Friday, February 24, 2012

Christian Socialism, Solidarity, and the word "Catholic"

Three days into Lent and I'm starting to remember what it's for after all. I was going to post a fantastic image of one of Cam's rosaries, but I decided not to, for, you see, I believe in intellectual property - you get the Divine Mercy, instead... it's my favourite chaplet, when I'm in a chaplet sort of mood. But that, you see, is entirely beside the point.

Between the season and getting mired back in politics, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I think communities should run. While national and international politics is fantastically fun stuff, there's a tendency to forget to think about things in the form of people. Since people are most directly affected by the policies of their community, the governance of a community is perhaps the purest form. Ergo, that's what I've been thinking about.

Communities are organizations, however loose they might seem, and organizational behaviour is actually one of my fields of formal study with the College. A lot of it is common sense. Some of it sounds suspiciously familiar. Some of it even seems like chapters out of a communist manifesto, if that manifesto was written by socially-responsible capitalists instead.

The people who surround you become like a family, even if they aren't really your relatives. Like any family, a community is going to have its smooth and rough patches, whether that community is an office building, a neighbourhood, or the entire municipality. Interpersonal interaction, and the way you treat other people, is as important in government as it is in any other field.

One of the best thinkers on the subject I've ever heard was probably one you've all heard of as well... Jesus Christ.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36, NSV)

For one thing, pretty much this entire passage is speaking directly to me. I'm pretty bad at controlling my anger, which is the stuff of family legend, and rivalled only by that of a few (mostly fictional) people. I'm not violent, I'm just notoriously cranky. It's embarrassing and inappropriate and I hate it... and it's chiefly rooted in feelings of embarrassment. The other cheek, as it were.

More importantly, though, and perhaps more relevantly, it has applications to the community. Turning the other cheek and not raising your temper, caring for those who need it, and generally behaving as mild-mannered as possible is the path to relative office or community harmony. The whole of the gospels are peppered with verses instructing much the same. How it is nobler to give to the poor than to accrue wealth, and so on.

Christ was a Socialist. Maybe the First Socialist.  Certainly the best socialist, though he wouldn't have called himself that, and certainly nobody else would actually say that he was merely a socialist leader either. The fact of the matter is that socialism simply fits many of the criteria for Christ's just society. It is a solidarity of the community, a togetherness. The abandonment of rivalries and idealistic division in order to focus on the things that really matter. Universality. Catholicism.

That's the meaning of that particular word, by the way. Universal. I don't believe that people should be divided from one another. I especially don't believe that Christians should be. I don't really care if a person is Catholic, United Church, Baptist, Lutheran, Orthodox, Anglican, or any other shade of Christian... you're just Christian.

"The one, holy, apostolic Church."

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