Pope Leo XIII – “Concerning New Things”
In my life I have seen people who try to manipulate and control other people. The ability to do this comes from the presumption that the person is completely understandable; it is a mechanistic view of a person. That person’s levers can be pulled in a certain order and a predictable response will occur. I also think that people don’t respect something they completely understand and control. I also think that love is based on respect. The implication of course is that a person can’t love something they can manipulate. This applies to everything from nature to societies.
Governments should not be all controlling, because they are just people and shouldn’t presume to know how people work. There is just too much mystery. I think this is why the Confucian system is attractive to me. The Confucian system puts the most moral man as the example for all to follow. It is based on the morality of the people in the system, not the system itself. I think this is the truth; a system is only as good as the people that make it up.
So what does this have to do with Pope Leo? Pope Leo argued that the place of the church was paramount in society; it is what teaches people how to live. I think the danger of Pope Leo is that he is advocating for a large Church system, not for people’s spirituality. The Church can become just another system that is as good as the people in it. I think the Church could have a dramatic moral impact on society. However, it isn’t going to come from the Church, it will come from a grassroots desire for spirituality, not someone to tell them what is right, but for a hunger for justice and truth and morality. That hunger just has to get bigger than fashion and greed. Fashion and greed have made our lives meaningless (to borrow from Jung). I think there is a sense we are getting jerked around, money and fashion aren’t everything, and it is time to cut the string Pinocchio. Because the truth is that we aren’t dolls, we have our own desires and the strings of greed and fashion are just holding us back from the deeper people we are, and the deeper lives we are meant to live.
People can have incredible freedom, freedom to do good or bad. Just a brief look at the bible reveals that the Jews started out with religion as their guide, there was no government. They eventually wanted a king though. I think this is because it is much easier to have someone tell a person what to do than for that person to do what she knows is right. This isn’t directly what Pope Leo is arguing, but the similarities are striking. He is a proponent of limited government and a strong church. People will then take their cues of how to act from the church instead of from binding law. This is going part way to making people free to live by their own consciences, but it is only part way. The church is still supposed to be a big structure that tells people what to do.
In conclusion, I think that anarchists are the only ones that argue for complete freedom, but I don’t trust humanity with the freedom we should have. The freedom Christ gave us. In that sense a religious conservative is a bit of an oxymoron.