April 21, 2016

On Political and Social Engagement, or Not

While I resonate with frustration over the wrongs of the state (or the state of the wrongs) I have to demur from a strictly Christian Anarchist position, such as that espoused by Jacques Ellul. I regard such Anarchism as aspirational rather that practically universal. While it is perfectly reasonable for a follower of Christ to aspire to abdicate from participation in the state, short of becoming a hermit in a wilderness most of us still reap the benefits of "civilization" (the benefits of the earthly City, not of God, but of Humanity). It is almost impossible not to benefit from the public works of the state, short of retirement to the desert. 


As even St Francis realized (presaging Kant’s categorical imperative), if everyone followed the Franciscan example of absolute poverty and a mendicant lifestyle there would be no one from whom to beg. (One of the rationales for the Third Order was to allow those who could not give up everything to give up something — to support the mendicants — while acknowledging their imperfect realization of Christ’s poverty in penitence.)

This is in part why I am a Christian Socialist rather than a Christian Anarchist: the state itself is not evil (or no more evil than the individual person), “simul iustus et peccator,” and capable of doing good as well as wrong. By participating in the state, I hope to urge it toward being as good as possible, while recognizing that it is not, and never will be, heaven on earth. There is only one City of God, and it is above, where Christ is. In this vale of tears we continue to do the best we can; and there is room for hermits as well as merchants, each of them witnessing to Christ in their own ways and to the extent they are able.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG 

2 comments:

June Butler said...

Christ also promises us that he is in our midst, which leads us to the paradox of the Kingdom (or City) of God which is present now, but not yet in its fullness.

Tobias Haller said...

So true, June. And it leads us to act better than we do on our own; or at least I like to hope it does! The church reminds me of the verse from my childhood about the little girl with the curl on her forehead: "when she was good, she was very, very good; but when she was bad she was horrid!"