Elections 2004 Crossroads

Path to a Judgment: The Politics of Desire
With this issue, Traces begins a series of articles on topics likely to emerge as important in the United States Presidential election in November 2004. This issue deals with human rights. Future issues will deal with economic justice, social justice, religious liberty, respect for life, the family, education, and world leadership. Different authors will discuss these issues from different political perspectives. Publication in this series does not mean that Traces necessarily shares all points of view. Our purpose is to promote a study, reflection, and discussion that will lead to a judgment

Christians do not believe politics will bring about the salvation of the world. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of Man, and He said it very clearly: “My kingdom is not of this world” ( Jn 18:36). The Church’s mission continues that of Christ. Therefore, “if the Church were to proclaim that its aim was to take over the human effort of self-advancement, self-expression, and human searching, it would be acting like the kind of parents… who are deluded into thinking that they can resolve their children’s problems by taking their places. This would be an illusion for the Church, too, because it would mean falling short of its educational task” (cf. L. Giussani, Why the Church?, p. 155).
Jesus came, He said, in order to give witness to the Truth: the truth about our humanity and its origin and destiny, the truth about the reality of everything that touches our lives and moves us to action, the truth about the meaning of the circumstances that shape our lives. The search for this truth is called the “religious sense.” Therefore, “the Church’s direct task is not to provide man with solutions to the problems he encounters on its way…. Its proclaimed function in history is to educate us to the religious sense” (Op. cit.).
This does not mean that the Christian faith can be set aside when we are politically involved. The purpose of politics is to guide the use of power to satisfy those desires of the heart that make us human. It is precisely through these desires for truth, happiness, and beauty that the religious sense is expressed. Since the religious sense expresses itself through the desires that make us human, an “education of the religious sense” will lead to a politics that responds to all of them, a politics guided by respect for the full truth about the human person. This is the teaching of the Church.
When politics is not responsive to the full truth about the human person, it becomes a battle for power between the powerful. Its purpose would be not to satisfy, but to control the desires that spring from our humanity. “In this way, human desires–and, therefore, human values–are essentially reduced. The reduction of the desires of men and women, of their needs and values, is systematically pursued” (L. Giussani, “Assago 1987: Religious Sense, Work, and Politics,” in “The ‘I’, Power, Works”, Editions Nuovo Mondo, 2000, p. 24). This reduction of desire allows the State to be the ultimate source of our social cohesion and all human activity. This is the end of freedom.
Instead, political action should support the creation of a “culture of responsibility” (L. Giussani, “Assago 1987,” op. cit.) reflecting the priority of society over the State in the recognition given to “intermediary communities” that reflect the creative liberty of the human person. The creation of a multitude of such communities of “creativity from below” is “a matter of life and death in the life of a people” (L. Giussani, “Desire and Politics,” in L’Io, il Potere, e le Opere [The”I,” Power, and Works], Marietti 1820, 2000, p. 172).
“ The recreation brought about by Christ is the truth of creation” (L. Giussani, “Our Indestructible Company,” Traces, Vol. 6, No.1, 2004). The encounter with Christ awakens our human desires in the totality of their amplitude as oriented to Infinity. Thus, we discover the full truth of our humanity. (Recall Vittorino’s claim: “When I encountered Christ, I recognized myself as human.”) This experience is the beginning of our contribution to politics–a politics grounded on the desires engraved into the human heart by the Creator, not on ideological preconceptions of the right, left, or middle of the political spectrum.