Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Party Soul-Searching

Deacon Scott pointed to a couple of articles on his blog on the election post-mortem from the point of view of Christian interests. I pass on a few of his quotes.

Ross Douthat's The Moral Obligation To Study Election Returns, in which he correctly chastises George Wiegel's take on the election...

I agree very much with a comment made by one Traductor, on a post over on Paper Clippings: "Catholics need to start proposing Christ and the possibility of a new humanity that is born out of the encounter with him. Some fights may be necessary, like protecting the freedom of Catholic works like hospitals, but history has shown that we will always be on the losing side of a war over 'values.' As Obama himself said, 'Don't bring a knife to a gunfight.' The bishops need to focus on educating their flocks, or else when and if they stand up, there may be no one behind them."

This puts me in mind, once again, of something Msgr Albacete said:
"We do not have the problem, or the mission, to construct a bridge between faith and politics. We do not have this problem. To have this problem and to attempt to solve it, already violates our humanity. Every single attempt to build this bridge has been a weakening of faith, or a betrayal of the Incarnation. And historically, there have been many attempts."

Let me add one from British philosophy professor John Haldane of The Witherspoon Institute, "Letter to America on the Future of Social Conservatism". It may be helpful to compare European Christian political experience when charting our own attempts to bring Christian values to bear in the public square. The article is worth a close read because of Britain's experience, where conservatives are abandoning pro-family platforms to pursue their pet economic and foreign policy agendas, a real risk now within our country's Republican party under reconstruction.
It has been a mistake for moral conservatives to associate their concerns with opposition to one candidate and one party. Not only has the previous administration proved itself unworthy, but the state of the Republican party continues to be divided over values such that, had it won the White House and Congressional elections, it would not have delivered a range of policies that would have addressed moral concerns about the conduct of war, the management of markets, the securing of marriage, or the protection of the unborn.

While it would be wrong to abandon the political parties, it would be equally mistaken to side with one of them. The fact is that elections will always be fought and decided on a range of issues and the balance will sometimes favour one side, then another. Social conservatives who look to politics should be seeking to work within both parties, and in the case of the Democrats, seeking to return them to a historical position that was once more in line with Christian moral values and Catholic social teaching than was that of the Republicans.

There is also a further reason to be wary of confusing moral concerns with the fortunes of a political party. Those within a chosen party whose primary interest is pursuing electoral victory may prove fiercer enemies of one’s moral position than political opponents in other parties....
Haldane predicts this will continue to be an uphill battle, but our work is to educate and persuade with a positive message more than via attacks. Ultimately, our task is to witness, even if we don't win.
What are you, and we, to do? The answer can only be to go on as we have learned to do already, arguing the case, fighting the battles, seeking to influence policy, but not investing our hopes in political parties that are more like one another than they are like us. Perhaps American social conservatives might reflect on that experience and prepare themselves for what are likely to be very difficult times ahead.

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