society

The Sins of Our Fathers

I believe that we are responsible for crimes and sins committed by those who went before us, and also for those done on our behalf by those in authority.

I know this is contrary to our modern ideas of justice, rooted in an individualistic worldview. But that worldview is incomplete.

I am not merely myself, I am also a member of various societies: my family, my school or workplace, my town, my country, and the Church. And each of these societies has a life of its own, living and acting as one, and so, is capable of both obeying and disobeying God. And as far as I remain a member of these societies, I participate in both its merit and guilt.

society

This doesn’t mean that I take on all of the guilt of every individual in society. But I do bear the guilt of society acting as a whole, and every association I belong to, even if I wasn’t even alive when its crimes were committed.

What am I to do? How can I be saved from these sins? How can we be saved from them? I must simply repent. Then in me, my society will be repenting, and being brought to repentance member by member. We must repent, do penance, and pray for the salvation of our families, communities, nations and Church, just as we must for ourselves.

I especially think of our national sins, of wars, colonialism, slavery, exploitation, abortion, etc., and of the sins committed by leaders in the Church, especially in the sex abuse scandal. And I believe that actually, this will be crucial to re-evangelising our society.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you!

P.S. I think it would be especially good in this regard, if on the anniversary of national crimes and sins, we took it as a day of fasting and penance, especially those crimes we are persevering in. For example, the 27th of October and 27th of April for the UK’s abortion act (royal assent and commencement, respectively), and the 20th of March for Iraq war. It would be great if the national bishops conferences could promote this too.

P.P.S. I watched a documentary a while ago about the descendants of prominent Nazis, titled ‘Hitler’s Children’, I think. It showed how they were haunted, even decades later, by the guilt of their parents’ and grandparents’ crimes, with many doing penance by working to prevent such atrocities ever being repeated, and one woman moving to the desert and having herself sterilised. It seems to me, that communal and hereditary guilt is a simple psychological fact, that it would be foolish to deny or dismiss.

God bless you!

The Necessity of Religion in Politics

Religion is necessary to politics, because the idea of the person is necessary to politics. The person is in fact something only perceptible by faith. By science or philosophy, you can determine many things about the nature of Homo Sapiens, but you cannot demonstrate their personhood. By these methods, you may discover various different ways of how they work, engaging various material, or even “spiritual”, mechanisms within the creature, but you won’t find that it is a person to relate to, to engage and commune with, that participates in the unfathomable mystery at the foundation of the universe, and so has universal rights.

Persons and personhood, cannot be proven or discovered, but only encountered. They are too profound to be found through our external and detached methodologies, but must be met, and communed with. Personhood is a truth we can only accept on faith, born of encounter.

Of course, you don’t have to be “religious” to encounter and accept the reality of personhood. People from any religion (I think…) or none can. But it is a thoroughly religious idea.

And without a solid, well built faith, the idea of personhood will be attacked on all sides, by various ideas of ‘pragmatism’, ‘utility’, ‘realism’, ‘moderation’, ‘fairness’, ‘liberty’, and even ‘compassion’. Personhood must be held to tightly at all times, or it will not last, and with it, the dignity of many lives. But personhood is difficult to hold alone, because it refuses all compromise, and to be strengthened needs to be part of a larger system of mystery. That is, personhood cannot well last, if it is understood as an isolated reality, without proper relationship to the rest of existence; it requires to be placed in relationship with a similarly profound mystery of all that is, that is also to profound for any knowledge but the knowledge born of encounter: the knowledge of faith.

Believers, when engaged in politics, cannot leave religion at the front door, because it will leave personhood, which should be the heart of all politics, exposed and vulnerable, to inferior ideas making reckless use of lesser truths. When the true principle of man’s life, that is, man’s relationship to the divine, is ignored, life is easily denigrated, and we end up with a culture of death.

In practice, personhood means that humans are not things to be used, but people to love. From this view, we can see that society’s focus shouldn’t be the individual or the collective, but the community, which transcends and harmonises both, in a shared life of dynamic love.

God bless you

P.S. I hope to write more posts on politics and society soon.

Illusions run society

Society today, is all about illusions. Few people will use that word, but no one would deny it. “You have to act the part; dress the part; look the part”. Doing the part is easy, you just have to appear good enough for it.
Good businesses require those who see past the facade of others, yet put up a fine one of their own. A smart businessman will value the looks and style of employees little, while maintaining their own for those who judge more foolishly.
It is the same in many places; churches, schools, politics. At school, children’s attitudes are judged by uniform quality, although this is probably quite accurate, as obedience to uniform will usually equate to other obedience (not to attitude to learning, however). In politics, image is everything. It’s all about slogans, photos and empty promises, and never about actions until the election’s over and it’s too late.
I’ve not been to a Church where this is too prominent, though I’ve heard of a few incidents, and there does appear to be a dress-code for ministers. I strongly suspect it’s more prominent in churches where there’s an idea of some holiness hierarchy (like in 2Corinthians 10:12), whether official or not. My parents used to make me dress well for church things, which I hated. One time, I asked my mum if Jesus had always worn clean clothes, and wasn’t forced to change.
The Pharisees were all about the image of holiness. Jesus said to them,

‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye are like to whitewashed sepulchres, which outwardly indeed do appear beautiful, and within are full of bones of dead men, and of all uncleanness; so also ye outwardly indeed do appear to men righteous, and within ye are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’
Matthew 23:27-28

I would say it’s useful to abandon external righteousnesses, so that you never fool anyone (including yourself) into believing you’re one bit better than you truly are.
In other industries, it’s clearly not half as important. The illusions are inefficient, and perpetuate inequalities, but they are less dangerous and more necessary. Still, it would be good for the world to erode this illusion. I advise being slightly less formal when doing a great job, and more formal when (for whatever reason) you’re not doing so great. Also, be careful not to fall for the illusion yourself.
These illusions are born out of judgmental hierarchies, and help to sustain them.

God bless you.