deny others the right to protest while their own cause makes use of protests?  Does one think the police should lock up "them" but thinks they should be lenient with "us"… for the same action?

Truth should be everyone's goal.  We ought not to assume that an action is good or bad based on the party or cause which promotes it.  We should remember that what matters is if the action is based on truth or not.

Truth is objective: To say of what is that it is, and of that which is not, say it is not (to paraphrase Aristotle).  Yet all too often we hide simple truths in weasel words and evasions.  We don't say "killing the unborn."  They don't even like to say "abortion."  So they say "a woman's right to control her fertility."

This is not saying of what is.  It is trying to avoid saying what is.  Partisanship often comes into play here.  if the party or cause of our choice is at odds with what is true, we try to reframe it in a way favorable to us… but at the expense of truth.

Conversely, accusing a person of partisanship is wrong when it says that which is not, is or if it says that which is, is not.

There are many cases of Catholic bishops speaking out on moral issues today.  Yet they are often attacked as doing so in support of a political cause.  Are their accusers saying what is or are they saying that which is not, is?

The Catholic Church has always opposed abortion, has always been concerned with the innocent person in the world victimized.  In doing so, she must at times stand up against a world leader or a nation and say "This is wrong."

Yet when she does so, she is often accused of siding with the opponents of this leader or nation.

This is the fallacy of bifurcation.  To say something is either one thing or another ignores the possibility of a third position.  To argue that either Bishops support Obama or they are Partisan ignores the view that they oppose Obama due to their obligations to teach the moral obligations of the faith.

The world may want the Church to speak in rigid categories of either A or B.  However if neither A nor B is compatible with the Church view, the Church must say of what is that it is,  or of that which is not that it is not, without concern over whether the Party in power agrees or disagrees.

Another issue is that of confusing real issues with ways and means.  There is no political party in America which holds the view of "let the poor die hungry and without medical care."  However, our political parties do indeed argue of the ways and means of helping the poor.  One is not obligated to support one party platform to "help the poor."  It may be both parties can be wrong on an issue, in which case the believer needs to challenge the parties to change their way of thinking.

During the election season, some bishops were accused of partisanship for daring to associate one party with abortion.  After all, the other party "wasn't really pro life."  However, when one looks at the issue, one party had some members who supported abortion and some who wanted the issue to go away and a large portion saying it should be limited or illegal.  The other party publicly proclaimed abortion as a right to be defended.

To say what is, one would have to say one party has a divided view of life issues, but at this time generally opposes abortion.  The other openly sanctions abortion.

To say that the opposing of a party which openly sanctions abortion is "partisan," is to say of what is not that it is.

With Obama in the White House, there are many arguing over whether he is good or bad.  The answer is not to be defined by party lines and votes, but by the Law of God.  Where Obama does which is compatible with the Law of God, it is legitimate rule.  However, where his actions are incompatible with the rule of God, it is no law (as Thomas Aquinas said) and must be opposed.

We've now come to our ultimate consideration.  When Obama or Bush or Clinton does something, our first consideration should be over whether or not it is a good action.

If it is a good action (compatible with God's law), then there is no issue, and we ought not to oppose it, whether it comes from our own party or the other.

If it is not a good action, then we need to consider whether it is an indifferent action or a bad action.

If it is an indifferent action (one where specific behavior is not obligated under moral theology to act or not act), we are free to oppose or leave it be as we see fit.

However, if it is a bad action, we are not free to support it or leave it be, but must oppose it.

Moreover, we must oppose it regardless of whether this action comes from our own party or the other party.

If we only act based on our own political affiliation and set aside our own beliefs, we are not followers of the truth, but merely partisans.

No comments:

Post a Comment