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Monday, August 7, 2017

Francis's Church and Trump's State #4

What makes up a person?  What makes up a people? Stories.

We are our stories. Everything and all reality are relationships--from the tiniest atom to the universe as a whole. And so are we. A person is a complex of all the events of her past, the present relationships she now enjoys, and the future relationships she intends. This includes the relationships she remembers and those she doesn't. Relationships within her being and relationships between her being and others--even to the transcending consciousness or spirit of all reality.

An absolute implies total self-sufficiency, an absence of relationships. I refuse to believe in absolutes. I affirm the totality of relationships--which is love. I identify myself and others by our relationships. I declare my vocation to discover, create, and maintain relationships. This begins by sharing stories with one another. It proceeds by creating safe places for all to share their stories and create new ones together. It culminates in love of neighbor and faith in our shared abilities to live, have meaning, and respect one another without absolutes. And it never ends.

Stories are the accounts of events of our relationships. Remembering and telling them gives us a sense of belonging or meaning: our meaning on earth and in the universe, our meaning in society and in history, meaning in our clan, our state, our civilization, our world. And we are meaning-driven beings. Narrating of stories requires interpretation. And interpretation is colored by perspective, interest, values.  An interpretation derives from one's faith in, hope for, and ultimately love of others.

There are two narratives vying for national identity in the American Republic. One is more exclusive and thickens the boundaries between relationships. Another is more inclusive and loosens those boundaries. This is life we know where if a cell to protect itself, tightens its outer membrane to prevent any foreign newcomers including nutrition, it dies. But if it loosens it membranes so much that it admits toxic substances, it also dies. In ancient and medieval times, cities and states built walls to provide safe spaces for people to live. And in republican times and places, to act in concert.

But the closed boundary narrative dominating American life today is that of nationalist populism (The Bannon-Trump story) will I believe destroy our Republic. It divides us into warring factions of the deserving and unworthy, of us and them, of believers and unbelievers, of acceptable and an unacceptable beliefs, customs, religions, languages, life styles, sexual orientations, professions, and standards of success. This narrative is critiqued at length in the above referenced essay in compliance with the thought of Pope Francis. This narrative is discerned to be a manifestation of "apocalyptic Manichaeism," the "gospel of prosperity," a perversion of religious liberty, and a fundamentalist ecumenism between traditionalist Catholics and dominionist evangelicals that promotes fear and anger, crusade and terror, xenophobia and spiritual war.

The second narrative, consistent with Francis and Vatican II, is a clear distinction between culture, religion, and politics. "Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere."

The first narrative places the unity of the Republic in culture and religious observance. The second places the unity of the Republic in political faith guaranteeing yet beyond private beliefs. The authentic spirituality in all religions, that which supports inclusion, compassion, and love of neighbor serves that political faith without dominating it.

And so while not yet a spiritual war or a Manichaean apocalyptic moment, we are in crisis--that is, at a point of decision. Which narrative is correct?  Which will win out? It's a crap shoot--a wager. One like Pascal wrote about. But not so much as a Faustian Bargain or a game theory exercise. It is our collective decision that will put the weight on one side or the other. We the People will write our story.