Culture shapes politics

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles spoke recently on the Culture of Life, something I’ve written about before:

Abortion and euthanasia raise basic questions of human rights and social justice in our society. Questions of what kind of society we are and what kind of people we want to be.”

The archbishop recognized many problems in society.

“Never before has there been so much talk about human freedom and dignity and self-realization. And yet we find ourselves more and more indifferent to the cruelty and injustice that we see all around us,” he lamented.

These injustices include “grave crimes against human life” like widespread abortion, human embryo experimentation, and “the ‘quiet’ euthanasia of the old and sick.”

These also include racial discrimination, unemployment and homelessness, and environmental pollution. The archbishop noted the problems of violence, drugs, “scandalous” prison conditions, the death penalty, and deportations and injustices in the immigration system.

“I am not trying to say that all of these issues are ‘equal.’ They are not. And we always need to be clear about that,” he said.

However, while not all equal, the issues are all important, he continued. “In the face of the suffering and human need in the world, we cannot compartmentalize our compassion or draw lines between those we will care about and those we will not.”

The archbishop said the pro-life movement’s vision is “spiritual, not political.” This means it does not make sense for pro-life efforts to be separate from social justice efforts.

“The cause of life is greater than the limitations of our political categories. We want a new culture, not a new political coalition.”

I think it’s probably true that every social and cultural issue corresponds with a political issue. But the opposite is rarely true; most of our politics deals with issues that don’t meaningfully touch the lives of most people.

The subject of the Culture of Life is different, because it touches upon the most fundamental questions: “What does it mean to be human?” and “Where does our dignity come from?”

Answers always begin in the heart, which is reflected visibly in our relationships with each other—in our social and cultural relationships.

If we’re humane in our culture, eventually that humanity will be reflected in our politics.

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