Saturday, January 21, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 4

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are here-1here-2 and here-3.

In the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in North America, containing approximately 1,750,000 of the faithful, no decision can be made without due consideration for the. feelings and aspirations of the majority Catholic population of the city. It is with good reason that the state of Illinois annually awarded license plate number one, not to the governor, but to the Roman Catholic cardinal of Chicago. The influence of the hierarchy and the many parishioners of the Church of Rome is always present in decision making in the politics, law, educational policy, and cultural life of the city.

If, as Christ told his people, his Father's house has many rooms, so does his Roman Catholic church in Chicago have many factions. Some of the most liberal, as well as some of the most conservative, proposals and pressures in the life of Chicago have emanated from the many-splendored, broad-based, variegated Roman Catholic clergy and laity of the city.

In contrast to the dominant Catholic religious community, the Protestant and Jewish communities, with the exception of powerful business leaders, are weak. They are not ignored, they are consulted, but their influence is nowhere near so great as that of the Roman Catholic community. Since most of the Protestants in the city are now the blacks, they can be dealt with on the basis of race rather than religion.

And since most of the Jews have fled the city for the suburbs, except for those residing in a few fringe areas, they can be easily ignored, although recognized and tolerated in decision making in the city.

Religion and politics
Daley's political morality epitomizes the Irish Catholic sense of morality ... He is "charitably disposed toward most of the moral and situational shortcomings of others except for apostates, heretics, and marital infidelity." He believes that "justice must be tempered with a good deal of mercy, or charity for fallible man." He recognizes that, inevitably, a certain degree of corruption exists in politics, as it does in all areas of human endeavor. But it should be kept within reasonable bounds.

While Daley may be a puritan in his social behavior, there is little sympathy for or understanding of the Protestant religious mentality which attempts to apply absolute moral standards to political behavior.

Daley's political morality is, rather, rooted in the Irish Catholic attitude toward politics which reflects the Gelasian doctrine of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.
In other words, while man, the fallen creation, is commanded to be moral by his religious precepts, being sinful, he cannot follow his religious precepts in his daily life. In dealing with other men in a political milieu, it is necessary to follow the precepts of Caesar rather than God.

It is not that God has no place at all in politics but that God's primary concerns are with the soul and salvation rather than with the mundane, everyday dealings of human beings with each other. Daley would agree with the German nineteenth-century theologian who wrote, "We do not consult Jesus when we are concerned with things which belong to the domain of the construction of the state and -political economy."

This is not to say that men should not try to be as moral as they can in politics and follow God's law as much as they can, but that they often cannot because they are sinful creatures in an imperfect world. The purpose of politics, then, is to try to make men behave as morally as possible but also to recognize that they probably will not and cannot.

"Look at our Lord's Disciples," Daley said, in answer to a charge that there had been corruption in city government, during his campaign for his fourth mayoral term in 1967. "One denied Him, one doubted Him, one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?"

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