Ambiguous non-participation

My piece today over at Catholic Thing, suggesting the Church should get the hell out of the United Nations, rather than continue trying to get the United Nations out of hell, was written in superficial opposition to almost everyone else who writes there. Needful to say, I have a very high regard for those people: that’s what makes a quarrel worth having. I won’t go any farther into the arguments over the observer status of the Holy See, and all the “judgement calls.” I will happily concede that the desire of every liberal-progressive to throw us out made a strong prima-facie argument for staying. That is why, after all, I continued to write my column for the Ottawa Citizen, for at least a decade after I’d decided that I’d rather spend my life building igloos on Bylot Island.

As Anthony Esolen says in the Comments (over there), the Church has spent her whole earthly life, “dealing with it,” so to say:

“The Church has understood in all times and places that she will have to deal with thugs and imbeciles. Sometimes the prudential judgement is to consign them to oblivion, but sometimes it is to deal with them, to influence them to do some good or, far more likely, to dampen their eagerness to do evil. What she should do with the UN and its vicious bureaucracies is not clear to me.”

That is how things go in the world of Power, in which we must not forget we are actually living: the one that is being fought over, by two angelic armies. For Lucifer is an angel, too, both defeated and — undefeated in this vale of tears. Nor could we defeat him, excerpt on his own terms, by which he would win; nor can he escape defeat. This may sound like nonsense to most of the people currently alive, at least between the nearest two oceans. It is a “concept” that requires more thought than is currently available on any public stage.

Whatever the decisions made, by whatever Catholic authorities, or whatever men of goodwill, operating in this unpromising environment, and carrying the burden of their own sins — they and we require some aloofness. We must hold ourselves a little free from the engagement. We must seek time to write our love letters, “back home,” to send in these letters the story of our hearts, to send home the news. It is true we will be finally cut down in the crossfire, and this gives a certain edge to them, a certain “petitionary” aspect to our prayers. O Lord, save us. O Lord save the people we love.

The phrase which came to mind was, “ambiguous non-participation.” To participate by not participating, as it were. Ideally, to fully participate by fully not participating. (Lao Tzu Christianized, if you will.) To fully understand that “this is war,” and that war consists mostly, in the heat and in the din, of trying to discern orders. So that I don’t mean don’t fight, our earthly battles; for sure we should man all the gunnery positions, and deny the Enemy his every advance. But there is also the moment when the mails arrive, and: “News from a foreign country came, as if my treasures and my joys lay there.”