These are tense times both in the Church and in America. Proper critique of those in authority is essential in order that they understand how their decisions affect those they are supposed to serve. It is also necessary for accountability; authority figures must be accountable to those whom they serve; they will surely have to account to God one day.
Too often today, critique devolves into personal attacks, wrath, and even hate. This is especially evident in America today, particularly when it comes to the upcoming presidential inauguration. The recent contentious campaigns were the ugliest we’ve seen in a long time. There’s plenty of blame to go around for this: both major parties and their followers, the news media, and social media, just to name a few.
As of noon on January 20th, 2017 a new president is in office. Some have been saying, “He’s not my president,” but this is fantasy. He will be our President whether we like it or not. And God’s word instructs—even commands—us to pray for him and all other leaders, both in the Church and in the government. St. Paul wrote,
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
This is enjoined on us whether or we like the leader or not, whether we agree with him or not. At the time St. Paul wrote this, Nero was the Roman emperor—hardly a pleasant fellow and likely deranged. All the more reason to pray for him!
Some of President Trump’s stated policies align with Catholic teachings and others do not. We are going to have to deal with him as we have with every President: work with him when we can and oppose his policies when they do not conform to our teaching.
But above all, we must pray for him. Given the ugliness of current discourse and the tendency toward personal attack, we as Christians have to distinguish ourselves by speaking respectfully and turning frequently to prayer.
It is easy to disparage our political opponents, but have we prayed for their conversion if necessary? Have we prayed that God will grant them wisdom and infuse special graces upon them?
Perhaps in the current climate this is the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But be very careful, fellow Christians, constructive criticism and vigorous advocacy is good, but it is not appropriate for us to engage in vengeful, gleeful, or destructive discourse.
I do not intend to be sanctimonious. I, too, struggle in the current climate. But let us all remember to pray first, then act, and finally speak.