Posted on August 29th, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Community, Interfaith, Leadership, Learning, News, Popular Culture, Social Issues, Theology
Tagged with #Catholic, business, capitalism, Cardinal Dolan, Catholic Social Teaching, Charity, Christian, Finance, libertarian, Live Free, love, politics, Pride, republican, Sin, Tea Party, Virtue
Why are you here? Do you have an idea you want to spread? Perhaps you represent a community and would like to share your story. Perhaps you have been offended by an ideology and would like to challenge it. Perhaps you see the reality of Suffering all around the World and are moved to take action.
Whatever it is, you see a Problem. Someone thinks or acts in some way you disapprove of, and you would like him to change his mind or behavior. Someone else thinks or acts in some way you approve of and you would like to champion her so more people will emulate or understand. As a problem represents an imperfection to an Absolute value, your problem is my problem. Because it troubles you, it must trouble me. Every problem has a Solution.
The World over we are seeing a radical shift in ideologies. The center is no longer suitable in the mind of free men and women. They are driven toward alliances that even just some years ago may have been too extreme. We are rapidly globalizing, the economy is shifting its balance, and we are told day in and day out of the massive fraudulence of our politicians, our lawyers, and our financiers. If that was not enough, there are a billion people starving to death and many more face abject poverty. There is the liberal usage of strategic resources like oil, land, and population making us feel as if the clock is ticking. We have ravaged our planet with a Machine that has bombed Earth on every surface, above or below sea level. And worst of all, we cannot seem to trust anyone or anything further than we can see their intention, which is not very far. We do not believe in anything permanent; we only care for what is immediate and gratifying. We are at War with each other. We are at War with ourselves. This is a World at War.
I am an American. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have a sister; she was born in Steven's Point, Wisconsin. I have a Mother; she was born in Duluth, Minnesota. I have a Father; he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the same hospital as I was. I have lived in Minneapolis or Saint Paul the large majority of my life. It is, practically, the only culture of which I am actually aware. Why is this important?
Because it defines my worldview. My worldview is a product of cultural forces (amongst other natural ones). My cultural perspective is indicative of some of the various things I like or do not like. My family is divorced. I am from a Democratic-leaning metropolitan area. I am from a supposedly positive environment involving sexuality. These statements, however irrelevant, are some of the only objectively true things I know. The rest of the things I think I know, or have an idea of, are actually abstractions. And even some, like the idea that I am American, could be contested. The problem comes in the unknowing of things. These so-called facts split me away from other people or ideas through an identity. Sometimes, these ideas are things I like to reinforce or am proud of. People, including me, sometimes assert their experience or interests over others. This type of Pride can be a problem.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the Republican National Convention keynote speech said, "make no mistake, every generation will be judged and so will we." Make no mistake, if there is an idea in his speech that is "Right" for America, it is that one.
We will be judged. He asks us to "choose a path that will be remembered for generations to come. Standing strong for freedom will make the next century as great an American century as the last one. This is the American way."
But what is this American way of standing strong for Freedom? It is a matter of Respect, he says. It is American to stand strong for Freedom on the basis of Respect. I suppose this is true enough. It is American to do that. Americans have, for all time, done that. This idea does not seem new to me. It seems to me exactly what we have been doing the whole time. The future looks back on the past and judges its mistakes. We can either repeat them or learn from them.
The idea of Respect is set against a different idea in Christie's speech. He recalls advice his mother gave him: "there [will] be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. She said to always pick being respected, that love without respect was always fleeting - but that respect could grow into real, lasting love."
Christie finishes his thoughts championing, "tonight, we choose Respect over Love!" There is truth to this, in the sense that one who is respected is usually done so in Love (because we are usually pretty disrespectful otherwise). But in what way does Love conflict with any form of Respect? Disrespect seems only to come from a lack of Love, not the presence of it. The binary being invoked here is not even one of Respect over Love, it is Hate over Love. Any problem of disrespect comes from a lack of Love. But Hate would ask for anything in Love's place.
Many people, at home and abroad, blame America for problems Worldwide. This World at War is the World America made. It is a world we shaped through the force of our Empire. Are we guilty of the World's problems? Some say no, some say yes. It is always by degree. We surely are in some ways, and not in others. Who is guilty does not really matter. We are all guilty.
Have you forgotten Christie's own words? Make no mistake, we will be judged. The verdict is that we are guilty. Guilty of everything we have done or ever will do. Most every problem I have ever encountered in every experience I have ever engaged in was a problem of a deficiency of Love. Either someone's heart was too hard or his mind was too set to give or receive the divine gift of Love. And, when challenged, she would erupt in some way, leaving her naturally gifted condition into a scene of Hatred.
Do you really think when we poison the Earth, starve the poor, or even think someone looks ugly in his clothing we do it with a loving disposition? The problem is not of fault, it is of solution.
The World is challenging the identity of America, an Empire based on Respect. Others lodge that we are hawks, aggressors of War. Others will say we manipulate global finances and supply for our favor. It does not really matter one way or another. These things are happening whether it is America or any other interest in the World. The next American century needs to take this choice Christie is offering seriously.
Do we go on the dark path, the one that all Empires eventually turned to, as it happened when Amor became Roma, or do we turn to the true Law? Love. The whole of the Law.
Dinesh D'Souza observes we are a different kind of Empire than Rome. One based on ideals. The Manifest is to spread from East to West. Because of this, we will never Fall. Rome started out that way too, though. It fell by its own disobedience; its own Pride. This Empire will never last if its chief defense for its free people is Respect. It can only last when it is Love.
I do not think we should be disappointed in America, or the World, for being at War as it is. We should be proud of where we came from and what we can learn from it. Even if our experience is limited to Minneapolis, to Baghdad, or Moscow, we know all the World over if we as a species are going anywhere, it is only going to be one way: Together.
We need to trust each other and trust what gifts we have to share. All of our experience are limited. You do not need to respect my beliefs, but I ask that you try to Love me for having them at all. Problems have Solutions. The Problem of Hate, be it from our supposed Enemies, or our Neighbors, or our own Selfs, are solved by Love.
Jesus Christ says, "you will Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your mind and you will Love your neighbor as yourself." The chief virtue of Christianity is Love. In Love, the Universal Brotherhood is not a future goal but an established fact.
The American identity is one which is up for debate. Its soul is in question. If it wants to be a vanguard of Freedom, so be it. But if it must choose Respect over Love in the enforcement of Freedom, ask yourself, what is Free? It seems to me God is the only actual Sovereign. And if you are Christian, God is Love.
I will be very disappointed if America chooses the option of Respect over Love. Cardinal Dolan says, "every person or institution will eventually let us down. Our ultimate trust must be in God and we will never be disappointed." If America chooses Respect at the expense of Love, then in the next American century I am no longer American. Respect is not the "Right" idea; it is not a solution to any problem. The Republic could be a Utopia. But the Empire must be motivated by Charity. If we really wanted to live Free of problems in this World we would accept Augustine's answer: "Love, and do what thou wilt."
Choose Love. Love is Free. It's the American way.
Photo by Cindy Andrie, via Flickr Creative Commons.