In much of what passes for political discourse, we focus on the exceedingly short term while ignoring the long term. We talk, for instance, about the sequester or the government shutdown, while ignoring the long-term imbalances in our budgets and finances -- the disconnect between a huge and growing class of net "takers" sucking at the government teat, and a now-smaller and shrinking class of net "makers" paying taxes to support the Leviathan welfare state. We talk, for instance, about the incompetent rollout of the Obamacare website without analyzing the long-term impossibility of providing world-class healthcare to 310 million Americans, most of whom can't afford it themselves, and many of whom are actively through lifestyle choices causing the very health problems they want others to pay to cure. We talk, for instance, about a nuclear "deal" with Iran, while ignoring, for the most part, the fact that a billion Muslims have a historic, millenium-old antipathy for Christianity and the West that no "deal" will change.
Having said all that, the real short-term/long-term problem in our discourse is that we talk about politics and political questions at all, rather than spiritual questions. We focus on Man on Earth, rather than Man in Eternity. In short, we focus on Man, not God.
Anyway, I was thinking these kinds of things reading the news today, because undoubtedly the most important thing to happen today was the publication of Pope Francis' first encyclical, called "The Joy of the Gospel." You can read it all here, but I'll just grab the first few paragraphs to give you a sense of what a different paradigm for thinking about the world really looks like:
THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”.