For those who are Catholic, or at least have an interest in the fate of the Catholic Church in our contemporary political environment, Chad Pecknold has an interesting piece over at Ethika Politika where he encourages us to think about the proper ordering of religious and political beliefs. Such reflection will necessarily force us to face the limits of political life. From his essay:
Ours is not only a polarized politics, it is also an excessive politics. It dominates every aspect of life. Political campaigns have learned to carefully cultivate every existing identity for itself, and only for itself. It has come to take over every aspect of life so there is no place where presidential politics is absent. I think this excessiveness is an enduring aspect of every politics that detaches itself from natural limits, that consistently refuses to allow space to that which is not politics, that refuses to admit that there is anything prior to politics, that habitually ignores anything which supersedes politics, and which denies anything which is not reducible to politics.
Compare this, for example, to the President’s inaugural address where, in the context of ruminating about America as an exceptional nation, the President said:
America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.
Political rhetoric, at some level, but also an idea that informs so much of our politics. Why else would the President say that we can get by without reforming the major entitlement programs? The thrust of the speech was to absorb all forms of authority and association into governmental operations. Pecknold’s meditation is a useful reminder that the real issues of political life are issues of scale and limits, but those are precisely the things that are not being discussed. But limits will make themselves felt, if not through catastrophe then at least through some pushback when state authority tries to go too far. For this reason if for no other the HHS mandate battle ought to be of interest to everyone.