Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Golden Calf of Politics

Wherever you live, cities shall be ruined and high places laid waste, in order that your altars be laid waste and devastated, your idols broken and smashed, your incense altars hacked to pieces, and whatever you have made wiped out. (Ezekiel 6:6)

One thing that becomes clearer as we go along is the fact that Christians are turning their political views into an idol that they worship alongside of God. I don’t mean that in the sense of total apostasy from the Christian Faith. I mean that in the sense of the ancient Israelites worshiping God but worshiping Him at the same time that they worshiped the idols as a way of covering all the bases.

The prophets of the Old Testament warned against that attitude. The Israelites couldn’t claim to be worshiping God even if they gave 99% of their loyalties to God and 1% to Baal. It was all or nothing. The Church today, following the teachings of Our Lord, repeats that warning. Even if somebody thinks that they are giving 99% of their obedience to God, and holding back on 1% where they cling to a belief which goes against Him, that 1% means that they are not following God… they’re merely agreeing with Him and His Church when it suits them.

It’s easy to spot when the political idolaters champion a cause we dislike. The typical conservative Catholic rightly reacts with revulsion towards the “personally opposed but…” Catholic who enables abortion as a “right.” The typical liberal Catholic rightly reacts with disgust over those who justify the mistreatment and neglect of migrants. But both of them turn a blind eye towards the sins of their own party, making excuses on why they’re “justified” in supporting the political platform at odds with the Catholic Church while the successors of the Apostles are accused of “playing politics” when they remind us of our moral obligations.

Perhaps we should reflect on where we stand on political idols. If the Pope or your bishop teaches that something our political party supports is wrong, would we try to amend our political views to follow the Church? Or would we accuse them of being “political” when they speak out? The answer is—depressingly—all too often the latter. American bishops are simultaneously accused by Catholics from both major factions of favoring the “other” party when they repeat Church teaching. 

If we feel inclined to defend our parties and politicians while attacking the Pope or our bishop when he reaffirms Church teaching, we have it backwards. We won’t go to hell for rejecting the party. We might find ourselves for rejecting the Church. We Catholics believe that Jesus Christ established our Church and gave her the authority to teach in His name, binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). He made clear that professing His name was not enough if we didn’t do His will (Matthew 7:21-23, John 14:15). He made clear that there were consequences for rejecting His Church (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). This is not because of “ultramontanism” or “papolatry.” This is because we have faith in Christ to guide and protect His Church from error.

If we refuse to listen to the Church, we’re like the idolators among the ancient Israelites… giving God partial attention while refusing to love Him alone with all our heart (see Deuteronomy 6:4). It didn’t end well for the ancient Israelites. It won’t end well for us either.

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