Labels are a big deal in our culture. We act like your label is the quick concise way to size you up and put you in a neat, tidy, little box. We essentially use them as genre titles for people. We all know this. But knowing it doesn’t change the fact that it is a constant struggle. The way we use political labels overshadows and metaphorically boxes-out our faith. We — scandalously — allow our politics to inform our faith instead of our faith informing our politics and it causes more divisions and pain throughout the whole Body of Christ.
So what is my point?Am I saying all Catholics should be party line conservatives?
Am I saying all Catholics should be party line progressives?
So what, Catholics are neither conservative nor progressive?
How about Catholics are Catholic and in their intellectual understanding and practical living of their faith they should appear to be both passionately conservative and progressive (I’m speaking of the mindsets not necessarily the political parties and every agenda they might have). I know, I know this sounds like a cop-out to make everyone play nice but let me explain. Now, I’m no political scientist, but my juvenile understanding of words like conservative and progressive go a little something like this: Conservative – a political leaning that tends toward the belief that the world and the country were being handled better in the past and that we operate best under the principle of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Progressive – a political leaning that tends towards the belief that the world and the country will be handled better in the future and that we operate best under the principle of “If we aren’t moving forward we are moving backwards.” So what is it about being Catholic that seemingly transcends both of these mindsets? It isn’t a what, but rather a who — Jesus Christ.
The whole assertion of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is alive. He is risen and He is working in His Church and in the World today. Not only is He alive, but He is God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So what does that mean for us politically? It means that Jesus Christ wasn’t better 70 years ago and worse now, so we have to get back to the Jesus of World War II. And it doesn’t mean that Jesus will be better in 40 years and so if we can just get past the Jesus of today everything will be better. No, Jesus is alive and well and reigning today. He is King, Lord, Lion, Lamb, the Least and the Greatest — today. He is just as available to me today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.
As for Catholics being conservative in our mindset, you bet we are. Have you seen the lists of Saints that we have as heroes to inspire us? We can look back at the way that the greats of our faith have responded to Christ and see how Christianity is really supposed to be lived. But we also believe that the Holy Spirit is always present in the Church working to perfect us and guide us. He hasn’t taken the day off for our present time, the Church is God’s not ours.
What about having a progressive mindset? We better have one! We don’t have the Saints of the past just so that we can be like the Greeks looking up to Odysseus, Achilles, and Ajax. We have the Saints of the past because the reality is that we are called to be the Saints of tomorrow. We know that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in His Church. To believe that we have reached the pinnacle of Christianity is a rather arrogant view of our Christian History. Living today in 2014 I have a clearer definition of Christ’s humanity and divinity than someone living in the 1st Century. I have a clearer definition of the Canon of Scripture than someone in the 2nd century. I have a clearer definition of Mary’s Motherhood of Jesus than someone in the 3rd Century, and a clearer definition of Christ in the Eucharist than someone in the 9th century and a clearer definition of the Pope’s teaching authority than someone in the 18th century. So I need to understand that our church and our faith can still progress and clarity can still be brought forth in the future For God is ever new to us!
So, I’m a Catholic.
Does that mean I’m conservative? Yes.
Does it mean that I’m progressive? Yes.
But, it means that my Catholicism dictates those things, because it is my belief in the Risen Christ that has me look to the guidance of the past and to long for the future, but most importantly, to serve Him in the present.