My spiritual director once told me, “The intersection of faith and politics is a mess. It’s like a big bowl of spaghetti. You tug on one piece and all the rest of them move, too.”
Last week, I shared a quote from Evangelii Gaudium about economic policy. I knew it would make people defensive, but still, I was surprised by how many who have never commented on a post felt compelled to do so on this one. It really underscored how strong is our impulse to say, “Oh, no, Church, you just butt out of_____. That has nothing to do with you.”
For many who lean left politically, contraception is one of those issues. It’s so ubiquitous in the modern world; the very idea that the Church would have something to say about it raises hackles. And of course, let’s not forget that the colossal, even cataclysmic, failure of our Church on the subject of the sex abuse crisis makes it very hard for people to accept the authority of the Church on any matters of sex. We have to own that.
For those who lean right politically, this idea of economics is a struggle. Part of the reason it took so long for me to write that post was because it kept trying to wander so far afield. It threatened to stray too far from the faith component.
And yet… if we really believe God created all things and is in all things and over all things, then we have to consider all things in light of God’s will.
Unfortunately, we’re pretty inconsistent about when we think God has a role and when he (or the Church) should butt out. Take this question of money and economics. What was the rise of the TEA party except a group of people saying, “How we use money has a moral component”? Yet if someone (a pope, for instance) challenges the effects of a particular economic policy on the poor, those who embrace said policy tell him he has no authority on this subject.
In other words: “Butt out, God.”
We do have to wrestle with what the Godly use of money entails. As the opening prayer this weekend said, “Grant that we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast to those that endure.” We do have to wrestle with what it means to use money in a way that honors God. Jesus spoke very clearly on the impossibility of serving both God and mammon. The problem is that money is such a strong influence, it distorts our perception of our priorities.
This post has gone half a dozen different directions in the drafting: discernment; the idea of what it means to “seek” or “serve;” thoughts about two different great books that shed light on questions raised here; a reflection on my “right” to put these questions out into the universe at all—
Which bears out the image I opened with: all the earth’s issues are interconnected. You cannot address one without tugging on all the others. I had hoped to address several of those threads, but I’d have to write a book to do it, and I’m determined to keep Intentional Catholic posts short.
So I’ve split off all those other “strands of spaghetti” into posts of their own, and I just want to conclude today with an invitation to self-reflection.
What are the contemporary issues I don’t want God and His Church talking to me about? (We all have them.) Do I think I’m justified in that? If I had to explain myself to God on these issues, would my answers measure up?
(Incidentally, these kinds of self-reflections are the focus of the short book I wrote for OSV on the Beatitudes. End self-promotion.)