Wednesday, October 28, 2020

When Patriotism Isn't A Virtue

Catholic Americans seem to revel in polarization. Our country's two-party political system, which siphons the electorate into severely limited options, certainly doesn't help. But there's an accompanying divisive insistence, particularly among Catholics, that one secular party or the other holds exclusive claim to virtue and love for our homeland.

What we overlook in these claims of virtuous patriotism are integral components of piety and charity. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, "piety is a protestation of the charity we bear towards our parents and country."

Imagine if our children spoke to us with the same tone we exercise in online political comment feeds. Has your 8-year-old ever passive-aggressively expressed concern for your eternal damnation? How effective has that been in furthering parent-child dialogue?

Comparing filial dialogues to patriotic ones is not far fetched: the Catechism addresses patriotism in its exegesis on the Fourth Commandment"Honor your father and mother"—as an expression of filial piety to our fatherland. This means, as in a family, our interactions are meant for charity and the common good of all members, leading to growth in reverence toward our parents and, by extension, our fellow citizens and homeland (and ultimately, God).

Endless online pseudo-dialogue only compounds our poor practice of patriotism. Pope Francis addresses this failure of social networks to facilitate meaningful conversation in his most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti:

"Dialogue is often confused with something quite different: the feverish exchange of opinions on social networks, frequently based on media information that is not always reliable. These exchanges are merely parallel monologues. They may attract some attention by their sharp and aggressive tone. But monologues engage no one, and their content is frequently self-serving and contradictory."

Why are Catholic comboxes some of the most vicious places on the Internet when it comes to politics? We miss countless opportunities to contemplatively turn issues under the light of church teaching when we compulsively pitch them left or right instead.

Please read the rest over at Where Peter Is.

Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

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