Living as a Christian in the new totalitarianism, Part I

For the past couple of months, I have embarked on a series of personal observations and reflections in the wake of the riot that broke into the Capitol on January 6. This led to a consideration of the nature and depth of the divisions in the nation and the corruption of the American institutions that many of us have a long habit of trusting.

What has been the point of all my reflections on this matter?

Some might think that I have been injecting myself into politics in an unwarranted fashion, even violating the due separation between Church and State.

Well, the Catholic laity have the particular mission of ordering temporal affairs in accordance with the Gospel. (cf. CCC 898; Vatican II, “Apostolicam Actuositatem” 7) In this respect the role of the clergy is to provide moral and spiritual guidance, showing the application of the Gospel in the present circumstances.

Both the action of the laity in the temporal realm and the guidance given by the clergy needs to recognize the reality of those present circumstances. That is a difficult task and in that regard no one, not even the Pope, is infallible. A true prophet would be able to speak to actual circumstances with a special divine light, but that would still leave us with the task both of recognizing the prophet and understanding his message and its application.

So I have offered my analysis of the circumstances the best I have been able. In my homilies I have made more general comments on the contemporary circumstances.

It is not enough simply to make observations of the present circumstances. It necessary to take the next step and say something about what this requires of us.

The Capitol riot, one way or another, was a manifestation of real anger on the part of those who think they have effectively been disenfranchised by corrupt institutions, especially the Federal Government. There was real reason for their anger, but the first thing to say to this is that the Christian response is not the way of violence.

Next, I don’t think that any active parishioner of St. Peter’s in The Dalles has any particular power or influence in the institutions of politics, government, business, media, or education – or the Church for that matter. Nor should anyone be seeking after power.

Nevertheless, everyone has their own little sphere of activity and influence (and being influenced). That is where each one must live out the lay vocation to order temporal affairs in accordance with the Gospel.

Living out that vocation within the little sphere of activity in your own life requires that you recognize the societal and institutional corruption around you, lest you be swept away with it. More than any other time during the past century a Christian in the United States cannot just ‘go with the flow’; rather like salmon, we must go against the flow.

Let me put forth a bold statement: we might not have power and influence, but we can recognize that no one who has bought into the pro-abortion, pro-LGBT thinking is worthy to hold any position of power and influence, not in politics, not in government, not in the news media, not in health care, not in business, much less in the Church. Nor are they worthy of our trust. Why not? Because the pro-abortion, pro-LGBT way of thinking involves such a distorted world view that it radically corrupts a person’s thinking and acting.

Such people do in fact hold such positions of great power and influence; they are effectively ruling the country, though their dominion has not yet been completely established. Nevertheless, once we recognize their inherent lack of trustworthiness, then we will stop listening to them and paying attention to them, except insofar as we cannot altogether escape their power. We will preserve our minds and hearts free of their attitude and way of thinking. We will not let them teach us or guide us; we will try to keep our children away from their influence.

There is no reason to seek to cooperate with them, negotiate with them, or dialog with them, except from a position of power (which we do not have). For the rest we must rather seek how to avoid and escape their exercise of power and influence, how we can resist, and where we can and must bend and accommodate because we cannot do otherwise.

We should not act as though we are any more living in a free country. Rather, more and more we need to learn how to evade and resist an increasingly totalitarian regime.

We must do so as Christians, with patience and hope, not giving way to hatred for those who are caught up in the lies and falsehood, but praying for them, even the worst of them. Nevertheless, we do them no favor but letting them have their way with us. Further, unlike the Marxists we must not think that the division between oppressor and oppressed, between persecutor and persecuted is inherently unbridgeable. This division is bridgeable because by the grace of God conversion to Christ is possible.

Fundamentally we are powerless in terms of the world, but our power is to live in the truth and bear witness to the truth.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.