Monday, December 1, 2008
Beyond Politics, BP II, and BP III have explored a couple of essays by Gregory Wolfe who conscientiously objects to the culture wars. In this fourth and final post on the subject, I’ll attempt to tie the previous three posts together by suggesting what I think Wolfe has to offer our project.
We are a politically obsessed world. Just look at the media, mainstream or otherwise. Or, take a look at many of our posts on MOJ over the last year. McCain’s caricature of Obama as “the One” worked because it had an element of truth in it. Some – maybe many – Obama supporters viewed his candidacy in salvific terms. But, Republicans weren’t immune from viewing politics (and this election) in these same terms. A victory would deliver us from the evils of Roe. For many on both sides, politics has become, whether we admit it or not, an idol.
I don’t want to unduly diminish the stakes in the election. I grieve over the fact that we elected someone who promised to be the most abortion-rights friendly president ever. And, even if the number of abortions is reduced under Obama (I’m highly skeptical), I fear the continued corrosive effects of Roe on our culture. Others are joy-filled that we have ended 8 years of Republican (and George Bush) rule with all that entailed. Much was at stake. But, Politics is not all and all, and we make it into a false god if we treat it as such. God is still sovereign, and His grace can still find its way into our fallen world no matter who wins an election.
Wolfe decries the politicization of culture. He laments the primacy of politics over every other aspect of our communal life. He says: "One clear lesson ... from the culture wars is that the process of politicization endangers the ability of religion to permeate and renew the very culture that is being fought over." And, I think he is right.
We are a blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory. Legal theory and politics are necessarily connected in a way that literature and politics, for example, are not. Law gets enacted and administered by political means. But, it seems to me the development of legal theory, although intertwined, is a distinct discipline from politics. Viewing our project narrowly through a political lens zaps it of creative energy and insight. Wolfe invites us to open ourselves up to the mysteries of our faith in order to creatively place ourselves, our work, and our vocation at the disposal of the Mystery Himself.
To undertake this task, we ought, I think, to embrace another paradox suggested by Wolfe: "a tragic sense of life - an awareness of our falleness and the limits of human institutions - with a strain of persistent hope." To this Virgil Nemoianu, cited by Wolfe, would add the virtue courage.