Thursday, June 28, 2007

From Faith to Politics to Gnosticism

"When mystery no longer counts," then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in a 1996 speech, "politics must be converted into religion."

When the Christian mysteries are lost -- the loss measured most accurately by the decay into ritual triviality of the Eucharistic mystery -- then politics becomes religion. Politics is no longer satisfied to be just politics, and it aspires to be everything, that is, totalitarian: Bolshevism, German National Socialism, Maoism, Islamism, and assorted fanatical and murderous ideologies.

When these fail -- the year 1989 is a convenient marker for the failure of most (but not all) of them -- many of those who cling to the underlying delusions on which they were premised turned to "nature." Like political absolutism, however, the "New Age" mentality that glorifies "nature" morphed in a heartbeat into an ideology that declared that the very idea of nature was too confining. Nature was to become whatever the autonomous individual decides it is.

The flight from Christianity -- and from Judeo-Christian morality -- inevitably progresses (regresses) toward moral and cultural incoherence, leaving the culture vulnerable to whatever predatory forces -- within or without -- retain (however perversely and ominously) a conviction that they are right and that the future belongs to them.

1 comment:

Dan Florio said...

The Ratzinger comment that without mystery "politics must be converted into religion" is interesting to me, as I had just yesterday read Girard's comments that it was politics that came from religion, not the other way round. ("with the passage of time...vestiges of ritual...are soon discarded. Sacred royalty is transformed into political power.") So was there ever really a golden era of politics "just being politics?" And even if we've gone from sacred religion to pure politics (i.e., subservient to authentic mystery, not to the scapegoat mechanism), and back to an admittedly dangerous and chaotic political "religion," (with neither a salvific mystery nor a "way out," no mechanism to dispense with chaotic violence), is it not possible that our seemingly twisted path represents constant improvement in a sense, such that now, as dangerous as our times are, they are also the most hopeful times yet? I'll take my answers off the air. df