Saturday, July 30, 2022

“The Truth” is NOT an Ideology

As Christians, we propose the Gospel in the world. 

We witness to the truth about Jesus Christ, and the truth of the dignity of every human person created in His image, redeemed by His death and resurrection, and called to share His glory. Christian witness to the presence of Jesus as the meaning and fulfillment of our lives, of history, of all creation cannot help manifesting itself as a definitive and all-encompassing proposal, as the truth that shapes all of reality. At the same time, “Christianity” must always respect the full measure of human freedom. It must never be reduced to the coercive imposition of “our” ideology; rather it must always constitute an invitation to a relationship of love with the One to whom our hearts belong.

The truth is not the same thing as ideology. Ideology (in the sense I use it here) refers to a systematic, humanly-conceived “program” to organize the world, or some portion of it. It prioritizes its own successful establishment, to the point of imposing itself on others by human forces and human power. Underlying ideology is a stubborn self-willed adherence to something we make up on our own, a contrived scheme that we think will fix the world if we can sell it to enough people or force them to accept it. 

Ideologies can be very impressive, inspiring, brilliant, seemingly visionary. Yet human experience has shown the perils of the ideological mindset. The "tl;dr" of twentieth century history should at least drive home this point: "The imposition of ideology does not work. Even if it begins with noble aspirations, it ends badly: with concentration camps, gulags, killing fields, starvation, war..." If only we could just learn this, even a little bit.

Ideology is destructive. It exalts its own success to the detriment of the dignity and freedom of human persons. In sharing this basic characteristic, it makes no difference whether the ideology is fascism or communism, imperialism or socialism, religious fundamentalism or restorationism - including the ideologized myth of a nationalist “spiritual destiny” to establish the “Third Rome” from the Moskva River to the Black Sea and beyond (a delusion that has no small influence on the present war that continues to impose terrible suffering on the people of Ukraine).

We must resist the temptation to forget that we belong to Christ, and reduce our witness to our own ecclesiastical schemes or illusions of our “Christian projects” attaining worldly recognition and success. This “forgetting of Christ” is the radical source of the divisions, the abuses carried out by the Church’s ministers and members, the scandals that have traumatized and alienated people in recent times (and throughout history). We must beg God’s mercy to overcome the “petty ideologies” that we so easily construct or connive in every day.

Let’s remember that the real truth is not like ideology. It's not about grasping for power and manipulating or suppressing other human persons. The real truth makes us free.

Ideology only makes us partisans of a program, and we become narrow and contentious and blind to our own flaws. We have to be careful not to give in to pride, which could lead us to turn even our faith in Jesus Christ into an ideology. Certainly Jesus opens up to us an astonishing, beautiful (but also mysterious) perspective on all of reality. Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord leads us to see the world in particular ways, but they are His ways. He is the truth. He opens us up to reality, to the adventure of really living and the risk of really loving.

Jesus is the Truth in Person, the Truth who has given Himself for the salvation and transfiguration of the world. And we know that everyone in the world lives by seeking Him (whether they know it or not). We who are Christians, who have been entrusted—by the grace of faith in its objective fullness—with the knowledge of Him and His presence in the life of His Church, are called to share Him and to continue to seek to know Him more.

Because He is Infinite Love, we must never think we have "enough" with Him, or that we have anything more than the beginning, the foretaste, the first fruits that should just deepen our desire to seek more and to love more. If we walk the roads of the world with hearts burning for God, He will draw the hearts of others to the shape of this flame according to His plan for their lives; His Spirit will awaken, enkindle, and foster the fire of their own desire for the fullness of truth, for the vocation to love that constitutes their freedom. 

In the Father’s plan, the light of this flame is destined to shine, for everyone, on the face of Christ.