Sunday, January 17, 2010

First Loyalties

So I'm starting to think that patriotism is overrated. I'm not actually saying it's bad. It isn't bad to like one's country and want it to succeed. But it seems like it gets put higher on the lists of some than is actually healthy. I tried today to write out a list of where my actual loyalties lie, or at least if not, where they should lie if I were practicing virtuously the Christian ethic:

First loyalty: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, and with him the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Second loyalty: His pilgrim Church on Earth--when it functions as it ought, as the Christian church most fully revealed. (Which churches this applies to in my mind, and in what degree, depends on the degree to which they are one, holy, catholic and apostolic.)
Third loyalty: Family and friends. Except in rare circumstances, this loyalty ultimately goes in that order.
Fourth loyalty: Humanity in general.
Fifth loyalty: United States of America.

To be honest, I'm not even sure the USA gets spot #5. I think maybe that spot belongs to Creation. Part of my point is, it was an interesting exercise. But I definitely noticed, while doing it: My country comes out nowhere near the top! This doesn't mean I'm unpatriotic, but it does mean that government, however well intentioned or well executed, never takes precedence over humanity or God. Christ, the Church, and people take precedence. (A note on loyalty #2 is that the "as it ought" was added expressly to make clear that when the Church abuses people, as it, being a human institution, does, my loyalty is to the persons being abused rather than the malfunctioning church.)

Now to be fair there are two things on this list I'm unsure of. (1) I feel like maybe #3 and #4 should be combined, if I'm really talking about the Christian ethic, not just what I happen to do as a Christian. (2) I'm not sure if #2 and #3 are in their correct relative places; I already listed one special circumstance where #3 trumps #2. However, for theological reasons I believe they are at present in the correct place, in the sense that the demands of the community of faith, when it functions in correct proportion to its needs and the needs of humanity at large, take precedence over the demands of other institutions and persons.

There is one thing, however, I am sure of, which is that if all these things could be properly ordered in one's life, there would be the need for only one loyalty, with all others absorbed under its banner: Loyalty to our Lord Jesus.

If anyone else has a list of loyalties I'd love to know what they are. You can of course feel free to disagree completely with mine!


CJ said...

I'd be careful in saying that the Church is a human institution, because even the Church does not claim this. It is divinely instituted, and hence is a divine institution; however, it is staffed by human beings who invariably inject their error into what they are doing.

The Church was instituted by Christ, and the noun institution seems to specifically refer to this action of origin and would be definitively divine. I'm trying to think of the correct word to describe it as it truly is, but I can't right now. But I think you get the idea.

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

The special status I ascribe to the church is the reason it comes before 'humanity' as such. At first I thought that this was problematic, but it wasn't when I added "when it functions properly" or whatnot, because, when it functions properly--that is, as intended by God, without humans getting in the way, as Christ himself intended--the necessary loyalty to humanity is already present in the form of moral codes. So I do not at all mean it is a human institution, but it is painfully obvious that there are times that the de facto church (as opposed to the church at her best) falls short of what Christ intended. For that reason I added the qualifier that I added. Now I see where you got human institution from, but I certainly didn't by saying so mean to place it on the level with any other human institution--and that's not actually what I said. All that was implied in my phrasing was that there were "other institutions," certainly not that there was nothing super-human, if not divine, about the Catholic Church.

CJ said...

Clarification noted. I accept your apology.


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