Politics Without Faith: An American Nightmare

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” – G.K. Chesterton

When it comes to America’s political atmosphere, how often do we ask ourselves “what’s the point?” What exactly is the point of all the debates, floor discussions, billboards, commercials, and campaign stump speeches?

These questions and others, in my opinion, aren’t asked (much less answered) nearly often enough.   Because if we truly did ask those questions, giving them honest thought and reflection on a regular basis, we would see just how far we’ve strayed as a nation and as a society from the real purpose of politics.

Politics, in its very essence, ought to simply be the process through which a society determines how it can prosper. However, it has instead devolved into a never-ending carousel of finger-pointing, name-calling, and people-pleasing, leaving our society on the side of the road.

In short, it seems that politics has shifted from being the means to being the end, a search for votes instead of a search for what’s right.

The reason? I’m convinced it’s a direct result of the abandonment of the idea that discussions of faith go hand-in-hand with discussions about the well being of a society.

Religion and politics, specifically politics in the context of a free and just society stemming from the existence of a transcendent God, must be inseparable if a society wishes to prosper. Whether we like it or not, the entire concept of the freedom and dignity of human persons is only possible if there exists a transcendent Creator. So, if we wish to have any integrity at all in pursuing the good of our society, the spiritual and the political must be talked about collectively.

Talking about the spiritual in conjunction with the political aids the common good by allowing us to use our reason to make inferences about the natural state of things. Through our reason, we become familiar with the natural law and determine the dignity with which humans deserve to be treated.

Because of this, the Church deserves a seat at the table. Despite the fear of many (maybe most), allowing the Church to speak with any amount of authority in matters of human nature and human dignity wouldn’t mean allowing Her to physically enter the political arena through endorsing candidates or parties. It would mean, however, allowing different (and at times unpopular) ideas into political discourse, and showing respect and objective thought to the contributions She brings.

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John Paul II meets Polish Communist leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1979

In keeping with this, Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis:

“The Church does not propose economic and political systems or programs, nor does she show preference for one or the other, provided that human dignity is properly respected and promoted, and provided she herself is allowed the room she needs to exercise her ministry in the world.”

I use this quote especially because Pope John Paul II understood the need for proper dialogue and cooperation between faith and politics, perhaps more than anyone else who walked the earth with him. After all, John Paul II (then Karol Wojtyla) was under the thumb of Communist rule for much of his life in Poland, where human dignity was reduced to purely utilitarian means, and where the Church was definitely not allowed the room needed to exercise her ministry.

In Communist Poland, politics were separated from religion in the public square—gradually at first, I’d be willing to bet—to the point where they were entirely pushed to the margins and eventually made criminal.

This, in my experience, is what so many people today in America are seeking who have problems with believers and their supposed crusades to “force their views” on others. With religious beliefs safely pushed to the side, it is said, the ideal functioning of society will finally be reached.

Why then, when that “ideal” situation was reached in Poland, did Pope John Paul II in 1979 stand in front of a shouting crowd of millions for 14 minutes as they shouted, “We want God! We want God!”?

Similarly, Pope Pius XI wrote profoundly when speaking against the Communism that coursed through Italy during his pontificate:

In the face of such a threat, the Catholic Church could not and does not remain silent. This Apostolic See, above all, has not refrained from raising its voice, for it knows that its proper and social mission is to defend truth, justice and all those eternal values which Communism ignores or attacks.

The way the Church sees it, people will open themselves to the words and grace of Christ, or they won’t. Either way, the Church will speak up, and whether or not we listen will determine the direction our society goes. The Church’s message has been the same for 2,000 years, and it’s precisely the reason, to quote Chesterton, She still “stands reeling, but erect” while all other heresies, creeds, and nations collapse “fallen and prostrate.” It’s no coincidence.

Faith as a partner to politics is an uncomfortable, even foreign, concept to 21st Century post-Christian America. However, if our country is to succeed as a nation and retain any credibility in leading its citizens into the future, faith must be given credence. Integrity in the pursuit of goodness and truth is the only path to prosperity.

7 Simple Ways to Grow in Holiness Before Noon

It’s easy to look at great saints and be intimidated. Whether it’s the stories of their personal holiness, their martyrdom, or just that their greatness is so revered, we tend to think it’s out of reach. We think that a deeply intimate, personal relationship with God is something reserved for someone that’s not us. But it should be encouraging to know that a “saint” is just a person who ends up in Heaven once God calls them home.

Getting to heaven isn’t just possible for us, it’s encouraged, and when you break it down it can be incredibly simple! Daily duties that otherwise seem mundane, pointless, or something you could just go without and be fine, when instead offered to God as prayers, can become vehicles for us to grow in relationship with Him and get us closer to our eternal reward.

Here’s some things to help you grow closer to your heavenly reward each day before lunch!

1. Pop out of bed with the first alarm.

alarm

An extremely accurate rendering

The first one might just be the hardest. When it comes to waking up in the morning, I’m the worst offender of hitting snooze a few times before waking up (also known as the “Holy Trinity of Snoozing” phenomenon). However, St. Josemaria Escriva spoke about the value in doing the opposite:

The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish. -The Way, 206

Despite getting a few more minutes of shut-eye, the difficulty of rolling out of a warm bed into the cold, so-not-bed environment of your room can, rightly considered, be good for your soul.

2. Make your bed.

making-bed-gif

(Disclaimer: Your mothers didn’t put me up to this.) In the first chapter of James, we read that “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above” (1:17). Your bed is a good gift. Taking care of that gift (and any other) is a natural way of showing honor and being thankful to God for it. Right out of the gates in the morning, taking 30 seconds to make your bed will not only get you praying before breakfast, but it will start your day off with a small sense of accomplishment.

3. Say a little extra grace before breakfast.

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As much as you might be tempted to say the “Bless us, O Lord…” prayer in 5 seconds or less before diving into your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, it’s always better to make an intention for someone or something else that could use prayers that day. Doing so will make saying grace less of an obligation and more of an offering, and that’s always a good thing.

4. Take care of your dishes.

gif ratatouille

(Again, not your mom here.) It doesn’t get simpler than this. Whether it’s just putting them in the dishwasher or washing them and leaving them to dry, it’s still a task that’s more difficult than just leaving them in the sink for later. Offering that extra minute up as a prayer for someone you’ll encounter later that day as you’re washing will make it all worth it.

5. Smile at a stranger on your way to work.

mrbean

Not in a creepy way, of course. Studies have shown for decades the value of a simple gesture of kindness like a smile at someone on the street. It’s really easy to walk past someone while we’re checking our phones, or to ignore a homeless person on a street corner, but challenging ourselves to look someone in the eye and give them a genuine smile helps us to recognize both their personhood and God’s presence in our fellow humans.

6. Deny the temptation to snack between breakfast and lunch.

donut

When Jesus said, “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me,” I don’t think He was referring to us saying no to the box(en) of donuts in the break room. However, there’s something to be said about denying ourselves small pleasures as a way of prayer. Those little micro-fasts are great opportunities to say, “Lord, this stinks, because I really like donuts. But for You and for this person I’m praying for, I can go without it.”

7. Take notice of something you normally wouldn’t.

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Avoid the cuteness. I dare you.

The world we live in is filled with a remarkable amount of goodness, beauty, and intentional order that nearly always go unnoticed. Our busy existence usually does little but cause additional stress, so it follows that giving ourselves a mandated break from that busy-ness to observe a simple beauty will offer us a reprieve and some much-needed peace. As Fr. Robert Barron so eloquently put it just this week,

God is the unconditioned source of goodness, truth, and beauty. Therefore whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is beautiful participates in God and reflects God. And so…the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, a beautifully-proportioned building, a handsome face smiling in friendliness, an innocent child at play, a crisply executed fast break, a well-written television program, all these things in their truth, goodness, and beauty speak of God.

Even finding a couple minutes of goodness or beauty in the morning will make your day infinitely better.

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All of these things boil down to one central point: thinking of yourself less and serving others more. It’s the great paradox of our call to holiness. We were given freedom, and in 1 Peter we read, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”

A grand plan of action—biting off half the elephant when you can only chew one bite at a time—isn’t what anyone has to do to get to heaven. A year-long mission trip in a third-world country may be what God is calling some people to do; That’s just fine and dandy, but God’s call to holiness isn’t necessarily measured according to how many miles we travel or how many mouths we feed over the course of our lives. Our journey to heaven is measured by how and when we say “Yes” to that call, even when it’s as simple as making our bed.

“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

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