Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Redemption of Politics

Last night, I saw the film "Amazing Grace" at the local Hoyts, while tucking into a packet of mint-flavoured Pods (which I had never encountered before but were actually quite yummy). No doubt many will draw (and already have drawn) the obvious parallel between the abolitionist and the pro-life causes. I certainly think there are lessons to be learned from the film and, more precisely, the events it seeks to depict in regard to that issue. I may jot down some thoughts in that connection later.

One thing about the film that struck me, however, which may not be so glaringly obvious was the way it redeemed the political process. Let me explain.

In some ways, this touches more upon myself qua me. I find the Australian political process unbearably dull and boring, mostly due to its monotony, the close identity between the two leading parties and the tendency to engage in partisan politics (i.e. use whatever issues come to hand to somehow discredit the opposing party and/or its members- occasionally in ways that are quite creative).

Coming from a Protestant Evangelical background, I tend to be naturally suspicious of politics (I was shocked when, upon becoming Catholic, I discovered a substantial contingent of staunchly active Catholics in the Sydney Archdiocese to be similarly staunchly active members of the Young Liberal Party), and this is coupled with a distinctively Australian and English distrust of authority and power. So it is instructive for me to watch righteous causes being defended and won through the political process (rather than in spite of it). Defended and won by politicians and not clergymen. The concept is novel and salutary.

I think there are benefits to the revelation that go beyond my own enlightenment and edification as well. To the Protestant Evangelical, it is a reminder that politics is not hands-off for Christians. Being the salt of the earth is not a selective calling. All the dishes need to be salted. That includes government.

For the Catholic actively involved in some form of political enterprise already, it is a reminder that the battles being fought are winnable. Though legislation may be against us, though we may be outvoted, though other interests swing the swinging voters against the good and right, these things are winnable. Legislation can be made to reflect virtue and natural justice. Bills can be passed that respect the human person. Politicians can govern wisely. If we are accustomed to the contrary, it is not because these things are normal but because they are habitual. We can learn to tell the difference.

That goes for me too.

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