Tis the season wherein we are all meant to put aside our differences and treat each other as children of God. This is made all the more difficult by the knowledge that many of our fellows deny both God and his injunction to love one another. Indeed some seem to hate God all the more for his not existing.
God loves us and therefore insists that we love one another. I note that this is not because we are innately lovable. It is precisely because we are so less than lovable that following God’s admonition is important. He puts up with us, so we must put up with each other in loving emulation.
Politically, I take comfort in the Christian notion that there is the City of God and the Earthly City of Man. No matter how close the church was to secular authority, they were never one and the same. This bifurcation between the religious and the secular is one of the hallmarks of our magnificent Western Civilization. It helped us emerge from the collapse of Rome. It was the medium from which the renaissance grew. Western Civilization is inseparable and unthinkable without Christianity.
Of course Christianity is not just a European phenomena. It is for the whole world, but for the purposes of this blog post I’m dealing with our American political context.
Our political institutions grew out of a Christian understanding of man’s place in the universe. Centuries of canon law helped secular law emerge. Our universities are an invention of the church. The division of knowledge into separate disciplines helped in unshackling theology from science, thereby allowing western men of wisdom to explore unimpeded.
Politics, consisting of the doings of men is an inherently imperfect enterprise. It is as inherently flawed, as it is necessary. From a Christian point of view it is not to be the pinnacle of our existence. The most a wise Christian can reasonably expect of politics and government is that the state not block his ability to live a righteous life. The role of politics is temporal and finite. The role of faith is eternal and infinite, looking to eternity.
That said, I have little faith in our politics based of mere materialism, not only because such a way of thought is anti-Christian. I oppose materialism because materialism makes a religion of itself. It becomes a faith without a head or transcendent unifying apex. The materialistic culture we live in today seeks to replace two thousand years of Christian teaching and reflection with a collection of propositions and desires drawn from mere public popularity.
The more we set our sites on happiness via public policy, the more we are disappointed. We cannot find fulfillment through legislation. We cannot regulate our way to character or virtue. Without God, we can’t even agree on what virtue is.
So Christmas eve, I will be mindful of the mystery of God’s love and fretful over how that love can penetrate the thick skulls of my neighbors and of course, myself.