Realists v. ideologues

When I lived in New York, I lived close to St. Michael’s in Hell’s Kitchen, where Fr. George Rutler is pastor. I continue to receive his weekly emails; they’re one of the highlights of my week in terms of what I get in my inbox. This week he looks at the impact of ideology in diminishing our ability to see the world as it is:

At a Vigil Service before the burial of a friend who was a Knight of Malta, a comfortable attorney who was a self-styled “progressivist” took umbrage at a phrase I had read from the daily prayer of that Order: “Be it mine to practice and defend the Catholic, the Apostolic, the Roman faith against the enemies of religion. . . .” He said that there are no enemies of religion anymore. When our Lord sent his disciples out, he told them what to expect and disabused them of such dangerous naïveté. They would be lambs among wolves, and not lambs among lambs.

In little more than a dozen years, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped from 2 million to 300,000. In Syria, where Christians once were ten percent of the population, there are fewer than a million now, and many of them are being kidnapped and held for ransom at $100,000 each. The misery of enslavement, destruction of churches, crucifixions and beheadings was brought into sharp focus last March when sixteen people were gunned down in a nursing home, including four Indian religious sisters of Blessed Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who were caring for them. That may have been the efficient cause for the U.S. State Department declaring, after long tarrying, that all this is deliberate genocide.

In Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad wrote: “. . . no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.” Artful denial is a common disposition among those who do not want to compromise their ideology with reality, lest they be discomfited by confrontation with evil.

Better to be a realist than an ideologue. Realists might sometimes fall too much on the conservative side in lacking vision for the future, but ideologues too often fall on the totalitarian side in working to impose their visions on the people.

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