HughHewitt.com: “The Al Smith Dinner has been a welcome respite from the necessarily knock-down nature of modern politics. It has been about humor.”Hewitt is right. It appears the Roman Church, tired of catching flack on the right for general theological incoherence, has decided not to invite either presidential candidate to the Al Smith dinner. This tradition allowed major political figures to laugh at themselves. It took the focus, for just a moment, off party politics and shifted it to bigger things. Now the American Church needs a serious infusion of spine and morality, but this seems like an odd place to start. They might begin a revival by dealing with many abuses, but the Al Smith dinner guest list does not seem like one of the most pressing, if it is a problem at all.This move reminds me of the narrow, crabby old man in the country who would give my grandfather magazines attacking Christmas right before the holiday. Even if his view about the so-called “pagan” holiday were correct, it was easy to see he had missed the main point of Christian love while worshipping the gnat-sized idea from his own theological speculation. Rome should stop honoring pro-choice politicians, but it does not have to stop listening to them. In fact, it should invite Kerry, hear him, and then try to persuade him with wit and wisdom.My own church justifies discussions with liberal church groups by arguing that doing so is a witness to them. You cannot persuade people you ignore. If Kerry were attractive in any way, it might be tempting to avoid letting him speak for fear of having some innocent persuaded by him. However, there is no chance any innocents will attend a political dinner. In fact, Kerry is a living argument against the libertine lifestyle. (“Live with a soul killed by moral botox, always attempting to live in sixties of your youth, and you too can cease to have an inner core!”) Perhaps, college students in traditional Catholic schools could be invited to view him speak as a sort of memory of the bad old days of the Church. In any case, let the man talk.Hearing Kerry make jokes may not be my idea of a good time, but perhaps over a glass of wine during the dinner someone can plant a seed that will take root and lead to his redemption. In fact, the bloodless martyrdom of listening to Kerry speak might do a great deal for the guests future sanctity! We must always have hope. As someone who was on the other side, I am glad that good folk kept talking to me.This is not the same as honoring a pro-choice apostate like Kerry. Don’t invite him to give a commencement address. Don’t give him a humanitarian award for supporting the slaughter of the innocent. Don’t honor his free loading life. Honor his humanity.From all that one can see from the outside, Kerry is a bad Catholic, but he is still a man created in the image of God. Hearing him and maintaining a relationship with him is good for his soul. And it is good for our own souls. We must love our foe, even the morally bankrupt and the close to invincibly ignorant.America is already close to a Civil War over values. A few places where people can laugh and see the humanity of those who are wrong is good. Otherwise we will come to think that our political foes are less than human. History makes it plain that this is the pathway to all sorts of wickedness. Even the abortionist is still a man.Here is hoping the Al Smith tradition is honored.
Essay / Politics