One of the understandable but flawed trends among conservatives, right-wingers, traditionalists, and so on, is the minimization of “politics.” You see this in many different forms: “I just want to be a grill dad,” “don’t make everything political,” “there is no political solution,” “raising a family isn’t a political act,” &c, &c.
This is understandable, as I said. When “Vote Harder!” is the slogan of political activism in the United States, and has been for decades with very little to show for it, the reactionism in the Right is obviously going to push us towards whatever avoids this trite and ineffective way of thinking about politics.
Another significant reason for this reactionary impulse is that the Left absolutely does “politicize” everything; our entertainment, advertising, workplaces, sports, and our very religion are under constant pressure to accept the political and moral standards of the Progressive era.
So, what reason could I possibly have for discouraging this kind of reasonable reaction to progressive and secular invasion into every aspect of human life? Because, as with many other issues that I see, this impulse toward separation of the political sphere from the sphere of everyday life is a modern, liberal idea and plays directly into our enemies’ hands.
“Politics” comes from the Greek word for city (polis) as no doubt many of you already know. Historically–since Aristotle, at least–the concept of political philosophy is ethics as applied to social life. This does not change with the Christian paradigm, which recognizes three kinds of law in the standard Catholic philosophical model:
- Natural law: that which is right and binding according to our nature as human beings.
- Divine law: law directly from God supplementing our fallen nature.
- Civil law: Application of natural and divine law according to a particular people in a particular time and place.
There is no room in either the Aristotelian or Christian tradition, pre-enlightenment, for “sovereign citizens,” no place for pre-societal life, no separation between what you do privately and what you do “politically.” We have all heard the verse, “No man is an island,” but John Donne’s poem is more than a sappy aphorism:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Your private acts, your family life, your success or failure–these are political; these are serious and solemn aspects of your polis. Call it the butterfly effect, if you like, but to the extent that you care about your people, you must care about their individual lives, because they affect you whether you like it or not.
This is no less important in the reverse! To the extent that you are part of a people, your individual and familial flourishing are tremendous powers for the life of the city. Raising a good and holy family is not only political, it may be one of the most powerful political acts you will ever do. Families are exponential multipliers of influence over your society, either good or bad.
I mentioned at the beginning that this political minimization plays into your enemies’ hands. Why? Because they don’t care. You can say “keep your politics out of family life” or “stop trying to politicize religion” all the way to the gallows, but your enemies will keep on doing what they do because they are completely right. Family, religion, entertainment, they are all political, and by not acknowledging this, you hand them over to your enemies without so much as a whimper.
There are no neutral institutions. Neutrality is not an option. Those who are not with me are against me, and I will vomit the tepid from my mouth.
You say you want a-political entertainment, but you don’t even believe this yourself. You just don’t want propaganda. What you want is good entertainment, and the interesting thing about all good art–even entertainment art–is that it is invariably “traditional,” and I dare say invariably Catholic, because it is about true things.
Similarly, you don’t want life to be “less political,” you simply hate the bureaucratic government processes by which we are ruled, for the time being. What you need to understand is that making a good family, forming a mannerbund, being an active member of your parish–these are more profound political acts then all of the voting you could ever do. Don’t fall for the conservative trap of resting on the crumbling scaffold of the Western culture that once was, strewn as it is with mouldering laurels of forgotten principles and bygone ideals.
We must forge a new culture on the remembrance of the old one; we must take back the whole political sphere; we must learn how to foil the attacks that crippled our forefathers and led us down the road to Sodom.
Everybody wants to be a “grill dad.” We don’t want to feel the constant awareness that we are at war with ideas that corrupt happy lives and healthy families. But grilling with your family is the reward for winning the war–and it might be a gift you have to leave for your children.
And now, as always we end in prayer:
As God wills it, may we light the flame of indomitable hope in sleeping hearts and offer our lives to establish the kingdom of Christ for our children.