“For even if the good is the same for one person and for one city, that of the city appears to be greater, at least, and more complete both to achieve and to preserve; for even if it is achieved for only one person that is something to be satisfied with, but for a people or for cities it is something more beautiful and more divine. So our pursuit aims at this, and is in this way political.”
Aristotle in his book of such a name describes Politics at the center of ethics. When he speaks of virtue, he begins with the assumption that the human is a social or political animal. We are unavoidably political. Was one of the students I worked with at Samford a few weeks ago recently paraphrased Pericles: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” While Pericles is speaking specifically of those politics of which you are probably thinking, Aristotle was not necessarily (not all the time). Politics, in a classical sense, is more than what goes on in capitals and legislatures. Politics is about how humans try to figure out how to live together. It is in this framework of community that Aristotle posits we work out ethics.
I almost constantly write about the Christian’s involvement in politics (specifically in the United States, my particular environment, as Athens was that of Pericles), and I have been known to be very isolationist in my tendencies. For a decent bit of time, I thought that the Christian had nothing to do with politics — separation of Church and State to the extreme. And it was not due to some spiritual dualism like that which justifies many policies of so-called Christian politics. I found it dangerous and subversive to the purposes of the Church and the allegiance of the Christian. However, such an extreme is not a tenable position in a democracy as much as it might square with the writings of St. Peter and St. Paul. Read the rest of this entry
Saint Paul writes to the Philippians:
“Join together, my friends, in following my example. You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it. As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ. They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things. We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself. This, my dear friends, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.” (3:17-4:1, Revised English Bible)
Obviously there is much truth in Saint Paul’s writings, and in his epistle to the Church in Philippi, but as I was reading the letter this evening (long past the setting of the sun), I came across the paragraph above and certain parts of it stood out to me like they had not before now. The twentieth verse of the third chapter has been very important to me as of late, but when I read it in full context, it came to mean even more. Read: “We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.” These are powerful words! Let us dissect them in a meaningful and edifying way.
The City is not Dead Wes Spears
They say that the polis is dead,
that the concept holds no water.
They say that the city is gone,
that the idea has no meaning.
They are the godfathers of the Nation,
ideologues of the State.
They are the wardens of the Leviathan,
demagogues of the Snake.
We say that the polis is not dead,
that the city does not sleep.
We say that God is in the city,
that this God will not relent.
We are the inhabitants of this city,
the tenth that remain.
We are the coheirs of this kingdom,
the citizens of heaven.