Wednesday, November 14, 2012

oh for goodness' sake...

Secessionist petitions?

In a word: not helping.

When things get really hairy, after prayer and Scripture and the Tradition, I tend to fall back on whatever's going on at the Front Porch Republic, First Things, and occasionally The American Conservative.  Now don't fret; I also like John Allen, Jr., America, and Commonweal. 

Anyway, last month Jeffrey Polet made a wonderful analysis at FPR.  Way down in the article Polet writes:
All of this, as I say, means restating what human beings are, how we account for their lives, what they are responsible for, and the limits of a freedom so articulated. But Americans don’t like to hear about limits, and for that reason alone the conservative voice will remain one crying in the wilderness.

Until the city becomes the wilderness, as inevitably it must. We are on the way of Nineveh, and those who live on its margins will be those who survive the collapse and can reconstruct something humanly meaningful. I’ve committed myself to the idea that this culture and our politics can be saved, and that things aren’t so bad as all that. I’ve resisted the strategy of withdrawal as irresponsible and impractical. (emphasis mine)

 This sort of sanity is exactly what we need at this time and it's what I'm afraid is being lost in the post-election fray.  Yes, the election was a brutal one, atrocities committed on both sides.  Obama won and Romney lost, so that means the sort of humor and public-debate-tone-setting falls to the Democrats first.  Therein lies part of the problem.  Charity, and the lack thereof, is the entire problem.  Yes, to the victor go the spoils.  Yes, Romney lost.  And YES, if Romney won there'd be a mirror opposite problem with humor and debate-tones.

And the same problem would exist, but that doesn't mean the lack of charity now is any less of an issue because Obama won.  Because Obama won, we now face the situation we're facing.  Responding "well, it'd be worse if Romney won" is pointless.  He didn't, and we aren't. 

Charity, the Catechism reminds us, is "superior to all the virtues" (#1826).  Charity provides the form for the other virtues, thus enabling us to exercise prudence, justice, temperance, and courage to higher degrees than if we lacked charity.  The Catechism concludes at #1829:

The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.

What does this have to do with secessionist petitions?  Easy--such actions are not charitable.  Nor are videos making light of opposition to same-sex marriage.  In an earlier day, I was warned when winning a game "not to rub the other guy's face in it."  Nothing wrong with winning and nothing wrong with celebrating it, but don't be uncharitable, basically.  And don't be a sore loser when you lose...which you will do. 

But both of these options--triumphal gloating and bitter denial of loss--have grasped our national culture.  It's this lack of charity that concerns me and, quite frankly, should concern others. Polet's "post-mortem" gets this and thus refuses to separate from the culture and our governing structure.  (Yes, I realize George Weigel's proposal to separate from the state regarding SSM represents a different tack.) On the victor's side, a little less heavy-handed rhetoric about coming together as one nation would be a welcome sign.  Charity is a great medicine to cure our nation's multi-faceted spiritual diabetes, but how many are willing to engage such a "diet and exercise" cure?

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