Politics is an Emotional Subject that Mesmerizes Some and causes Others to Give Up in Disgust and Miss Opportunities to Do Good by Hacking the System

This is my third post on how Christians (and other persons of good will) should view politics. The other posts are here and here.

My theme is that those who call for a boycott of politics are mistaken. The political process can still sometimes do us good but we must have discernment because our Opponent has overall control of the System. Instead of being loyal to the political system (one of the marks of a Good Citizen, according to traditional American thought), we should hack the system. Since the System is generally run so as to do us harm, but our Opponent does not control all details, and since political processes often do us either harm or good, we must wisely use the System to our advantage when possible. Withdrawing entirely from politics, as some advocate, is misguided. It is unilateral surrender.

Our Opponent has overall control, but not total control. Therefore it is still possible on occasion to love your neighbor (in the Christian sense) through politics.

But many people cannot bring themselves to vote unless they believe there is a candidates who is unambiguously a good person or a party which unambiguously does good. (Our opponents, in contrast, define a politician as unambiguously good if he endorses Wokeism, regardless of his character.) Many of our people cannot vote for a candidate who would be a much better officeholder than his opponent but who has serious flaws. Casting such a vote is commonly called “supporting the lesser of two evils,” and is generally condemned by Christians as being “worldly.”

Many of these people end up angrily denouncing politics and washing their hands of it entirely. At the other extreme, other people who have this orientation fall in love with politics and lose the ability to discern. They end up supporting that which they ought not support.

But to be worldly in the biblical sense is not simply to operate in the world, nor even to love some things in the world. The sin of worldliness is to love the anti-Christian systems of the world. If your priorities are right it is not a sin to love your family, your church, your neighborhood, your society.

Politics is a practical activity having to do with the ordering of society. An action which betters society is generally good, unless unusual factors override the goodness. To desire that society be ordered right, and to act in the world so as to push it in that direction, is not necessarily a sin. It depends on your inner motivation and your ability to exert a good influence.

If no political action could ever make society better, Christians and other persons of good will would be justified in shunning politics. But we have not reached that point, at least not in America.

Some people appear to say that NO Christian should EVER participate in politics in ANY way. I say, on the contrary, that some Christians (those with discernment) should sometimes (when it could be beneficial) participate in some political action (if the action has a good chance of succeeding.)

8 thoughts on “Politics is an Emotional Subject that Mesmerizes Some and causes Others to Give Up in Disgust and Miss Opportunities to Do Good by Hacking the System

  1. If life is a school, it seems this question is definitely going to be on the final test. And I still don’t know the right answer…

    The problem is hardly new. Plato writes in The Republic: “But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule” and I believe Aristotle writes something similar somewhere in Politics. So Plato, Aristotle and Alan Roebuck all concur that good men have a duty to engage in politics to do good and prevent worse. But…
    If you participate in the system in order to do some good, you may or may not succeed, but you will certainly have granted legitimacy to the system itself, and thereby to any evil the enemy brings about through that system. Example: In imperial Germany and later in the Weimar republic the Zentrumspartei was the party of German catholics. They may well have accomplished some good along the way, but in March of 1933 the party voted in favour of Hitler’s Ermächtigungsgesetz giving unlimited dictatorial powers to the chancellor. Thus catholic participation in politics ended up legitimizing the Nazi regime, and German catholics opposed to it were morally weakened from the outset.

    I think it is safe to say not only that politics attracts corrupt men, but also that politics itself has a corrupting influence on those who participate in it. So another option is to stay completely away from the whole thing and go about the business of living a good Christian life. But…
    If you choose this, then evil men will certainly rule. And evil will not leave good alone, that’s just not how the world works. Staying out of politics essentially means accepting martyrdom. Example: The Carmelites of Compiegne.
    That would seem like a no-brainer: leap for joy when you are persecuted, and all that. But…
    Actively seeking out one’s own martyrdom is surely a form of spiritual pride, with all the attendant dangers. And when politics is left to evil men, all will suffer, not just the individual Christian. Accepting one’s own martyrdom is one thing, but should fathers and mothers accept the martyrdom of their children? Because such is the outcome of evil politics. Always.

    The third option I can see, is to reject the system utterly and fight for something better.
    I.e. civil war.
    I don’t think it is possible to fight a war without doing evil, and for a civil war that is surely doubly true. No Christian should seek such a thing. But…
    Example: Without civil war there would have been no Edict of Milan, no Christian empire, and no subsequent Christian kingdoms. I note the historical fact that it is through these political forms that the Word of God was allowed to spread and take root. But…
    Does the end justify the means?

    Sigh. If anyone knows what answer God REALLY wants to the problem of politics, please let me know. (This world would be so much simpler if it didn’t have all you other people in it).

  2. When you say “hack the system,” do you mean use the system to do something other than the evil it was designed to do, or do you mean force the contradictions in the hope of breaking and destroying the system. I understand that these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, but which should be our primary aim?

    The system is tending towards totalitarianism, but as you say does not yet have total control. We can make use of the uncontrolled spaces and institutions, but their number is constantly diminishing, and with it the scope of our uncontrolled activity. If the contradictions in Leviathan are not forced, we are doomed.

    Forcing the contradictions is, however, harder than it sounds, mainly because Leviathan already owns the language. Words like freedom and justice already mean what Leviathan says they mean, and pointing out that they traditionally meant something quite different will simply out you as a dirty, low-down, no-good traditionalist.

    I think all Christians should daily meditate on what St. Peter did in the courtyard outside the palace of the Sanhedrim. Most of us would cave in faster than Peter so we shouldn’t indulge in fantasies of catacombs and martyrdom. And it is obvious that prospective martyrs will be offered the out of an ersatz and nominal “Christianity” to make their apostasy easier.

    • @JM,

      I do not have a specific agenda in mind for “hacking the system,” but I mean to use it in a way different from its intended use. Voting is currently used primarily to give legitimacy to wokeness; that’s why they say every electoral defeat is harm to “our democracy.”

      Instead of voting to display civic virtue, or to sustain the existence of the one party that occasionally gives us benefits, refuse to vote unless there is strong evidence the candidate will actually advance our interests.

      • A minority has power over its party only if it makes a credible and periodically demonstrated threat of boycotting an election. Those who declare that voting is a civic duty are simply handing party leaders a carte blanche to do as they please, since a base enthused with civic duty will vote for the party no matter what.

        I think we should also focus on local politics since our system retains enough of its original federalism for local officers to have some autonomy. Elect school board member who credibly promise to cut all ties with national school board associations, etc. Elect a county judge who doesn’t see the office as a stepping stone out of the county.

  3. One proposal for hacking the system, from Adrian Vermeule:

    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/02/integration-from-within/

    ***

    But many people cannot bring themselves to vote unless they believe there is a candidates who is unambiguously a good person or a party which unambiguously does good. … Many of our people cannot vote for a candidate who would be a much better officeholder than his opponent but who has serious flaws. Casting such a vote is commonly called “supporting the lesser of two evils,” and is generally condemned by Christians as being “worldly.”

    Perhaps this is true of many people, but among the Orthosphere crowd, I think you’re more likely to get people who base their rejection of voting on Zippy-style arguments, to wit, that the act of voting denotes one’s assent to the liberal democratic system and therefore that voting maintains and strengthens the liberal governing consensus, irrespective of whom one votes for.

    • “…voting maintains and strengthens the liberal governing consensus, irrespective of whom one votes for.”

      Not necessarily. A vote for the Orange Man is treated by the System as treason, and they are probably right. Selective voting can do good without defiling the voter.

      • The left will always cast voting for the right-liberal candidate as anti-democracy, but that’s a feature of liberal democracy: it fools the populace into thinking we have a real choice when really the only choices are liberal ones, thereby securing their support for the system.

        Voting in modern mass liberal democracy always has a cost: it denotes your assent to liberalism, and you personally endorse a candidate who advocates liberal principles and who publicly supports evil (how can doing so not defile the voter?). Imagine if social conservatives had applied JMSmith’s suggestion of boycotting the election because the ‘conservative’ party had nominated a candidate who publicly supported sodomy, that would have sent a message: perhaps then sodomy would not be the settled issue it is now.

        I also think JMSmith’s suggestion to focus on the local makes more sense: here the benefits of your vote might outweigh the costs.

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