Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Has it ever dawned on you that the words "idiot" and "ideologue" sound like they share a common root? On a serious level, ideology is the curse of the modern world. From the French Revolution to this very day, a lot of blood has been shed by people who wanted to make the world perfect. The Communists wanted to save the world by Marxist economic theory, murdering countless millions in the failed effort. Hitler and his Nazis wanted to perfect mankind and bring the human race to the next stage of evolution, following the activist version of Darwinism as postulated by an American, Margaret Sanger. Muslim radicals and terrorists want to make Sharia the law in every land. All of these are ideologies. All are intended to make the world perfect. And, they all produce hell on earth.
Ideology is obsession with method. A true ideologue cannot see if his favored method is a success or a complete failure. For example (not to argue the point right now, but simply taking an example where method needs no explanation), Gun Control advocates need to look at the empirical data that comes in from every place that their methodology has actually become law. If the goal is to lower the level of violent crime, they need to study what the many experiments have proved. If, however, the method is all that matters, then the results are irrelevant to them. In general, ideologues are obsessed with method, be they "liberal" or "conservative."
In modern America people tend to identify the two major parties in those terms. They generally think of Republicans as conservative, and Democrats as liberal, though never to anyone's actual satisfaction. If so, they have made these ideas into products between two competing firms, very much like the competition between Coca Cola and Pepsi. Frankly, I cannot tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi.
This brings me to a request I am making of fellow clergy, with an American election year coming up. Please, resist the urge to publicly mix and blend your sacred vocation with a party line. All of the sincere people who enlist their services in the cause of any party or ideology will, eventually, find themselves defending things that are morally reprehensible, and living with an unacceptable conflict in their own consciences. That is no way to try to take up your cross and follow the Son of Man. If, on issues, we find ourselves co-belligerent with any party or individual politician, let us keep it all balanced with an ability to separate issues. Our voice must be that of the prophets, not of the campaign.
The whole world, says St. John, lies in the lap of the evil one. St. James bids us keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Speak in the causes that are consistent with the moral heritage that comes from God's revelation, all of it. If you speak in partisan and ideological causes, you will have to pick and choose your way, neglecting some weighty matters of the Law of God.