Ideology

PopeWatch: Ideology Bad

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Pope Francis thinks it is a bad thing when Christianity becomes an ideology.  PopeWatch believes that throughout History people with ideologies have attempted to use Christianity.  However, Christianity as an ideology is a new one as far as PopeWatch is concerned.  Father Z is also puzzled:

Here is something that the Pope said:

It is, he said, “the image of those Christians who have the key in their hand, but take it away, without opening the door,” and who “keep the door closed.”

Asking those present how a Christian is able to fall into this attitude, the Pope reflected that “The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon (people).”

Noting that it is a “lack of Christian witness does this,” he stressed that “when this Christian is a priest, a bishop or a Pope it is worse.”

“When a Christian becomes a disciple of ideology,” urged the Pope, “he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought,” and “the knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge.

Ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people,” he stressed, stating that it is because of this that many are distanced from the Church.

“It is a serious illness, this Christian ideology. It is an illness, but it is not new,” he said, recalling how the Apostle John alludes to this mentality in his first letter.

Pope Francis then emphasized that the attitude of those who lose their faith in preference of personal ideologies is “rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness.

“But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”

“The key that opens the door to the faith,” the Pope noted, “is prayer,” and “when a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.”

The Christian who does not pray, urged the Pope, is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement…when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus.”

When we pray, the Pope reflected, Jesus tells us to “go into your room and pray to the Father in secret, heart to heart,” because “It is one thing to pray, and another thing to say prayers.”

Those who do not pray abandon the faith, stressed the Pope, and allow it to become a “moralistic, casuistic ideology, without Jesus.”

[...]

The Holy Father’s passion is clear and strong, isn’t it?   It is a little stirring to read this.  I’ll bet it is even more so to hear it in person.   But …

The Pope’s language about ideology is so vague that I can’t for the life of me make out who or what he is talking about.  It could be that he has a first name and a last name in mind, but I have no idea who she might be.

Does anyone know what he is talking about?  Really?

Go back and read over the report again and ask yourself if you truly understand what he is talking about.

Does the spanish for “ideology”, which may be behind his thought, have some nuance of meaning that is different from English or Italian?

What did the Pope really say in this short, non-magisterial fervorino? Continue reading

Catholicism and “Neoliberalism”: Strawmen Are Often Contrary to Church Teaching

David Cloutier at the Catholic Moral Theology blog links approvingly to a post at dotCommonweal addressing Romney’s political views which asks whether “neoliberalism” (the which is here used to mean something along the lines of free market capitalism) and Catholicism can ever be compatible. He says:

Superb exchange going on over at dotCommonweal over a post about how certain political conservatives, like Rick Santorum or Michael Gerson, try to reconcile their Catholicism with the neoliberal paradigm. For once, even the comment thread is worth reading!

I think this is an important – if not THE important – debate about Catholicism and politics in the current election. Often, the debate over particular policies dominates, but in fact, what we should be looking at are the basic principles of the economic order. If a candidate fundamentally contradicts the basic principles, Catholics should have reservations about supporting him. In the post referred to above, “neoliberalism” is cast in terms of a pure free-market conception, in which governments take a minimal role in economic activity, providing for enforcement of contracts, a stable currency, etc. – protection against “force and fraud.” Others claim that Gerson forthrightly support subsidiary actors – such as families, community organizations, and churches – and so is not in fact individualist.

The (frequently made) mistake here is one that goes back to Edmund Burke, that “father” of conservatism. Burke seeks to deal with nascent industrial capitalism by (Warning: blogging oversimplification ahead…) distinguishing between a sphere of “culture” (or “civil society”) that can be fostered, and refuses to attribute social problems to the mechanisms of the market itself. He defends the market as good, over against the landed establishment (the “nobles”) of the pre-industrial order, which is who he is opposing. But for him, the market is not all there is. (One sometimes sees a variant of this in defending Adam Smith by noting one must read both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments.)
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The Advantage of Ideology

One of the main problems with politics is that it is complicated. Take, for example, the recently passed health care bill. The bill was over 2,000 pages. I haven’t read it. Neither, I imagine, have most of our readers (indeed, it would not surprise me if no single person has read every word of the bill, though obviously each of the bill’s many provisions has been read by someone).

Of course, even if someone had read every word of the bill, this would not be sufficient to have a truly informed position on it. To have a truly informed position one would have to not only read the bill but understand it. And to do that would require a great deal of knowledge about fields as complicated and diverse as the law, medicine, political science, economics, bureaucratic management, etc.

And, mind you, even if one were somehow able to master and muster all of this information, that would only entitle one to a have a truly informed position on that one bill.

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Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 3

The Catholic Church is the biggest defender and promoter of the large traditional family. This endorsement of large families is something that tests the loyalties of ideologues because the Church doesn’t conform to liberal or conservative political pressures.  The more-or-less typical liberal ideologue seems to take on the ideal of saving the global environment by way of discouraging the Church’s teachings on Life and Family issues.  The more-or-less conservative ideologue often takes on the approach to economic theory that goes something like- “you breed em’ you feed em’”. I don’t find much support for either of these hard positions in the actual teachings and guidance given us via Christ’s Church.

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Is Arguing About Politics a Waste of Time?

This study suggests an interesting reason why that may be the case:

The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking.

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.” Westen and his colleagues will present their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28.

Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions — essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted — not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward — similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.

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Who Says No

People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.

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Lessons of the Financial Crisis

While I’m on the topic of narratives, Matthew Boudway at dotCommonweal has a post up entitled “They Cannot Fathom Their Failure”.* The post is based on a George Packer column, which basically makes the argument that conservatives “cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy” after the recent financial crisis, and that to deny they have been discredited is a form of self-delusion. This is a charge, I suppose, to be approached with trepidation; false consciousness is notoriously difficult to disprove. That said, it may be worthwhile to offer some thoughts in response. Here is an excerpt from the post:

…“[T]hey cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy.” Not “they will not fathom” it. They cannot. Sure, the response of many conservatives to the bailout and the stimulus package has been opportunistic and cynical. Many of them, though, simply cannot imagine what it would mean — what it now does mean — for the premises of their policy agenda, and indeed of their entire political philosophy, to have failed.  Not even the most spectacular failure can force anyone to learn a lesson he desperately wishes not to learn. Historical events are always complicated and contingent enough to admit of more than one interpretation, and the most plausible interpretation is often not the most attractive.

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