There has been a spate of people taking pictures of themselves and posting them to apologize to the world for the election of George Bush. Well, I'm not sorry and I disavow any such apologies made on my behalf.
On this matter two things: first, get over it. (1) It simply isn't the world's business who we elect in our government. I care very little for what someone in France thinks about who we elected, just as I hope that someone in France gives very little consideration to my thoughts about their candidates for government. I don't live there, I don't have any insight. I'm neither entitled nor equipped for an opinion. (2) Even were it a matter in which world opinion weighs in--we've had worse, we will have worse again. I'm not thrilled with the election of George Bush--but overall I regard it as the lesser of two evils--and all of this pandering to world opinion simply reinforces that view.
But the more important matter I wish to emphasize is a continuation of yesterday's post. What can we do about it? I'm not falling all over myself that Bush was reelected. I have to admit to a huge sigh of relief, but that's because I don't particularly care for change. Bush's policy decisions seem at times questionable, but every time I think that I remind myself that I do not sit in the oval office day to day, nor do I have access to the information that flows through that office every day. I don't know what his motives are or were, nor can I guess at any number of unclear actions or meanings. What's more, that really isn't my concern. My concern is to function as a good citizen of the United States, critiquing and petitioning the government as necessary, but supporting my country first and foremost, no matter what my opinion of any given individual. I endured 8 years of Clinton with the attitude of "respect the office, if not the man." The least I can say of Bush is that I have not been forced back to that gambit. Some things that have happened have been distasteful, and perhaps unnecessary. But the reality is that neither I know, nor does the world for all its second-guessing.
So what can I do? I can pray. As Marion pointed out yesterday, slightly jumping the gun on what I was going to say but never got around to, the essence of the virtuous Christian life lies in prayer. We cannot attain virtue through sheer strength of will. As Paul tells us, "I do the things I would not do, I do not do the things I would do, and I have no strength in me." Jesus tells us , 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." So it is with us. All the willpower in the world will not keep us from sliding eternally backwards. That is not because we are bad, but because we are fundamentally flawed. In some the flaws seem less of an obstruction. (See Tom's post (Disputations) yesterday about St. Catherine of Siena.) We call these people Saints. For the rest of us, it's a case of the Red Queen's race. We run just as fast as we can to stay in the same place. Our will must be aligned with what God desires from us--no question; however, that in itself is insufficient. We must be strengthened, daily, by grace. Without grace we are characters in a Shakespearian tragedy--marked by a fatal flaw--each individually wrapped and bound up in our weakness and on the express freight for Hell. For one it will be pride, for another envy, for a third lust--but the destination is ultimately the same--slavery to sin and death.
Only through grace, transmitted through the sacraments, and through the strengthening that comes through regular prayer and time spent with God, can we hope to change our ways. To use another metaphor, grace is the corrective lens in our flawed Hubble telescope. Grace sharply focuses our attention on the contiguous but not full tangible Kingdom of God--that Kingdom which is right at hand. And grace strengthens the will which is further strengthened by time in prayer--abiding with God.
Prayer is a source of continual replenishment of grace. Prayer is ultimately the one road out of the terrible place we live without it. We are weak, paralyzed, dying, and we do not know it. Grace shines a light on our pitiful condition, and in so doing, makes it possible for us to change.
Prayer opens the soul to receive grace which heals it. Prayer also opens the spirit to hearing what God has to say and to acting on it.
So if you're upset with the election, if you're annoyed with our limited selection of candidates, if you think everything is going to Hell in a handbasket--you have a recourse. Live a virtuous life--contribute to the public good your own private good. And the best way to do this is through constant prayer and through the life of grace in the sacraments.
There are no private actions, there are no private sins. Everything we do affects the world around us in substantive ways. The sooner we start acting on this knowledge and understanding, the sooner we will be able to stop complaining about the poor platforms offered us. If enough Christians are sufficiently discontented to really pray and live lives that lead to good, there will be a change in the system. That's not to say that we will achieve Utopia--that's impossible, but we will make life somewhat better here for more of the people around us. We will do so not through our strength but through the love of God which strengthens all our thoughts and actions. More than that, the Love of God which strengthens our very being--such a love makes us more real than the world we set out to oppose--because it situates us in the very heart of reality.