November 30, 2008
Now that the election is past, I’d like to encourage us to move beyond politics (at least for two years but maybe longer) and to think more creatively about how MOJ and the development of Catholic Legal Theory can contribute its small part to the transformation of our culture. And, yes, I believe we have been given only a small but important portion of this vineyard to till.
As most of you know, I intentionally do not blog directly (at least not very often) on partisan politics, and I did not publicly endorse a candidate, although there was probably little doubt about who I thought was disqualified. As I have mentioned before, I don’t like to blog directly on partisan and especially electoral politics because of an intuition that we are engaged in a much more important, longer-term, and deeper project than the partisan bickering (no matter how important) of the moment.
Thanks to my children directing me to Gregory Wolfe, his collection of essays, Intruding Upon the Timeless, and his journal Image, I now have some words to express this intuition. In an essay entitled “Why I am a Conscientious Objector in the Culture War,” Wolfe states that he has strong opinions on most of the current hot button issues and will give voice to those opinions where appropriate. He is not bothered by the conflict but by the means used to wage the culture wars. “[T]he urgent need at the moment is to recognize that we cannot reduce culture and its various modes of discourse to nothing more than a political battleground. The political institutions of a society grow up out of a rich cultural life, and not the other way around. As it etymology indicates, the word culture is a metaphor for organic growth. Reducing culture to politics is like constantly spraying insecticide and never watering or fertilizing the soil.”
His words resonated with me. But, after reading this essay, I argued with my daughter that far from being a conscientious objector, Wolfe was fighting the culture war on another perhaps nobler front. Another of his essays showed me I was wrong, but that is for another post...
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