Thursday, May 1, 2014

Catholic Social Teaching - Not Enlightened Self-Interest

When I taught a variation of this course [on Catholic social teaching] back in 2007, I was much more cautious than I am today, and took a much more “apologetic” route, trying to help everyone see that, really, when the Church says you should be ecologically sensitive, or against war, you can accept either position without reference to the theology and without disrupting your life much. If you don’t believe in God, you should still reuse your plastic bags or buy more efficient light bulbs because both acts are ultimately about saving you money, and who doesn’t want more money? I was, in other words, trying to help people see that Christian social teaching is really a form of enlightened bourgeois self-interest.

In the last few years, however, I’ve come to realize more and more that there is no escaping the fact that real Christianity, when lived out fully, makes you look like a weirdo, a misfit, and a loser in the eyes of many. At the same time, I’ve come to see more deeply than I had previously just how much of Christianity in North America is held hostage by bourgeois categories and expectations which hide from us the strange, appalling, and radical demands of the gospel.


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