All posts tagged: Politics

Welcoming the Child: Foundations of the Hospitable Imagination

Bearing and bringing life into the world is the primordial act of hospitality, the universal experience of co-creating with God and welcoming the stranger, essentially the “first” work of mercy. Many will argue the political nuances of life issues and prioritizing who deserves the loudest voice in a world clamoring for one’s conscience and one’s action. But when we draw a collective breath and the dust settles, we must acknowledge the most basic reality of human life. We have all come into this world as tiny, vulnerable, powerless children dependent on our mother’s bodily hospitality and a warm and nourishing landing spot after birth. All of us. Without exception.   I definitely didn’t “get” this until I was pregnant with my first child and went through the miraculous, traumatic, transformative experience of pregnancy and birth. A lot of things came into focus after that pivotal moment in my life as a woman. I understood for the first time what it meant to literally give your life for another (though I did not actually die). I …

An Ethic of Listening

I love to write and speak—definitely a verbal processor—but I wouldn’t say I’m naturally a good listener. This double-edged sword makes me an effective rhetorician but also a candidate for what St. Paul refers to as “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” in the oft-quoted love chapter of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1). In the Internet age we live in, our entire society struggles with this issue. There are few checks on self-expression, and words are flooding the sound and digital waves constantly, drowning one another out with increasing urgency and vitriol. Politics, particularly in this last election cycle, has left many of us disillusioned by the complete lack of civil discourse and real listening taking place in the halls of power. The media got the country completely wrong by not listening to a whole class of real people and their actual thoughts on the state of things. Though I do all kinds of writing and speaking on life issues, and I don’t shy away from rallies and protests as well, I’ve come to …

Fairy Tales and Realpolitik

In Orthodoxy G.K. Chesterton praises fairy tales not because they imagine an alternate world but because they marvel at the universe as it is. Materialists take for granted that apples fall from trees. Fairy tales wonder, because logically speaking the apple didn’t need to fall down. Why didn’t it fall up? Couldn’t the law of gravity break? Why didn’t it break? He calls it “elementary wonder.”[1] Without explicitly connecting them, Chesterton makes a similar point in his following chapter on politics. If you want to improve the city you love, don’t try to find what’s lovable about it. Be shocked that your city is, be dazzled that you are there and not somewhere else. Then start your reform. Chesterton wants people to see their primal loyalty not as embarrassing, irrational, or socially constructed, but as a primal love. When you fall in love, you can never quite explain why you love the person you do. Mothers love a child this way, “arbitrarily, because it is theirs.”[2] Anyone with a precise reason to love would be …

Toward a Monastic Notion of the Common Good

It is said that Christendom has fallen, and societies around the world have entered into a post-Christian phase. These conditions have been exacerbated by a caustic and divisive election season. How are Christians to enter into a society whose values and general framework seem hostile to those of the Christian tradition? Is it possible for Christians to find common ground with others in order to offer significant contributions to society’s development? This implies the need for Christians to develop a nuanced and intelligent response to the needs of a nation divided by political discord. Some propose that the only viable response of the Christian is either to prepare for battle against the tides of culture, or to retreat to the outskirts of mainstream society, both for the sake of preserving their heritage and convictions as Christians. Perhaps Christians and society at large would benefit more from an option that synthesizes the values that are found in both: offering a markedly Christian proposal that engages contemporary society that also maintains an ascetical dimension of detachment from …

Christ the King of Mercy

This Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, marks the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As the aftermath of the recent election continues to play out, it strikes me that this past year, with its focus on learning what it means to practice mercy, has been a training ground for the days, months, and years to come. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, one must practice mercy, and at the moment, that seems to mean extending mercy toward those who appear to hold views antithetical to our own. In the world of social media, we can far too easily become insulated: we tell people to un-friend us if they voted for a particular candidate; we mute people from our news feeds if they post too many ideological rants or politically-driven articles; we cultivate a circle of friends who share our viewpoints. In this ‘echo chamber of the like-minded,’ our voices bounce off one another in isolated agreement and self-validation, growing louder and louder until they become a din, and …

Promising Too Much

With the U.S. presidential election, which finally takes place this week, we have heard a lot from politicians. And what politicians spend much of their time doing is promising to solve problems. Politicians offer solutions. Sometimes they offer themselves as the solution, sometimes certain policies, more often a combination of both. And we the people, we want solutions. We want solutions to what ails us, to what worries us, and to whatever holds us back from our unrealized goals. Can politicians provide the solutions to all these things? No, of course not. And yet, there is a real danger of thinking or acting as if they can. In fact, we run this risk not only with politicians. After all, not only politicians offer us solutions. How many self-help books promise to solve our problems and make us happy at last? Or commercials: they advertise products as the solution to this or that problem. They want us to think: if I only had the advertised product, I’d be at peace. Just look at the people in …

The Politics of the Saints

Next week, the endless campaign will finally be over. At some point on Tuesday, November 8 (or early on November 9th), it’s likely that the United States will have a new President. While many will celebrate the election of whichever candidate becomes President, many Americans (especially during this polarizing election) will walk away dispirited. They will wonder to themselves: is this the best that our body politic can offer? Is this campaign the denouement of our Republic or at least of my particular political party? Will the unity that I desire, the domestic peace that I hope for, ever come? Such questions are not simply representative of the naive hopes of those who long for some political utopia. This desire for true peace, true righteousness, true justice, is written upon the human heart. Our disappointment in politics as normal is not evidence that we are inadequate realists; that we have fallen prey to Angelism, seeing the human being existing outside of the realm of sin and death. It’s that we are made for something more than …

“A Good Catholic Meddles in Politics”

A few times a week, my friend Chris and I email each other news articles about this unbelievable election cycle. Chris works for a media company and likes that he gets to cover such an important story, but he’s also ready to focus on something, anything, else. He’ll often include an update on the countdown to November 8 in his emails. “Just 93 days left.” “Only 70 to go.” I appreciate these updates because I am equally ready for this thing to be over. My compulsive reading about the election is like rubbernecking at a pileup on the highway. But I am not here to complain. Instead, I want to suggest that, as Georgetown University’s John Carr likes to say, the Catholic Church’s most counter-cultural teaching is that politics is a good thing. Yes, despite our extreme polarization and our presidential candidates and the incivility in our current discourse, politics is a good thing and worth a holy effort to save. Where does the Church get such an unpopular idea? In its best form, politics …

Don’t Ban Art: ‘This is a Bad Idea’

The theme for the school’s annual fund-raising banquet was “The Art of the Possible.” Whoever chose it, I thought to myself, either didn’t know or didn’t care that the phrase was used by Otto von Bismarck to capture the concept of realpolitik: “Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen”—politics is the art of confining oneself to what is within reach, of compromising in the pursuit of the attainable rather than pursuing the ideal. I only knew that myself because my college roommate Susan Gosdick had played the original cast album of Evita pretty much non-stop throughout our sophomore year, and I’d been curious about the origin of the phrase featured in one of Tim Rice’s caustically witty lyrics: Perón & military leaders One has no rules Is not precise. One rarely acts The same way twice One spurns no device Practicing the art of the possible One always picks The easy fight One praises fools One smothers light One shifts left to right It’s part of the art of the possible. The phrase was thus …