Unpreparedness

There is a queer fascination with apoliticism running amuck among certain contingents of Christians (mostly Catholic) who believe, for rather unsettled reasons, that they can somehow rise above politics—either the shabby form available to us here in the West or its more substantive manifestations in both human history and thought. This is cheap escapism at its worst for there is no such thing as an apolitical faith any more than there can be an apolitical society. What really drives this temptation to “rise above” appears to be little more than a desire of making an unmerited distinction of superiority between the enlightened apolitical and the lowly masses left squabbling over who gets what, when, and how much. Strange it is that Catholics should come to find this choice in any way coherent with their faith, particularly given the strong political thrust to papal teachings on the right order of society since liberalism violently exploded onto the scene in the 18th Century.

Of course no one is obligated to engage in the messy business of politics per se. But to think that there is any way to live a human life beyond politics while choosing to be anything other than a hermit or a mad man is queer to say the least. (Of course, the choice to be a hermit, or even to live as a mad man, has a political ring to it, yes? The choice says something against the present order.) And really, it may even be shared there is a certain selfishness to the apolitical track, a desire to insulate oneself from working toward the common good, even if that good is distressingly uncommon in this day and age. Why agitate for what is right when one can sit back, assured of their own higher position in the world because they have found a way to skirt by with clean hands and no responsibility except, perhaps, to their private doctrine of God and His Church which is so selective that it would make an Actonite blush?

As for the rest of us poor souls, those tasked with pressing on with lives, families, jobs, and the undeniable sense that we are not called to be “above” or “beyond” transforming the world into which the Lord has brought us, there will be no escape to a self-crafted utopia of a life made bored with complacency. After all, if ever there was a time to dig the proverbial heels in the dirt, now is it. If ever there was a time to witness for the truth of Christ, Redemption, and Heaven, along with the imperative to create a proper order that is directed to leading as many to their final reward as possible, this is it. Danger comes from all sides and people want to hide, to preserve some small space to work out clearing their Netflix quae. This really cannot be a serious option, this apoliticism. It is an option for nothing with nothing as its end beyond, at best, some trivial existential comfort fueled by an unreflective pseudo-philosophy.

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5 comments

  1. Most people don’t realize that human life is inescapably political – that is, it must be lived within a polis. So since they associate political life with campaigns and elections – which in the U.S. are pretty much a farce – they think they can opt out not just from that farce, but from political life as such. I think it’s an extension of the Robinson Crusoe idea of man, which is pretty strong in the U.S.

  2. I was originally going to disagreeing with this post–because I instinctively associated “politics” with “electoral politics” and “apolitical” with “a-partisan” (is that a word?). But then I read Thomas Storck’s clarification about the meaning of “politics”, and the post made much more sense.

    I certainly think it is good and proper for Christians to “rise above” *electoral politics* which seems to have become completely divorced from any concern for the common good. Yet, you are certainly right that we cannot ignore Politics in the Aristotelian sense.

    Separating oneself from corrupt and disordered electoral politics may be one way of advancing a properly ordered Politics.

    1. Right. I am in no way, shape, or form advocating that Catholics slap on donkey or elephant masks. However, to embrace an apolitical posture now strikes me as either an exercise in futility (backed by more than a twinkle of self-righteousness) or cowardice. Of course, I can’t entirely blame Catholics for not wanting to go down the political road. The Church hasn’t provided much for them to hitch their wagons to in decades.

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