Our many messengers bring us dire news of Politics: it is never ending. A chap and his customers have to drag themselves away from time to time to play and rest, but always the World intrudes. I can at least escape occasionally and sink to my knees in the Crypt. I struggle with the conundrum of being a Christian Knight. How to 'vote'. How to do good.
Thankfully, I am not in Government.
Bernard: "Will I become a moral vacuum, Sir Humphry?".
Sir Humphry: " Oh I do hope so Bernard. If you work hard at it"
Many other governments seek a way to improve the lot of their people: some to simply oppress and exploit them. Mankind's many governments have been at it a long time.
We are far from getting it right.
Making matters even more difficult, particularly for those lacking 'sound' knowledge, there are politicians who 'claim' to be christian, yea even Catholic, but whose feet are so far down into Hell already that our sincere prayers are needed. Certainly not the votes they want from us.
How does one be a Good Christian in a fractured world, especially when even Christendom is so fractured? The One Church is not unified, as it should be. Christian countries are similarly in a state of disunity.
Well, for a start,
"We should never confuse the nation or political party with the church. "
That succinct message was given in the bar by a thinking fellow, Ben Peterson, who dropped by for a pint and a chat. He gave us some pertinent things to think on. He is a is a PhD student in the Texas A&M Department of Political Science. I am unsure of which bit of the fracture his moral muscles attach to but suspect he knows more of the North American experience than I do.
Pilgrims in our own country:
the Christian Confession and the Christian Conundrum
“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9).This simple statement is the Christian Confession.On one hand, the confession is simply an acknowledgment of reality. On the other, it is a declaration of political loyalty. Jesus is Lord of a Kingdom that stands in judgment over all other kingdoms.In an important sense, the Christian is utterly indifferent to the goings-on of politics in what St. Augustine called the City of Man.
He believes that the rise and fall of kingdoms and nations is vanity, and that life on earth is only significant as a precursor to the coming age.
The early Christians never expected political power but rather a swift return of Christ. In the four canonical gospels, Jesus offered not a hint of guidance for the design of government institutions.
Fortunately we no longer have Caesars. Taxes though, remain !Contrary to recent portrayals of Christ as a “zealot” dedicated to political revolution, Christ emphasized that his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); he even instructed his followers to pay taxes to Caesar (Matt. 22:21).
Yet, in a great irony of world history, a religion dedicated not to the temporal “City of Man” but to the eternal “City of God” became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the late fourth century. As a result, Christianity became one of the chief influences of Western civilization.
Thus was introduced the Christian Conundrum, which is most apparent when Christians enjoy political prosperity and power.The Christian confession suggests significant social and political implications.
Even as we await the final realization of the Kingdom of God, Christians are to be—and often have been—constructive influences in their societies.
Christian thought and practice infused Western culture with what philosopher Karl Popper called “humanitarianism,” a belief system based on the central Jewish and Christian teaching that human life is valuable, bearing the image of its Divine Creator.
Likewise, according to Jacques Maritain, the Christian ethos has served as “leaven in the social and political life of nations,” arguably providing the firmest foundation for the ideals of liberal democracy and a spur for moral and material progress.
The teaching of Christ to render what is Caesar’s to Caesar and what is God’s to God laid the intellectual groundwork for the distinction between church and state and the protection of religious freedom — both of which are great achievements of medieval (Catholic) and modern constitutionalism (Protestant) and are among the first principles of the American political order.
The Christian conundrum in the United StatesChristians in the United States face a particularly acute form of the Conundrum, particularly after the election of President Trump. As sociologist James Davison Hunter wrote before the Trump era, wealthy and engaged Christians on both the left and right have overly prioritized politics, building political action organizations dedicated to churning out voters for the Democratic and Republican parties.For Christian conservatives, social trends related to the family, morality, and religion spell disaster for the country.
Their activism has been reactionary, focused especially on securing electoral power to change the composition of the US Supreme Court.
Christians on the right have built powerful and effective political action organizations dedicated to mobilizing Christians to vote their values—that is, vote Republican.
Hmmmm. I pulled a pint for m'self. That focus is in reality a take-over of Christian Principles by that which is inimicable to Christianity. There have been at least ten clear warnings about socialism from Popes in the past hundred or more years. But then many 'Christian' splinters reject almost everything a Pope might say. (follow the link if you do not know)Hunter also describes the political activism of the Christian left. More focused on issues of poverty and inequality, but equally committed to bringing Christian morality to the ballot box, the Christian left challenges the right’s claim as Christianity’s political standard-bearer.
Christian Left is an oxymoron. As is christian progressive. And christian socialist.
Christian right is only not oxymoronic when countering the left, otherwise it too is.
Even the term 'Social Justice' is found no-where in Christ's words. We should not confuse modern mantras with the Word. There is Justice, a gift of God. It is His, not 'social'.Those on the left call for social justice, with an emphasis on the prophetic elements of the Bible that urge compassion for the poor and reconstruction of society to protect the vulnerable.
Conservative Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus summed up the situation in American Babylon:
"Protestant Churches that were once called mainline, and are now viewed as oldline or even sideline, have in recent decades planted the banner “Thus Saith the Lord” on the cultural and political platform of the left. The evangelical Protestant insurgency has planted the same banner on the cultural and political platform of the right . . ."With notable exceptions, both undermine a religiously informed public philosophy for the American experiment, both contribute to the political corruption of Christian faith and the religious corruption of authentic politics; both have forgotten that, as it is said in the Letter to the Hebrews, we have here no abiding city.
For the Christian right, the sense of impending disaster reached fever pitch during the Obama presidency, but the 2016 election changed the game. Conservative Christians may be tempted to see the Trump reversal as a vindication of their efforts—even a triumph of providential origin.
In particular, conservative Christian leaders have praised Trump and the Republican Senate for the installment of conservative judges to the federal courts—likely Trump’s most far-reaching accomplishment in domestic politics to date.Politics and Christian witnessThis hyper-political, divided state of affairs is a matter of concern because it threatens to tarnish the Christian witness in an age when it is desperately needed; many people in our society have lost faith in institutions of all sorts and are living without purpose.Both Hunter and Neuhaus (in The Naked Public Square) remind Christians that
politics is ultimately a competition to exercise coercive rule.
This is necessary in the City of Man, but certainly not the primary work of the church.
Christians should not entertain the illusion that politics offers a final solution to the really significant human problems—oppression, greed, injustice.
Yet neither should we ignore the social element of the Christian Confession. Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has lamented the divide that emerged between Christian progressives and fundamentalists at the end of the nineteenth century—liberals abandoning important doctrinal elements of the Christian witness and fundamentalists spurning the social element of the Christian vision.
Gerson argues that modern evangelical Christianity lacks a “model or ideal of political engagement—an organizing theory of social action.”While Jesus offered no concrete guidance for government structures, the Christian personal and social ethic is based on a radical love of God and neighbor that he dubbed the greatest commandments (Matt. 25:35-40). As Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, Christian teaching presents a vision of human flourishing and dignity built on the ultimate significance and worth of each person.It encourages us to actualize this vision by forming self-sacrificial relationships, embodied most obviously in the covenant of marriage, and to build healthy communities where each person can find belonging, purpose, and love.The social issues—abortion, marriage, divorce, euthanasia, pornography—that have animated politically active, conservative Christians in the past few decades are issues regarding which Christians, indeed, have something important to say. They relate closely to John Paul’s “Gospel of Life.”But Christian Progressives (sic)too can trace their dedication to social justice and their concern for the poor and vulnerable to the biblical prophets and the Christian tradition of mercy. Both camps have scriptural and historical warrant for their causes—in fact, there is evidence that the concerns of the left and right are connected.The deterioration of the family and the emergence of a laissez-faire sexual culture exacerbate, if not cause, economic and social inequalities.But both camps are also in danger of mistaking the City of Man for the City of God.
In particular, the Evangelical alliance with Trump is dangerous for the Christian witness. Rod Dreher makes a convincing case in The Benedict Option that Christians who view President Trump’s election as a victory for the Christian social vision are mistaken.
Dreher predicts that, despite the president’s claim to champion Christian causes, Christians’ association with the president holds as many challenges and dangers for the church’s social witness as it does promises of policy gains. In his view, “No administration in Washington, no matter how ostensibly pro-Christian, is capable of stopping cultural trends toward desacralization and fragmentation that have been building for centuries. To expect any different is to make an idol of politics.”
A new Christian politics
Christian participation in national politics has its place, insofar as it contributes to the realization of the Christian witness and social vision. For example, Gerson recounts the important role that early Evangelicals played in the abolitionist movement.Even Evangelicals’ compromising alliance with the Trump Administration may open doors and lead to progress in contemporary humanitarian causes, such as prison reform. Such reform would build on the groundwork laid by organizations like Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship, which have introduced a welcome shift toward “redemption” and restoration in criminal justice policy.Yet national politics should not be the primary focus of Christians’ efforts.
We should never confuse the nation or political party with the church.
Our membership in the Kingdom claims priority in our lives.
Our civic responsibilities are important, but secondary.
The more important and urgent task for Christians is the construction and maintenance of actual communities where the personal and social implications of the Christian Confession can be realized. The greatest challenge for Christians in the coming decades is to help young people see and accept the truth of the Christian Confession and lead personal, professional, and communal lives reflecting that truth.This is the primary work of the City of God, and some evidence suggests that it may be hindered by an excessive emphasis on national politics, though apparently not in the manner and to the degree often assumed.Dreher proposes “a new kind of Christian politics” focused on building and strengthening local communities where a Christian subculture—filled with the joy of brotherhood, service, and faith—can thrive. Inspired by Czech dissident Václev Havel’s argument for joyful resistance to Communist rule, the new Christian politics is an “antipolitical politics,” a call to “live within the truth”—the truth of the Christian Confession.Dreher’s proposal accords with the Christian social vision I propose here, a vision that can be lived out in any regime or circumstance, provided we have the courage and patience to commit ourselves to the work.As Neuhaus would say, Christians ought to cultivate an “Augustinian sensibility.”
We must recognize that we are pilgrims in our own country, members of the City of God on pilgrimage in the City of Man.
In 'my' Church, a Traditional Latin Mass church (so awful to have to distinguish) we pray for Christian Unity. The turmoil of the middle ages when the One, Unified Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was fractured and splintered heralded the decline of Christianity. It needs to be healed.As St. Augustine wrote, the histories of these two cities are “inextricably intermingled … in the concrete reality of history,” yet their characters and final destinies are worlds apart.
The challenges of present-day politics in the United States remind us that Christians will always be pilgrims in this world.There is no relief in this life from the Christian Conundrum. The best we can do is to reclaim an Augustinian sensibility, balancing it with a commitment to seek the good of “Babylon,” our exilic home, and clinging to the truth that “Jesus is Lord.”
To my protestant Brothers and sisters, knights, wenches, farm-boys and knaves, I say....Come Home.
We have 'enjoyed' the fruits of Christian witness, developing a modern world with all its material benefits. The 'Poor' are becoming fewer by the day, largely through a christian political policy system. But that is rapidly being stolen and perverted by diabolical forces that actively demean and dismiss Christian Principles and call it 'Zhozial Juztitz'. It is being let slip through our hands by 'churches' that drift further and further away from that Church established by Christ.
Not that that same Church is not currently being torn apart by the same diabolical forces.
And coming are the hordes that will take everything, flying a crescent banner. The Bells will fall silent to be replaced by howling from a minaret.
Unless there is a resurgence of Faith and an adherence at the personal level to the original message of the Word, Himself, He Himself, my Supplier will return and take over and Rule as King of Kings.
The political games will be over.
No more 'Moral Vacuum'. Perhaps no more Sir Humphry and Bernard (although they are men to work upon) :)
Drink up and think. But don't confuse the two. Believe very carefully.
Purify yourself for the biggest battle the City of Man could ever imagine.