I have something I want to run past you if you don’t mind. If you don’t have time for this just hit the old delete button, I won’t mind.
Since the 2012 elections I have felt like a man without a country and very disappointed, disappointed at my fellow countrymen for pretty much telling me, “Hey, we don’t give a rip about your conscience rights nor your religious freedom. Heck, we don’t even care about religious freedom at all.” My logic here as that people knew O’Bama was forcing the HHS mandate on us without any concern for our consciences yet people still voted him in. I felt and continue to feel so betrayed and set adrift.Before all of this I was very much a “Buy American” kind of guy and tried not to shop at places like Wal Mart, etc. Since the 2012 elections I don’t give a rip anymore. We now shop at our local Wal Mart and I no longer care when I see someone in Flint, MI driving a Honda or a Toyota. In fact I kind of laugh with a “Take that, Union!” type of attitude.
Anyway, I don’t feel right about this kind of attitude but I just can’t get past it. I always appreciate your level headed view on things. I think I’ve shared with you in the past that you’ve righted my ship more than once and I will always be grateful for this.
Well, there it is. I hope it made sense.
The secret of the Catholic is that he is *always* a man without a country. “Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” (Heb 13:13–14).
Caesar has never been friends with Christ. He merely finds him a useful tool at times. And Christ, who has no interest in worldly power, allows Caesar to think he is using him as he pursues his sovereign path from Calvary to the empty tomb and the Heavenly Zion.
We’ve fallen, of late, into thinking that maybe we could create the earthly Zion. America has been (and, by the way, remains for the moment) reasonably friendly to the Church. Our lot as Catholics is fantastically better than, say, Chaldean Catholics under ISIS or even Palestinian Catholics under Israeli rule. Sure, Obama holds Catholics in contempt and our culture is souring on the Church. But we still have a lot going for us in terms of civil freedom and lack of harassment from the culture and the state. So we should count our blessings. But we should also allow this time to wake us up to the fact that the world is not and never has been our friend. That’s not cause for despair. It’s a splash of cold water in the face. It’s the same thing the apostles saw, only they felt no disappointment over it since they knew from the outset that the world was the enemy, not the potential ally, of the Church and they had no illusions otherwise. American Catholics are facing the disillusioning process of having their worldly hopes stripped from them as the world turns its perpetually hostile face to the Church.
Our task is not to hate the world but, like Jesus, to love the world–quite possibly to the laying down of our lives.
The gravest danger we face as Catholics is not the hostility of the world. It is the deceiving friendship of the world. St. John, who tells us that “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16) also paradoxically says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (1 Jn 2:15–17). He does not contradict himself here. His point is that we have to love the world with the gift-love of Christ, not the hungry need-love of fallen man. The need of fallen man, the worldly love that so animates our political life, is for power, honor, money and pleasure. The world promises us, as Satan promised Christ, “all these things” if only we will worship it (and therefore the prince of this world).
And the prince of this world always disguises himself as an angel of light. This is why Jesus warns, not against persecution, but temptation: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).
Think about it: how often are we lured into sins by our enemies and persecutors? Virtually never. Indeed, persecution often brings out the best in us so that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians” as Tertullian famously said. It is our friends and allies who almost always give us the moral permission to sin. They are the ones who offer you that first bite of the apple, the first hit of cocaine, the encouragement to go ahead and take vengeance on that jerk who wronged you, the assurance that you and they are better than those slobs over there. It is the propagandists for *our* side who say that, precisely because we are so much better than our enemies, it is okay–just this once–to commit mortal sin that good may come of it. Small wonder Jesus called his friend, not his enemy, “Satan”.
The Way is Christ. The Church virtually never approaches human political systems in terms of black and white. They are seldom as bad or as good as we say they are. This is why the bishops (who called for universal health care for a century before Obama attempted it) have been measured in their responses to the gigantic flaw that is the HHS mandate. They don’t condemn Obamacare wholesale, because it is a step in the right direction. But they also don’t see it as utopia and warn of the grave threat the Mandate represents.
In the same way, while recognizing that the right has some merits in its opposition to abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, ESCR, and the fiction of gay “marriage”, it also recognizes that much of this is motivated by cynical exploitation of prolife sentiment, and is often a fig leaf for profoundly anti-Christian and anti-life agendas. In short, the Church’s habit is always to affirm what can be affirmed in human systems of order while refusing to ever mistake these systems for the kingdom of God.
American politics, in contrast, is a strange combination of messianic secularism with a Calvinist vision of total depravity that, in the words of the X Files “Trusts no one”.
Such a politics is doomed to be at cross purposes with the gospel and there is no guarantee at all that American Protestant Christian culture will not be totally co-opted by it. Indeed, I think the case can be made that it already has. The Catholic Church in the US, though it has been heavily tinted by it, and by the party spirit that infects it, has the secret power of the Spirit to, as Jesus says, “drink any deadly thing [and] it will not hurt them” (Mk 16:18). The Church over the centuries picks up the tint from its surrounding culture, but it does not capitulate fully to that culture (though some of its members may). It manages to walk out of Egypt with its treasures, but not its idols. Our hope and prayer (and the focus of our discipleship as Catholics) has to be the same in whatever earthly nation we find ourselves. America, like every other human creation, has great glories and great sins and failings and so do her political parties. She will never be perfect and she will not last forever. As C.S. Lewis points out, “Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Our concern with politics matters only insofar as it affects the eternal destinies of each person. The danger of our politics is that it strongly urges everybody, both left and right, to be concerned with persons only insofar as they are useful for the acquisition of power, honor, riches, and pleasure. To rightly love the world is to love each person in the world. To rightly refuse to love the world is to refuse to disorder our love by treating things with more love than persons, especially the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. The good news is that Christ tells the members of his body “Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). Our life here is, in the words of Tolkien, a “long defeat”. Because as Paul says, “the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Ro 8:20–25).
In the mystery of Providence, the world, including its politics, is *supposed* to frustrate us. But that is not our cue to abandon the world. It is our cue to love it as Christ does, not as the flesh does.
Hope that helps.