Why Don’t you Talk about Theology Instead of Politics, Mark?

Why Don’t you Talk about Theology Instead of Politics, Mark? February 23, 2018

I’m always talking about theology. With the exception of the silly posts such as this vitally important thing…

…virtually everything I post has, for me, a vital connection to the Church’s teaching, usually the embarrassingly elementary Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.  Indeed, I wish I didn’t have to burn up so much of my time just reminding Christianists not to kill people or passionately cheer for radical insults to human life.

The gun debate is an obvious case in point.  Virtually everything I have had to say about it turns on a very fundamental moral point, summed up here:

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For pointing out this stuff on related issues (unjust war, torture, a living wage, capital punishment, the poor, refugees, etc. ) concerning human life and dignity that are not confined to the question of abortion, one reader charmingly replied that I reminded him of “how angry Judas got when ‘all that money could’ve been used to help the poor’. Lots of social justice, little Christianity.”

It is a mark of how diseased Christianists now are in their grasp of the Church’s teaching that concern for the least of these marks you out for them as Judas Iscariot.  What escaped my reader’s notice is that Judas had no interest in the least of these.  What interested him was money.  He kept it for himself.  Which is precisely what “tax is theft” guys want to do.

Of course, what my reader really meant was that “liberal” things the Church teaches should be ignored and segregated from “Christianity”.  As he put it: “Christianity is more than just doing good works or trying to create a utopia via government social programs. That’s what the baby boomers and their spiritual offspring haven’t been able to figure out.”

Now it’s true that Christianity is about more than just doing good works. Evil liberal modernist Pope Francis said as much in his interview with America a few years back:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

In short, the message of the gospel is not primarily about morals and ethics. It is about the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of the Son of God and if we forget that and try to reduced it to morals and ethics, even prolife ethics, we do violence to the gospel.

But that is not what my reader means when he says “Christianity is about more than just doing good works.” What he means is that Christianity is about something less than doing good works. For his words are, in fact, deeply orthodox libertarianism, not Christian or Catholic.  What he means is that any involvement of the state in helping the least of these is “utopian” and that any effort toward the common good is “charity” which is the sole province of the individual. I should therefore, shut my trap about the Church’s social teaching and her insistence that the state plays a role in it, because that’s what Judas teaches.

That. Is. A. Lie.

Here’s the reality of the Church’s theology: much of what we do for the common good is owed, not charity, according to the Church. That is the colossal mistake that Dives made in his neglect of Lazarus.  Charity is not owed.  Charity is charity.  It is an act of loving generosity you need not have done, but do for love. The Good Samaritan did not show charity to the man by the road: he gave him what he owed him as his neighbor.  The priest and Levite sinned against justice, not charity, by neglecting the man, because the man had a right to live and they did not see it. (Hmmmm.  “Right to live”.  Note how we are back to the fifth commandment again.)

So: If I don’t send you ten bucks I am not sinning against you because I do not owe you ten  bucks.  You have no claim in justice on my ten bucks.  But if I find you naked and starving and dogs licking your wounds and I do nothing, I do deprive you of justice (not charity) and if I do not repent, will face the fires of hell as Dives did for neglecting Lazarus.

Very well then, here’s the thing: it is the task of the state to ensure justice: to see to it that Lazarus does not starve, has shelter, and gets adequate care.  He is owed those things in justice because he is a human being.  That is not socialist utopianism. That is bedrock Catholic doctrine about the dignity of the human person and the demands of the common good.

So, in fact, I’m not trying to create a utopia: I’m calling for an elementary just and decent state just as the Church does. Indeed, if anybody is a utopian, it is the “prolife” Christianist willing to sacrifice 35,000 people each year, plus kids on CHiP, plus poor people in need of medical care and food, all in the utopian belief that Real Soon Now the GOP will magic abortion away. I’m seeking bare minimum human decency.  Things like not facilitating the slaughter of kids in schools like all other civilized countries are able to avoid.  Things like not gloating spitefully at the deportation of veterans and innocent kids.  That’s not “utopian”.  That’s something even pagan Romans would have regarded with horror.

Politics is the complex system of prudential judgements one makes in order to help conform the temporal order more closely to the will of God, particularly with regard to the least of these (what the Church calls the “preferential option for the poor”).  The least of these come first in the Church’s thinking, both unborn and born alike.  And in the Age of Trump it is now crystal clear to me (though lots of others don’t see it) that the moral calculus has changed.

Here’s reality: The Party of Trump is every bit as committed to maintaining abortion as the law of the land as the Dems. They have no intention of overturning Roe. Nor, as should now be obvious, have they ever.  They are the creators of our abortion regime and it is their SCOTUS appointees who expanded it too. Roberts calls it “settled law” and Gorsuch the “law of the land.” They refunded Planned Parenthood five times last year and are about to do it again. The Dems are dead wrong about abortion, but guess what? Under Trump everything is exactly as it would be under Hillary, except for the Mexico City Participation Trophy prolife Christianists get in order to shut them up and get them to cheer for all the other culture of death measures the GOP backs and the Dems oppose, including the gun cult that enables and protects the slaughter of 35,000 people each year–including at Parkland.

So here’s the prudential calculus: Since both parties (and 80% of the American people) have no intention of outlawing abortion what do I propose? I propose voting for the party that sees drops in abortion rates while in power rather than the one that sees upticks. I propose voting for the party that doesn’t labor to make sure gun slaughters never end. I propose supporting the party that does not spitefully relish the deportation of veterans and DACA kids but tries to save them. I propose support for the party that does not cut off heating to poor people in winter and food for poor people and medical care for poor families and little kids. And I propose voting for the party that will impeach and remove the most dangerous man we have ever placed in the White House–a party that, for all its faults, has not committed treason by handing intelligence to Russian spies in the very Oval Office, has not turned a blind eye to Russian meddling in our elections, and has not obstructed justice in investigating that.

What?!  You mean you will support Dems this November?!  But what about the American Solidarity Party?

Yep.  I still support them too.  And at the local level I will happily vote for them and hope they get kneaded into our state governments, get some experience and work for national office.  Hopefully, in a few years they will be ready for prime time and I will gladly back them.  But right now we are faced with a party that is an utter menace not only to the United States, but to the world and it must be stopped. It is led by a man who is a colossal danger and who awakens all the worst nuclear fears of the darkest days of the Cold War (in addition to wreaking havoc here at home with everybody but Russia and the 1%.  He and his party are the clear and present danger and the only party with a hope of stopping them is the Democrats, so I will vote for the Dems at the national level with the hope of destroying the party that is not only determined to support our abortion regime, but to make war on the dignity of human life on a host of other fronts as well.

This prudential judgment is exactly what Benedict XVI said I can do in good conscience. He wrote:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Note the distinction here between the classic “I’m voting for the lesser of two evils” saw that “prolife” Christianists always trot out and what Benedict says.  In fact, the Church forbids supporting lesser evils for a very simple reason: they are evil.  A person doesn’t get to say, “I’m against abortion, so I get a Get Out of Hell Free card if I want to commit adultery.”  Opposition to abortion does not take away the sins of the world.  And make no mistake, since Trump has become President, countless Christians have supported him, not because he’s opposed to abortion, but because they support the evils he advocates.  They like his nods to white racists.  They like the cruelty of his deportations of vets and innocent kids.  They like his punishments of the poor.  They have, in fact, defended virtually everything he has said and done since he took office, not because he is prolife,  but because they like his lies and evil actions and console themselves that being opposed to abortion will make it all okay.

In contrast, what the Church says is not that you can support the lesser evil, but that you can vote to lessen evil.  You cannot support abortion, for instance, but when two parties both protect the abortion regime, yet one party is committing or facilitating a host of other assaults on human life and dignity as well, you can vote for the party that will not do as much evil in the attempt to lessen evil.

That is the position in which I find myself and it is a prudential judgment based entirely on the Church’s teaching. I believe that Trump and his party of nihilist predators must be stopped and since there is only one instrument with a chance of doing that, I must support that instrument this year.  I have no illusions that the Dems are much good.  I merely know that they retain some humane policy ideas and are not committed to the level of radical predatory nihilism that now infects the  Party of Trump.

All this, I repeat, is applied theology and prudential judgments, mostly keeping the fifth commandment in view and trying to lessen assaults on human life and dignity.  But there is a second aim in view as well: evangelism.

The Christianist cult of Trump advertises itself to the world as the face of Real Christianity[TM].  So proud is it that it routinely declares the pope a heretic as it cheers for the lies, corruption and sometimes appalling cruelties to the poor and contempt for common decency that characterize this Administration.  And the world watches and believes them when they say they are the true representatives of the gospel. They see when Christians give Trump a mulligan for fornicating with porn stars and join in declaring his victims to be liars. They see every lie and cruelty excused and know Christianists are full of crap.

So do our kids.  And the Church is, as a consequence, bleeding out as they leave and decent, ordinary people–who might otherwise enter the Church are fleeing this grotesque parody that is Republican Rite Catholicism.  Yesterday, I witnessed the spectacle of Real Catholics (including a priest) passionately indulging their contempt for trauma victims and spewing out the ugliest nonsense about them as scheming “crisis actors”. It was like watching Captain Queeg come unglued in the trial scene of the Caine Mutiny.

I think about evangelism all the time.  And I know it is perfectly true that evangelism begins with an elementary bridge of trust between the person and the Faith in some way, however elementary.  Well, you cannot build a bridge of trust to the gospel when this is the routine face it presents:

That kind of filth is what Christianism routinely presents–and so I feel a deep obligation to point to the counter-witness of the actual gospel. I think I generally do a sub-par job. But as Mother Teresa said, God is not looking for success, he’s looking for availability.

When the freak show is over and this bizarre and sick parody of the gospel is no longer the dominant face of the Church all over the US (and in the global media) I will be happy to stop having to talk about this stuff. It grinds me down and has earned me a lot of hate and enemies. But right now it’s the gravest threat the gospel faces in this country. It is because I take my faith seriously that I take all this “secular, political” stuff seriously too. The scandal of the witness of “faithful, conservative, prolife” Christianists at war with almost the entirety of the Church’s social teaching except on abortion threatens to drive away a generation of Catholics. My prayer is that my puny little witness will help show that not everybody caved when an adulterous sex predator and con man led Christianists up an exceedingly high mountain, showed them all the kingdoms of this world, and said “All this will I give you if you bow down and worship me.”

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