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Not All Politics Is Political

Riffing on Alasdair MacIntyre, C.C. Pecknold claims that if Christians are to think wisely about politics, they need to also be thinking wisely about things that aren’t strictly political. Excerpt:

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.

All of this makes my post-election reflections sound like a plea for resistance to political instrumentalism.  It is that, but it is also simply a plea for contemplation on those things which are not political, but are nevertheless important to political community.  The popular motto of the Catholic resistance movement during WWII, “France be careful not to lose your soul” is worth recalling to this end.  A generation earlier, Charles Péguy, the atheist socialist convert to Catholicism, sought to remind France to attend those things which were preludes to politics:  metaphysics, narratives, language, family, friendship and contemplation upon the causes, effects, and ends of our most cherished commitments – our loves and our liberties (to recall St. Augustine).   In our post-election reflections, Christians should be the ones asking the really substantial questions, not the ones asked at our very insubstantial presidential debates – but the questions we would want our children to ask:  questions about existence, such as why there is something rather than nothing; about justice, and to whom it is owed; about truth, and making ourselves truthful; about the nature of goodness and how we can be formed in accordance with it.  Questions like these are pre-political, but they matter for politics too.  If these sorts of question whither, we will get the politics we deserve.  Amongst ourselves as well as with others, we must be asking what it means to be a Christian in our excessive, polarized, political order.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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