Thursday, August 16, 2018

Faith and Politics (Ignatius Press)

To say Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) is one of the greatest theologians of our generation is an understatement. He should be classified as one of the most brilliant minds of our generation. Experiencing Hitler's Nazi Germany shaped the way he thought, especially in relation to faith and politics. He wrote a great deal on how these two ideas intersect and interact with each other and Ignatius Press has recently compiled some of these works together in the appropriately named Faith and Politics.

The book begins with a sobering comparison Johann Sebastian Bach's Passion of Christ and Krzysztof Penderecki's Passion. The former details Jesus' Passion and stops before the Resurrection, whereas the latter addresses the sufferings of the people of Auschwitz. This comparison is further built upon, while also discussing the seriousness of man's sinfulness and affliction. This leads us to a section on Jesus and Pilate. In this chapter, we see the hypocrisy of the Jewish people claiming to observe ritual purity, but at the same time lacking purity in their hearts. Pilate, by choosing not to release Jesus though he found him innocent, chose political stability over truth. We then see Augustine in opposition with the politics of Rome and Christians when faced with a totalitarian regime. Ratzinger argues that Christianity killed the notion of a "divine state," and that Christian morality and good must be present in a society. The next and longest section deals with a pluralistic society and the freedom, conscience, and values of the people and the society they are living in. The book ends with a transcript of a debate between Ratzinger and Paolo Flores d'Arcais (an atheist) on the existence of God. In my opinion, the book is worth buying for that transcript alone.

Drawing on Scripture and Church Tradition, Ratzinger shows us how politics and faith intersect and intertwine. More importantly, he demonstrates that without a grounding in faith, politics and society can lose their meaning and their way. As Christians, we are called to live in this world, but not be of this world. Therefore, we must use our faith to help shape our society and not let our society shape our faith. This was a very interesting, enlightening, and sometimes challenging read by Ratzinger, like all of his works. If you are involved in politics or studying politics at school, this will be of more benefit to you than the casual reader.