Monday, February 13, 2012

Political Sloth

Sloth is an indifference or lack of energy in matters of faith. For example, when people don't attend mass. They can't work up enough energy to go every Sunday. People who are slothful tend to be double-minded. They will affirm their faith but not in a really strong and definitive way. Sometimes the lack of faith comes from the lack of energy. Sometimes it is the other way around. If someone believes the Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith and that regularly partaking of it is essential to their spiritual health and personal happiness then why don't they go? Faith leads to action so if you are unwilling to act you must manufacture doubt.

But it is not only individuals that have trouble with sloth. Societies do as well. We seem to have all sorts of truth issues when it comes to pornography, torture, abortion, etc. Are they really truth issues or are they political sloth? We don't want to do the right thing so we convince ourselves that these moral questions are so hard we could not possible get agreement on them. We blame politicians for trying to run away from the issue. But running away is what society wants. Abraham Lincoln talked about doing right as God gives us grace to see what is right. Today's politicians are much happier being blind and the public does not want them any other way.

So what is the solution? At a personal level the solution to sloth is joy. If our Christian walk is a source of joy to us then we won't lack any energy or enthusiasm in pursuing it. If it isn't then sloth will be a constant struggle. The same goes for countries. If a nation does not see joy in respecting life then it is going to be very hard to get people to change their votes based on issues like torture and abortion. If they don't see joy in building a culture where chastity is supported and not ridiculed then those initiatives are going to have very limited success. It is not enough for people to feel they should do this or that. For them to get active enough in large enough numbers they are going to have to see how this will change their neighborhoods for the better. 

So how do we get there? That is harder. It is easy to point out when rules are broken. It is a lot harder to point out why breaking that rule is a bad thing. Why it will interfere with your joy. You can do it with philosophical reasoning but many people don't find that very compelling. You can try it with art. That has some real potential but art about sex or violence is tricky. We have experienced so much art that handles sex and violence so badly that it is hard to imagine it being done well and being received well.

But that is what is needed. To try and get someone to imagine a modern society where life is respected and sex is respected and how each person's dignity would be affirmed. How people would flourish and become the beautiful men and women God intended. How these strong, healthy people would benefit their friends and family rather than taking advantage of them. That would make the net effect on society much greater than the sum of the parts.

If you think about the Christian takeover of Rome. They didn't just imagine it. They built it. As Roman society became more and more dysfunctional Christians stepped in and  picked up the pieces. Sexual perversions went from being widely accepted everywhere to being recognized as gravely evil. They had seen where the Christian way led and where the pagan way led. But we have trouble even telling that story. When we do we end up making the pagan way of life looking pretty appealing.

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