I came to this realization late in life, thinking for the better part of my 55 years that the key to evoking real change in the landscape was through politics. But I was wrong and Marc Barnes, aka BadCatholic, best articulates the wrongness of that thinking:
Candidates are about to spend billions of dollars carving out the time to tell us how great they are, and there’s no one we can assassinate to change the fact. So before it really starts, I want to get a solid Catholic critique of the entire scene: Our basic mode of bettering the world is backwards.
Justice is not the state of the city or nation. Justice is a virtue, the interior disposition of a particular person to give each other his due. Charity is not primarily a social activity, a non-profit institution, or an annual giving. Charity is a virtue, a mode of being, an interior disposition of a particular human being which enables him to love his neighbor. The reversal which sees charity as an institution and justice as an exterior state of affairs long before either are a way of the heart is bogus. The world is changed if hearts are changed.
It’s been said that this sort of talk suppresses action, that if the Christian were less concerned with the state of his “interior life,” with doctrine, prayer, moral quibbles, and church attendance; if he were instead concerned about the injustice outside his front door, then he would change the world, opening himself to the radical call of the Gospel. But where on earth do we think action comes from, if not from the interior person? Where does the free choice to do some good come from, if not from the will? Action bursts forth from the person like seedlings from the cool, dark earth, and it is only by plunging into this darkness of the interior life — through prayer, contemplation, and keeping the divine law — that we become effective sources of action, springs of justice, centers of right political activity and a betterment to our community. The city is restored to the precise extent that the soul, through boring-ass things like discipline, restores itself. The nation is made just to the extent that his quiet, uneventful decisions to do good and avoid evil take root and make the person just.
The Church presents man as a joke — a strange creature for whom being inside-out is the right way round. The Cosmos around us reacts to exterior realities. Atoms hit atoms and change occurs, the environment lights up the animal consciousness, and off it trots, duly effected by the outside. Man, alone in the universe, determines the outside through the inside. He decides and acts, changing the world by the externalization of what first ferments inside.
So it is no “call to action,” to diminish the personal cultivation of virtue in favor of exterior acts. It is a crappy anthropology, one which thinks it can have action while diminishing its source, exalting “change” without its cause. It is a perversion of effective action performed by a world which externalizes the responsibilities of the interior life, absolving us from being charitable and being just by contenting us with making charities and promoting justice. We are content with expecting from our politicians the exterior acts of goodwill and justice, which can be faked, at the expense of actual justice dwelling in the soul, which cannot be faked. Then we are surprised when they crumble under the dichotomy of their interior and exterior lives and perform this or that evil. We have developed a politics of hypocrisy, because we have separated the person from his acts and indulged the quaint, secular notion that on can “change the world for the better” without changing oneself.
He’s got a bit more and as in all things BadCatholic, it’s well worth the link click to go read the rest.
Marc’s piece has a companion of sorts written by Tom Hoopes, a companion that does not bode well for the West:
The whole edifice of aggressive radical secularism will come crashing down in our lifetime.
This is a practically a scientific certainty, but no one wants to admit it.
Pew Research spells it out with seven charts. They show that the West is contracepting and aborting its future away. We will soon have few workers supporting many dependents in a situation that has already led to economic disaster in Japan.
Meanwhile, in India and Africa, the population is growing and getting proportionally younger. India and Africa in 2050 will have far more workers with fewer older dependents.
Consequently, population centers will shift eastward and southward — by 2050 Nigeria’s population will surpass America’s.
Europe’s population will drop precipitously, and what will remain in 2050 will be much more likely to support Sharia and much less likely to support same-sex marriage than they are today. At the same time, America will become mostly Latino.
The radically secularist West is like Will Ferrell in Old School. He is an older man, drunk on the beer of the fake frat house he and his friends invented to relive the loose morals of their college days. Believing himself a triumphant trend-setter, he streaks down the street, imagining crowds of people following him.
Like him, the West is in for a rude awakening.
You may disagree with Mr. Barnes, you might find Mr. Hoopes to be a bit of an alarmist but history is an excellent gauge for future performance and the fact is that a small band of committed Christians has changed the world for better many, many times and conversely, when Christian influence is minimized or reduced, things go bad quickly.
It’d be great for the faithful to awaken to that reality… and then to get busy.
And for the less than faithful to begin looking inward more and outward less.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.