Thursday, June 21, 2012

Theotic Politics

I was talking to a friend tonight about the sad state of local politics here in Beaver Falls. I won't go into details, for they are already well known to any observant local here. Things do not change with any ease. One of the features, though, that stuck out in our discussion is that the goal or telos of government (local or otherwise) is quite murky as of late. Possibly, although I am no expert or pundit on matters political, this is the reason that I have seen neither Obama nor Romney signs in peoples' yards: the finish line being represented by either of those candidates is chilling.

I digress, though. When speaking of ends, or goals, we are necessarily speaking theologically, for a goal assumes a structure, and a structure assumes an Architect (I am aware that this is a controversial thing to say, however the chaos of modern Evolutionary theory is self-referentially incoherent, so I have no reason to countenance it as a viable option). The telos of all life, whether we are speaking of the specifics of "the art of living together" or not, is to be united to God, to have God's Life work in and through us: to be filled with His light and love to the utmost brim. In a word, theosis. We are to be by grace what Christ Himself is by nature. I have argued that elsewhere on this blog. While I initially chaffed at the doctrine, I have come to see that it is the Chestertonian "Golden Spike" that fits the hole in the world, perfectly.

If theosis is the ultimate goal, that God might be "all in all" (I Cor. 15) for Christ "fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1) already, then that has political implications, especially at the structural level. Our "art of living together" is supposed to work towards the filling of our social and civic life with God's Life. Our societas is to be an outpouring and indwelling of the holy Spirit. All levels of government, from the basics of self-government (ascesis) to magisterial government, are to be oriented (and Romans 8, I think, can be argued to assert that they are already oriented: "predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son") towards this telos.

The cash out of this (and I do realize that I am painting with broad brush strokes -- this is a blog, after all) is that our local life together here in Beaver Falls is oriented wrongly. It is not theotic. And if something is not theotic, not oriented towards filling the world with God's Life, then it is oriented towards death. There is no other option. Death, certainly, doesn't happen in a day at the civic level, but I think it would be hard -- if not impossible -- for any denizen of Beaver Falls to argue that we are not in a state of civic death. Part and parcel of this must be the realization that holding onto the past, the "good old days" of steel mill prosperity and abundance, must stop. They were not "good old days" because they were not theotic: they partook of human avarice (let us not forget that greed is still a capital sin), a debasement of the human person via industrial drudgery, and a destruction of the necessary natural capital of the area (the water, the air, and the land still bear scars and are choked with poisons of various sorts). If Beaver Falls, and anyplace, is to be full of life, it must be full of Life. Our old way of life, that life that pines for material prosperity at any cost, must be put to death on Christ's cross. God forgive us for not doing that as of yet.

The first rule of theotic politics is "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and strength"; the second is like unto it, "love your neighbor as yourself." How shall we love God and neighbor politically? It involves putting our political aspirations, both individual and corporate, to death: do we want the "good old days"? This dream must be forsaken. Instead, we must "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God." We cannot bring Beaver Falls to life, or to Life; God must do that through His Body, the Church. However, the politicos and concerned citizens can take two concrete actions for that to happen: join the Church and clear away the impediments to the Church's work. In the midst of that, they will see that taxes do not need to be what they are, nor do we need to kill business proposals through a thousand qualifications, but rather we must trust that the Spirit is working in our political freedoms to start businesses, to raise families, to clean up our environs, and to worship God.

Theosis does not happen in a day, it is a constant struggle: but we are called to nothing less.

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