Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Prudence

Michael Cromartie (1950-2017) died yesterday. He had been one of the most important Christians attempting to influence government in Washington. His death will be particularly felt because, as this speech demonstrates, he had given a great deal of thought respecting how Christians ought to think and act in the political world.
.... Prudence is defined as practical wisdom and it is the process of moral reasoning by which our ideals are approximated to the contours of a very fallen and imperfect world. So therefore, a prudent person asks what are the ends that we have seen, and then they balance and weigh the ends. And this balancing process may require that we reduce the scope of some of our ends and our goals. The prudent person is not an ideologue but instead is a person who is always open to new facts and new information and willing to adjust their views according to reality.

And so, therefor prudent Christians are Christian realists who understand that our ideals must be approximated because we live in an imperfect world. The prudent person realizes that the drawing of relative moral distinctions is a Christian’s social and political responsibility, [and] is prepared, therefor, to make imperfect choices between all terms, including not always the best alternatives we’d like to have. .... We have to make choices and sometimes the choices we have to make are not the best, but some are better than others. Therefore, learning to be prudent is vitally important because the dilemmas we face in this world are often fraught with ambiguity. The messiness of sin in this world makes many matters more contingent, relative, and uncertain. There will always be times and there will always be things that we hope for and things that we wish might have been. But being prudent means learning how to balance competing goods against lesser evils, while keeping a sharp sense of the many ambiguities that are at the heart of many of the ethical, moral dilemmas we face. ....

...I think it’s important for us to learn to develop, in whatever our vocation is, to learn to develop what I like to call Augustinian sensibility as we go about our work. Here’s what I mean: while affirming our responsibilities and obligations to the city of man, we need to remember that our true home is the City of God which is to come. So, while living in this earthly city we are to pursue temporal goals and to pursue justice. Parenthetically, Augustine said, “Remove justice and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a larger scale.” We need to pursue justice but we always need to be doing it with a keen sense of who we are and [an] awareness of the fragile character of our earthly communities and our earthly alliances.

We would do well to be reminded that in this world filled with profound suffering and terrible disorders, we can strive to maintain and to create an order that approximates justice and to work fervently to prevent the very worst from happening. For instance, one of the most difficult concepts for religiously motivated political activists to grasp are these four words: Now, but not yet. Now, but not yet. The kingdom of God has entered this age now, but the final kingdom has not come, yet. Keeping this in mind is very important as we go about our business of being faithful Christian citizens [in] our various vocations and callings and having an Augustinian sensibility will give us a spiritual and emotional balance and perspective as we remind ourselves constantly that we live now at the intersection of the ages between the city of man and the City of God that is to come. .... [more]