Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Criterion for Politics: My Opinion

«Father Giussani understood that simply taking a position against other positions in the public forum was self-defeating for the movement of CL [Communion and Liberation], not from a point of view of political strategizing but because it did not allow CL to accomplish the missionary dimension of the Church, that is, to be a presence.» (John Zucchi, "Luigi Giussani, the Church, and Youth in the 1950s: A Judgment Born of an Experience." Logos 10:4, Fall 2007, p 133).

As we go into this election season, I see many reactions of people I know in emails, conversations, etc. to the current political situation. Of the candidates available, who's the best? Who has the potential of getting elected? What issues are deal breakers and which are not?

What I'm not hearing is a creative response to current conditions. What are the key issues? What kind of leadership does the US need at this time?

How can we educate ourselves on these matters? How is it possible to participate in the political process creatively and not merely accepting the roles dictated to us by the halls of power? Alasdair MacIntyre's non servum is not really much of an option.

Since I've been away, I haven't had a chance to respond to Fred's challenging post of a few days ago. I have been thinking a lot about this subject however. I restructured my blog partly as a way to keep track of a lot of inputs that help inform a decision which we have to make in about a year's time. Staying home that day, of course, is also a decision.

My first observation is that groups are already declaring for candidates, and in some cases they are significantly compromising their expectations. Either they are giving up cherished causes, such as the primacy of the pro-life position, or they are going with a candidate that does fulfill their hopes but who has no hope of winning. The latter position seems more reasonable early on because it doesn't reduce our expectations of the person we put in office, but we have to understand this has a limited educational value.

More Christians are dismayed with the compromises we've made in in order to keep a "pro-life" party in power. The gains have been little, and the losses are very troubling in terms of human dignity. We've taken the utilitarian position that makes calculations of millions of unborn children vs. thousands who die in war or dozens who are executed and presumably guilty. These kind of calculations are not worthy of the value of human life, because each one created is worth more than the universe and is called to an eternal destiny with God. We also have focused rightly on the value of life but sometimes to the neglect of the value of freedom which is necessary for a fully human existence. In fact, the martyrs offer up life in favor of their freedom to love God. Thus freedom is a value that has to be looked at much more closely in politics.

On the one hand, there is the problem of a cultural contraction from the left which seeks a disastrous secularized social hegemony and chills speech at the root with accusations of "hate". For just one example, see the Pornogogue article by Esolen or the dilemma of a generous foster family. On the other side, the War on Terror has been the excuse to dismantle basic rights agreed to in the Geneva Convention and to regularly eavesdrop on private communications without a search warrant. These precedents, even if they don't seem to affect our interests directly, erode the foundations of democracy which recognize the personal dignity and freedom of every individual. This is in addition to our engagement in a disastrous war based on spurious claims and motivations which has only exacerbated the Middle East crisis.

Now is the time to make our statements and not to compromise our ideals, not as a reaction on issues, but as a proposal for the dignity of human life which is guaranteed by our destiny in Christ. We should not coddle candidates who will not commit to human dignity in all its concerns. If a minor candidate can get the whole message out, then that's a plus. But come election day, we will have to simply choose, even if it is by the criterion of the lesser evil. Voting is not a compromise: it's a right and obligation to choose the person who is better able to ensure the public good. A protest vote does not weigh in on that critical decision.

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