Becoming a Father: A Political Manifesto
In honor of my son’s first birthday this week:
Becoming a father has brought clarity to my soul- one could say spiritually and in other significant ways which relate back to the state of my eternal soul. I have always been political, but now I believe I really get what that means. Politics is treated like a game, a sport, a business; it is even viewed as a necessary evil by many. Politics and sex are similarly abused by many, and cheaply regarded by way too many. They aren’t games, or sports, they are about loving others, taking care for the next generation. Politics and sex are holy, even if we do our best to undermine them and rob them of their inherent godly potential for good.
Consider the alternative to political organization- anarchy. Who benefits from that? The strong, the uncaring, the ‘might makes right’ crowd; certainly not the child, not the honest man looking for a stable situation to raise a family up in peace.
Politics is the means we use to organize ourselves for whatever larger principles we deem of value to society at large. Prior to becoming a father, I mostly experienced life as a series of adventures where my freedom to act as I wished was paramount. Fatherhood forced me to confront the world through the eyes of the most precious, most vulnerable human life imaginable- my own child.
It shakes me to my core, that as much as I love my own little ones, God loves them infinitely more. And His love is not confined to my little tribe, He loves everyone’s children similarly. Having this insight, I can’t rest with it, as though it was simply a nice platitude. This has to be the basis for my outlook on public life. Looking around me, reading the news- I am encountering the consequences of politics on God’s children all over the map- geographically and in types of sin. If I expect God to care when my children are a little ‘under-the- weather’, how can I not be alarmed when I read or see other children suffering greatly through adult-created conditions? If I am going around making big claims of faith in Jesus Christ, and praying to God constantly to look after my most beloved little ones- how can I miss that I also have some pretty serious responsibilities- that do not end at my front door? If being “my brother’s keeper”, does not connect to me emotionally, then simply add my “brothers’ children” to the adage, and I suddenly see the Light.
In fact, I get it all now. Children are not side-concerns, wedge issues, or photo ops for politicians who want to appear like they care about the world. Children are the thing in itself- they are the main concern of the political agenda- they are the test of us- as people of God, as people of goodwill. They are the richest example of just who is the ‘poor and vulnerable’ of the world. And it is not enough that our children live in secure comfort zones, and have access to decent health care. If we turn our backs on the rest of little humanity, how long before our children are on the outside looking in? And when my children are excluded from healthy, happy childhoods, how am I going to regard those who are the ‘winners’ in a given political system? When the claim is made that children must suffer because their parents aren’t rich enough or smart enough to navigate some beautiful system we have created- does God nod in agreement?
When America is at war, where is the debate over what will happen to the children in the country we are going into? In churches, where are the prayers for children exposed to the terror of bombs and violent death around them? There are lots of prayers for ‘the troops’, they embody our nation’s children- but when I saw my own child’s fear over the loud noise of fireworks exploding playfully in the July 4th sky- I got a sick feeling. How did/does an Iraqi father console his daughter when the explosions sound at night? Are the explosions we set off or set in motion, completely, 100% necessary to protect our own children? A lot of people will have a lot of explaining to do when all of this is said and done. God is not American, He is not Iraqi. God is on the side of the innocents, and children are the most innocent among us. I would suggest that when you picture a War, picture children crying, not heroic men firing weapons like in some movie.
And what of those war protestors, who scream out against the horrors of war on innocents in one breath, then cheer for the right to abort unborn children in the next? Where is the consistency? They remind me of how the war supporters play up the plight of their soldiers, the threats against Americans, but almost completely ignore the humanity of the “enemy”- especially the children living in war zones of our own creation. And these ‘pro-choice’ supporters do likewise. They play up the distressed pregnant woman or girl, and they studiously ignore even a viable child in her womb. They turn away from the pictures of abortion, just like the right-wing militarists shun the pictures of war- dead children as pure propaganda. Who is the more guilty? the bigger hypocrite? I’ll leave it to God to judge. I, for my part, want none of it- any of it.
I want children, all children, to be at the forefront of our political discussions on issues of war, abortion, and most everything else. If we aren’t living for our children’s sake and our succeeding generations, then we are indeed a selfish lot of rotten so-called adults.
I don’t believe that religious persons need to roll over to the secularists when it comes to the separation of church/state. It is our children who are going to be subjected to a culture that tries to ignore that God has a huge role in our lives; that morality is linked to religion cannot be seriously ignored. All the American Constitution protects against is a theocracy, made to order by one dominant religion or denomination thereof. The wall that modern Secularists have been building up between religious persons, and their government, is as artificial and immoral, as the one the Israelis are building to try and cage more Palestinians. Sorry Secularists, I won’t be caged or cowed by those who disagree with my beliefs in Christ and Church. I don’t seek a Catholic Theocracy, but I won’t pretend that my Catholicism-especially the Church Social Teachings- have nothing to add to America’s well-being- especially that of our children. God forbid we should stop legal abortion, stop unjust wars, stop capital punishment, stop people from having rights that include family wages, access to quality health care and housing, and all the rest of that religious-humanist mumbo jumbo.
The fact is that public monies should go to wherever the service to humanity- and especially children- is most effective and nurturing. Churches and faith-based non-profits do public service and charity much better than most direct government agencies. It shouldn’t be a crime to use public monies for such services, of course, with the proviso that the monies don’t go to proselytizing activities- let the church/mosque/synagogue come up with their own funds for self-promotion. But reward good works, enable good works, I don’t care if atheists are doing it- if it’s good and healthy- it’s ultimately godly to my way of thinking.
As a father, my fear of failing my own children is so much greater than my fear of speaking what I perceive to be the truth, and letting the chips fall as they may. I’m not afraid to lose a political race, I’m afraid of losing my children, losing my soul, should I not put up a good fight for virtue’s sake. I won’t be afraid of taking on the abortion lobbies, the let’s destroy human embryos to save our lives lobby, the military-industrial complex lobbies, the US imperialist flag-wavers lobbies, the pornography lobbies, the Secularist lobbies, the pro-Israel/anti-Arab lobbies, the World Bank/IMF lobbies, the gay marriage lobbies, the make- divorce- easy lobbies, the torture lobbies, the hate- the- Catholic church lobbies, the forget about reforming prisoners lobbies, the big corporate multinationals lobbies, the sweat-shop cheap labor lobbies, the beer industry lobbies and so on and on…Some of the interests of children worldwide, as well as my own may be served in part by some of these political entities and persons- but when they are not- I will not stand by. No one gets a free pass on placing children’s concerns at the top of the heap of ‘special interests’.
As a father, I know I can’t relegate my personal care for my own children to somewhere down the list of considerations. My children come first. And the world’s children must come first for any and all politically active or concerned individuals. We cannot content ourselves with spoiling our own children, while other children are left to bathe in sewers. In the end, there is no excuse for poor parenting, for not caring, not trying. We may disagree on techniques and discipline, but we cannot disagree with the setting of our children, and all children, as Priority One, for ourselves, for our political leaders and institutions.
Being a father is the hardest work I’ve ever encountered- and the work of saving the world for children is next to impossible- but this is joyful, holy work. I (we) are made for this- no use in denying it, or prolonging our jaded self-indulgences, which come at the expense of our littlest human family members. Thank You, Tim Shipe former candidate for Florida State House, Board of Advisors for Pax Romana and Democrats for Life.