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Friday, September 7, 2012

Politics or Beatitude

I recently subjected myself to a political spectrum diagnosis that tried to categorize people along a left-right, Republican-Democratic spectrum using only two sets of issues and a few questions.   The issues were the economic questions and social issues, with no foreign policy/military questions of civil liberties/ rights questions.  In some cases, such as immigration, I was not sure if the questions were economic or social.  The mean computation of my "social issue" questions placed me on the right side of the Democratic party or among the left of the independent centrists.  The economic policy questions placed me at the far left of the Democratic Party, and the mean of them placed me closer to the center of the party.  Adding foreign policy/military questions or other social questions, such as the death penalty, might have placed me further left in the spectrum.  But the entire process raised the question of were I fit, anywhere, any time.

A Catholic Worker friend raised the problem this way.  When she is among people of the left and she says she is Catholic, they avoid her.  When she is in a typical Catholic crowd and they find she is of the left, they avoid her.  But the problem goes even deeper than that.

A young intellectual named Michael Harrington was the editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper from  1951 to 1953.  He then became disillusioned of religion and drifted into a secular democratic Marxism, becoming famous for writing "The Other America" and for persuading socialists to join the Democratic Party, while retaining socialist caucuses.  When he left the Catholic Workers he didn't just leave religion.  He left personalism. For Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers it was not enough to make a objective critic of the evils of society.  Our thoughts and actions had to be guided by the unique subjectivity we each have as persons.  We each are working out our destiny and salvation.  It is not a matter of party platforms and actions.   So while Harrington made a great contribution to the critic of American society through his description of poverty in "The Other America", no party platform can substitute for the unique relation of each individual to his fellow man.  And I, as the Catholic Workers did, believe that unique relation is always God centered.

As a result where I sit on a political spectrum misses the primary point of why relation to other human beings.  More to the point is where do I sit between them and God, or where do they sit between God and I.  This is the spectrum not of left and right, but of the Beatitudes.

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