Thursday, September 24, 2009

A clarification on faith, values, and politics

My short post on faith and politics last night prompted a number of very thoughtful responses. One in particular deserves to see the light of day and not remain buried in the combox:

"What is faith? Is not possible to reduce faith to anything, otherwise wouldn't be faith. Would be piety with elements of Christianity. Exactly because I know Christ I am not afraid and I am interested in every particular of my life, even in political life. Christ was a great politician and the 'change' he brought to the world makes the lately “change” fade away. To be attached to values without looking forward to what happens, without risk of verifying the values in my own life, values remain values and eventually end in the trash can. Values are meant to give a first hypothesis of work, than I need a personal convincement about my life and the life of the others. To be subjected to values and cultural views is a sign of fear and not of knowledge of God. The only problem of all of this is the fact that is a fact! So, it wouldn’t be possible if it didn’t happen already in history and so to have the possibility to learn and to follow. Not only the fact of Christ, but the fact of the life of Fr. Luigi Giussani and the life of the Movement of Communion and Liberation.

"During the 60’s and 70’s Fr. Giussani never withdrew himself and his friends from the political square, because he was certain of the presence of Christ. Christ lunches me in comparison with everything, because he is the present fulfillment of everything. Thus I can enter in anything certain that He will fulfill what he promised and I can even spend my life in political matters for the good of my people and my nation and the people of the world and of the world. Fr. Giussani was never afraid of political people even very far from his own visions, because he was convinced that Christ could correspond so much to the heart of every man that he was not afraid to meet anybody. Examples are the friendships with Giovanni Testori, Walter Tobagi, Adriano Sofri, etc… Other point: what is the Church? The assembly of the baptized. If we don’t rediscover what baptism is, if we don’t accept to start over personally in the adventure of knowledge, if we take faith for granted, there is no way that we could come out of tunnel. And even your suggestions will remain a flatus vocis."

I appreciate very much this clarification regarding values. It was sorely lacking from my original post. Like my Anonymous commenter-friend, I believe there are values, but these arise from Christ and my adherence to Him. They become valuable insofar as I take the risk of living, as Giussani said, "this way".

Neither is my observation a call to retreat from the public square nor to abandon politics. We must engage reality in all its aspects, politics certainly being an aspect of reality. I am more interested in how and how not to do this. We do this in the knowledge, as Carrón so pain-stakingly tried to show us in this year's Exercises, "that Christ is the present fulfillment of everything". I see my blogging as just this kind of risk-taking, engaging an aspect of reality, one that is emerging and important. I hope my engagement is positive by being challenging. A person of faith, precisely because s/he starts from a positive hypothesis, is not defensive and must not be engaged in fighting a rear guard action. Not only is the battle not lost, the outcome is not even in question because in Christ we are victorious, which is why we can say that "the victory that has overcome the world [is] our faith" (1 John 5:4).

So, again, I appreciate for the clarification and even the correction.


  1. I think the political climate of the right you refer to has been dominated by some bad theology. "American exceptionalism" is a form of "predestination". The "family values" plank smacks of the same, of "good" people who behave well vs. those who don't (sometimes identified with the poor), instead of seeking the "common good" which incorporates values (e.g. no fault divorce is against the common good). Then some politicians do look silly when it is revealed that they are sinners, as are we all. The important thing is that as Christians, understanding clearly that Christ came for *all* and that this is our dignity, even if we must choose a political side, we do so without compromising ourselves. Thus the bishops call for health care that supports all life, that helps the immigrant, and that is accessible to all because of our *common* calling to belong to God.

  2. You are awesome! I did not mean to correct you, I just said what sustains my life in the face of my wounded humanity. I saw my values fading away because I considered them as fixed assumptions, thinking that my humanity could be contained in them. When it overflowed the barriers I needed to decide if everything was a dream or if it is true that Christ is real. No jokes. And if He is real I better see Him because I cannot fool myself again. Than there is only one tool in my humanity that lasts: my heart reawakened by the encounter with the movement. So I took again the school of community in my hands and crying and suffering finally I discovered that the Presence of Christ is not somewhere in some strange feeling or some positive circumstances, but He is the energy that creates me and that I recognize through my heart with my reason. This is awesome! I was searching for Him anywhere, and I did not realized that He is in me, He is the origin of my being, He is making me know, no matter what I do. He is giving me every breath! Wow! I don’t need to do anything but to look in the face this and contemplate this. He will never leave me alone, He is my being, and without my being I would be dead. Isn’t it? He is in me, He belongs to me as my being belongs to me, and the more I see this in the face the more I discover, as a child, that I belong to Him, it is a love relationship. He is at the depth of my being but he is the most discreet person ever, he doesn’t fear anything, only waits for me to realize this simple evidence that He is there. And He is the same in everybody, so I am not afraid to go to anybody, right or left, because I know who is making them now… I can deal with anything, I can live everything because He is in me, He belongs to me and I belong to Him. He will take care of the rest. St. Augustine said that our heart could not find peace until reposes in Him, I searched him in any pietistic practice, and any good intentions, in the love for women, in friends, etc… I never realized that He was a the bottom of my being. Only this gives me peace and happiness. With Love, your Anonymous commenter-friend.

  3. Clarity, I am in agreement with you. There is a lot of bad theology out there, with the "right" and the "left" in the political spectrum. It is very difficult. In the political arena then, persons of faith need an overarching good to which they orient themselves in making political and moral decisions. In other words, our theology, our psychology and our sociology must be directed by the greatest good. This is where our Catholicism and its richness inform us. It informs but doesn't coerce. To use John Paul II's terminology, we must use the principle of "participative theonomy". We cannot simply be spoon-fed what to do, how to vote, etc. Nor can we have the attitude that our faith must be removed from political life and we can espouse politically whatever we wish. We participate in orienting ourselves and our society to the common good and the ultimate Good who is God as revealed in Jesus Christ.


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