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Guest Opinion: Transforming Culture Through Politics?

By David L. Jones
April 5th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As Catholics we need to approach politics in a serious way.  Christ calls us to transform culture, not to be swallowed up by it. Culture is not transformed by politics.  Culture must be rooted in those "Permanent Things" which preserve and promote our humanity in all of its greatness.  The desire for truth, beauty and the good can be realized.  The candidate which best understands this fact deserves our full support and vote.

ST. JOSEPH, MO. (Catholic Online and Il Sussidario) -The presidential election cycle has begun!  Did it ever stop?  I follow politics much in the same way that many folks follow professional wrestling, Dancing with the Stars or the Jersey Shorereality show.  I admit that I view it as a form of entertainment - the superficiality of main-stream politics and punditry leads me to this mentality often times. 

Look no farther than Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O'Reilly.  In reality though, it's much more than just solely a form of entertainment.  Elected officials send our sons and daughters off to war, some of whom return in caskets.  As Catholics we need to approach politics in a serious way.  Christ calls us to transform culture, not to be swallowed up by it.

On the Republican side, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Ron Paul and others are all maneuvering to formally announce their 2012 candidacy for the Presidency.  The Obama Administration is leaning forward in preparation as well for this electoral battle.  Who will be the last one standing in the political spectacle?  That's anyone guess.  What is known is the obscene amount of money that is required to win the Presidency.

One of the fascinating things to consider in these days is the main-streaming and embracing of Libertarianism within the Republican Party.  We got a an early glimpse of this when William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater helped to build a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives with those who supported a strong foreign policy. 

More recently, we saw it again when the godfather of modern Libertarianism, Murray Rothbard, endorsed Patrick J. Buchanan for President.  Today, Libertarianism is going mainstream with the popularity of Congressman Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, as well as figures such as Judge Andrew P. Napolitano and Dr. Tom Woods.  The American Conservative magazine is one the biggest proponents of this reduction of conservatism to Libertarianism.

Will the Republican's embrace of Libertarianism result in anything better than its embrace of Neoconservatism over the last decade?  Both are ideologies which deny many aspects of reality.  Can the Republican's "Big Tent" continue to stand with such contradictory ideologies under its shelter?  Even if it can, is it worth our endorsement and support?  This is what you must individually decide.

Let us not lose hope though.  I do find some consul in reading the writings of many young conservatives today.  They are pushing beyond and through the standard rhetoric of mainstream media or talk radio.Refer to Ross Douthat, Jeremy Beer, Reihan Salam, Conor Friedersdorf, and Caleb Stegall.

Gregory Wolfe was correct many years ago in his rejection of the culture wars of 1980s and 90s, which was so popular among conservatives that era.  By his own experiences he saw that embracing this movement led nowhere.  Sure, it helped to build a winning coalition that elected Reagan in the 80s and a Republican Congress in the 90s, but nothing really changed in our society. 

The Culture of Death and an American society which had lost its moorings in a culture of materialism and relativism was moving full steam ahead.  Since that time Gregory has focused his efforts on those things which truly effect and transform culture, those great/good works of beauty in literature, poetry, etc.  Later, Rod Dreher, former writer for the Buckley's National Review and author of Crunchy Cons, would come to this same realization.  We must desire again what it means to be human.

Culture is not transformed by politics.  Culture must be rooted in those "Permanent Things" which preserve and promote our humanity in all of its greatness.  The desire for truth, beauty and the good can be realized.  The candidate which best understands this fact deserves our full support and vote.
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This article first appeared on April 2, 2011 in Il Sussidario It is used with the kind permission of the Author - and the Editor of that fine publication Dario Chiesa. David Jones holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the Institute of Religious and Pastoral Studies, University of Dallas.  He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Pontifically recognized and approved ecclesial movement.  His writings have been published in TRACES, God-Spy, Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports, Catholic Online, The American Catholic, and Il Sussidiario.  He also runs a popular blog entitled La Nouvelle Theologie His conversion story is published in the Italian book entitled Sotto Il Cielo D'America (Under the American Sky) written by Marco Bardazzi.  The introduction of this book has been translated into English and is available on-line here 

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