Monday, April 30, 2012

Politics as Usual?

I have some difficulty with politics. First, as a Christ follower, I put my trust in Jesus, not politicians. I consider my first loyalty and citizenship to be with Him. So, when I see and hear people invoking Christ and the Scripture to further their own political careers, I get a tad upset. In the book, "Contemplative Prayer" by Thomas Merton, it seem he had a similar concern. Written in the late 1960s, he put his finger on a piece of the issue.
"On thing is certain: the humility of faith, if it is followed by the proper consequences-by the acceptance of the work and sacrifice demanded by our providential task-will do far more to launch us into the full current of historical reality than the pompous rationalizations of politicians who think they are somehow the directors and manipulators of history. Politicians may indeed make history, but the meaning of what they are making turns out, inexorably, to have been something in a language they will never understand, which contradicts their own programs and turns all their achievements into an absurd parody of their promises and ideals.
Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the 'opium of the people.' And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with [God]. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system-when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandist, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program-then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race."
I have seen this tendency from all sides in the political process. It nauseates me. I especially have ill-feelings concerning the policies of those on the so-called "religious right" who justify injustice, (if that's possible), in the name of some conservative economic ethic that privileges those who have against those who do not. Merton quotes Raissa Maritain, "If there were fewer wars, less thirst to dominate and to exploit others, less national egoism, less egoism of class and caste, if mane were more concerned for his brother, and really wanted to collect together, for the good of the human race, all the resources which science places at his disposal especially today, there would be on earth fewer populations deprived of their necessary sustenance, there would be fewer children who die or are incurably weakened by undernourishment." And, I might add, fewer reasons to go to war and wage terror against others.
Just food for thought.

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