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Deacon Kyle Eller: Resisting the politicization of everything

I’m not sure what tipped me over, but it’s been slowly building to what is now full-blown exasperation — the politicization of every sphere of life. It feels almost wrong to list examples, as if even to name a few diminishes the degree to which it is simply everywhere.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

But the examples range from the literal global stage, where Olympic athletes seem to be featured in coverage sometimes based almost entirely on some ideological reason, to sitting in a restaurant in the Black Hills on family vacation awestruck as, three tables away, some guy whose voice seems to have only one volume (loud) tells the captive audience at his table but also everyone in the whole space his opinions of former Vice President Mike Pence and why he won’t set foot in the state of Minnesota because he doesn’t like our governor.

It’s Facebook groups supposedly dedicated to sourdough baking that, in the space of literally a few minutes, go from being enthusiastic, supportive, friendly spaces with people bonding over a common interest to absolute war zones of bitter vitriol and locked threads and nasty name calling and people leaving in a huff or being kicked out over whatever cause du jour someone wanted to make the group about that day.

It’s walking down the street in another city and knowing, just by the flags and slogans in the windows, what every shop and restaurant thinks about so-called “Pride Month,” even when it supposedly ended a month ago. That’s to say nothing of the full on commercial and media blitz of rainbow-washing everything, to the point that I suspect even Christmas couldn’t boast that much saturation in a bygone heyday when it was an uncontroversial focus all December long.

It’s knowing what every author and athlete and musician and actor and celebrity thinks about whatever the ruling class has declared to be the issue of the day, even when those celebrities have no more knowledge or insight than any random stranger on the street and when it has nothing to do with their work.

It’s the painfully huge number of Catholics who seem to have rendered themselves incapable of hearing anything the church says about public affairs except as filtered through their politics, as if the church were some kind of human Rorschach test that simply reflects back someone’s obsessions and prejudices.

I could go on and on and drearily on.

Yes, I know politics have had a place in all these many spheres of life for decades. Within reason I’m fine with that. I’ve never been a believer in that old cliche about not talking religion or politics over dinner. I wish there were more deep, open conversations about these things taking place in the context of family and friends who love and respect each other and assume good faith. I suspect we’d all be better off for it.

But finally you watch a sporting event to root for your team or see skilled athletes perform. You go into a store looking to buy a new pair of shoes. You go to a concert to hear music that moves you. I imagine there are few people who want to be burdened with the constant awareness of whether we’re in friendly or enemy territory in the culture war with everything we do. Yet that’s the world we’re creating.

I suspect these problems in part reflect the decline of faith in our culture and even within the church. It is easy, then, for politics and ideology to take on the role our faith ought to play in being our guide to understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

The Lord calls each of us in the beatitudes to be peacemakers. While we often remind ourselves that this means being reconciled to God and living in the truth, it’s also true that it means being peaceful people — people who seek to heal divisions rather than worsen them, who see those who disagree with them not as enemies but as brothers and sisters with whom we hope to be someday reconciled.

And that means resisting as best we can the temptation to turn every sphere of life into a political battlefield.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected].