Thursday, November 13, 2014

Religios Politikos, II: Humanity is Social


See yesterday's posting as to why we changed the title of this series.

Yesterday we noted that, given the Christian belief that Christ is the perfect embodiment of true God and true man, people become more fully human and acknowledge Christ as “king” by adhering to the precepts of the natural law.  Nor is this only a “Christian” belief.  Every philosophy and organized religion says essentially the same thing: become more fully human by adhering to the precepts of the natural law as taught by your religious or philosophical teacher.  This is an idea that came to us from the pagan philosopher Aristotle — and that Aristotle probably got from others.

Simply conforming yourself to human nature is, however, individualistic.  It doesn’t take into account humanity’s social nature.  Humanity is not only individuals as individuals.  We are also individuals as members of society — citizens of the pólis.  Christ (or anyone/thing else accepted as God — come on, these concepts are universal; “catholic” with a small “c”) does not, therefore, rule as king only over individual human hearts.

Consistent with human nature (and in Christian belief Christ is as fully human as we), He also rules over the whole of society, the pólis.  Humanity is political by nature, Christ perfectly combines Divine Nature and human nature in His Person, so Christ is ipso facto political — the same as any other personified absolute standard of morality connected in any way with humanity.

This does not, however, mean that a theocracy or a divine right kingship is the only acceptable “Catholic” form of government — or acceptable at all, for that matter, whatever your religion or philosophy.  Nor does it mean that the Catholic Church or any other organized religion should dictate to the civil government in purely religious matters.

No more has any civil government the right to dictate to organized religion what constitutes doctrine or acceptable religious practice.  There is an exception in cases where the natural law is violated, e.g., human sacrifice, or where there is believed to be clear and present danger to individual rights or to the common good, e.g., polygamy.

No, Christ (and, again, any other personified absolute standard of morality) rules the world through our adherence to social ethics (bios politikos), those virtues that govern the life of the citizen in the State.  Our civil institutions must allow, even encourage virtuous behavior, or they are contrary to human nature.

This is what Aristotle covered in the Politics.  By conforming our civil institutions to the principles of the natural law, especially the virtue of justice, Christ’s “kingship” over the whole of society is established and maintained, whether or not “Christ” (or any other Being worshipped as God) is explicitly acknowledged or even known.

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