Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Augustine of Hippo and the GOP

Columnist David Brooks finds parallels in today's Republican party and the 4th century struggles of the Catholic Church. At that time, the Church was in turmoil. On one side was the Donatists, who advocated doctrinal purity and defending the faith against hostile forces through a core community of committed believers. On the other was Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who started a very different revival movement:

"Augustine, as his magisterial biographer Peter Brown puts it, 'was deeply preoccupied by the idea of the basic unity of the human race.' He reacted against any effort to divide people between those within the church and those permanently outside.

He wanted the church to go on offense and swallow the world. This would involve swallowing impurities as well as purities. It would mean putting to use those who are imperfect. This was the price to be paid if you wanted an active church coexisting with sinners, disciplining and rebuking them.

In this view, the church would be attractive because it was hungering and thirsting for fulfillment. Far from being a stable ark, the church would be a dynamic, ever-changing network, propelled onto the streets by its own tensions. Augustine had this deep, volatile personality. His ideal church was firmly rooted in doctrine, but yearning for discovery."

Brooks points out that the "Donatist tendency — to close ranks and return defensively to first principles — can be seen today whenever a movement faces a crisis.".

However: "This second tendency is also found in movements that are in crisis, but it is rare because it requires a lack of defensiveness, and a confidence that your identity is secure even amid crisis."

The Donatist tendency is obvious in Republican reaction to last fall's election. Is there a St. Augustine who will lead them to a renewal?

Read the complete article here:

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