One of my favorite expressions, when I talk to myself, is to accuse myself of “making a virtue of necessity.” From what I can tell, my use of the phrase is a little bit idiosyncratic, which is okay so long as I understand myself.
What I mean when applying that phrase to myself is roughly “C’mon, Tipsy. Don’t be so full of yourself. You can’t help doing X. Don’t assume that people who do non-X are worse than you for it.”
I’m not trying to convince myself of relativism when I say that. I’m talking about things like my not being highly motivated by money. It would be really easy to morph that into the virtue of being “spiritual,” rather than “materialistic,” and to despise those who are more motivated by money. But that would be a whole lot of people to despise.
For another instance, I’ve never flirted with, let alone slept with, any “other woman.” But let’s get real: I’ve been overweight and a little homely that whole time, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the women who’ve come on to me over four decades, including two Amarillo hookers who apparently specialized in menages a trois and who mistook me for a guy with discretionary funds to spend. So I don’t really have grounds to boast of consummate chastity, either.
Which brings me to my main topic: making a virtue of my necessary political dispassion.
Many of my Facebook friends, and friends in the more concrete world, are pretty fired up politically, to the point, with many, of Obama Derangement Syndrome. A handful are lefties, and are still recovering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.
But I really need to remember that my lack of fire in the belly politically is the result of 15 years of increasing questioning of almost every premise by which I’d lived and thought for the previous 49 years:
- A single monograph took away my false assurance that all the important answers about my Christian cognitive base could be found in careful personal reading of the Bible. This is one of the major epiphanies of my religious life, and it has led me to a better place. But it also took away a source of false assurance about current events.
- While I’ve found natural law an attractive way of approaching “the social issues” in our common life, I’m aware that it flowered after the Great Schism, with roots in scholasticism, so I’m a little bit guarded about it.
- I’ve recently come to appreciate the pervasive influence of gnosticism and nominalism in culture, including some of my own ways of thinking.
- Now the generally admirable people at Distributist Review are questioning the reliability of Lord Acton and the Institute named after him, accusing them of being gnostic and Manichean.
Maybe I’ve stumbled into a political agnosticism that’s sound and sane.
I’m sure politics and elections matter, at least a little. I’m sure it’s a privilege, in some sense, two have the chance to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But I also know that every Sunday I sing the Psalm that includes “put not your trust in Princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation,” and I’m fairly well convinced now that there is no correct “Orthodox political position” on more than a handful of issues.
So maybe, just maybe, my political dispassion is a virtue of sorts. When I poke fun at candidates, I’m seriously trying to spread that virtue around.