“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights, nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King George’s council, Winston and his gang,’ it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyoacracy.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters, #52
“The greatest political storm flutters only a fringe of humanity; poets, like bricklayers, work on through a century of wars, and Bewick’s birds, to take an instance, have the air of persons unaffected by the French Revolution.”
— G. K. Chesterton, G. F. Watts (1904)
“Being in politics is like being a football coach; you have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it’s important.”
— Eugene McCarthy
“… The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to resist it.
“This saying of Christ removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law. The Church is not to be a national community like the old Israel, but a community of believers without political or national ties. The old Israel had been both – the chosen people of God and a national community, and it was therefore his will that they should meet force with force. But with the Church it is different: it has abandoned political and national status, and therefore it must patiently endure aggression …
“The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames …
“There is no deed on earth so outrageous as to justify a different attitude. The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer; he must let the evil person fall into Jesus’ hands.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on public office, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”
— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Tench Coxe, 1799
My Dear Friends:
Having set off something of a small firestorm with my quote from Jacques Ellul, I feel responsible to make one last attempt to rein things in and get back to the main point. Ellul was not talking about “Trump vs. Hillary” or “this November’s election.” How could he have been when he was writing in France in the 1950s? His point — and mine — is something at once far simpler and more universal in scope: namely, that politics is not the be-all and end-all of human existence; that there are other and better ways to do good to our neighbors; and that, when all is said and done, we are supposed to be following a Master who said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my followers would fight to __________ (you fill in the blank). But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
P.S. For more on my views regarding the pragmatic approach of practical politics, see my last entry under the The Pilgrim Path, “Impracticality,” September 30, 2016.
“In our society anyone who keeps himself in reserve, fails to participate in elections, regards political debates and constitutional changes as superficial and without real impact on the true problems of man … will be judged very severely by everybody. He is the true heretic of our day. And society excommunicates him as the medieval church excommunicated the sorcerer.”
“… This shows that man in his entirety is being judged today in relation to political affairs, which are invested with ultimate value. In our judgment everything has become political, and political affairs are the ultimate guidepost. Beyond them there is nothing …”
— Jacques Ellul, The Political Illusion.
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait …
Have you outstript the rest? Are you the President?
It is a trifle … they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
“You are a liar! …
“How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came on earth, you killed and nailed him on a cross. You thought he was dead, but you were mistaken … Everything I have said to you is the truth. The Great Spirit has inspired me and I speak nothing but the truth to you.”
— Tecumseh, Shawnee warrior and leader; spoken in council, August 15, 1810, to William Henry Harrison, then Governor of the Indiana Territory, later to become the ninth President of the United States.
Cited in Allan W. Eckert, A Sorrow In Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh, p. 630.
(From the Interrogation of John Bunyan before Paul Cobb, Magistrate)
Cobb: You know, saith he, that the Scripture saith, the powers that are, are ordained of God.
Bunyan: I said, yes, and that I was to submit to the King as supreme, also to governors, as to them that are sent by him.
Cobb: Well then, said he, the King commands you, that you should not have any private meetings; because it is against his law, and he is ordained of God, therefore you should not have any.
Bunyan: I told him, that Paul did own the powers that were in his day, as to be of God; and yet he was often in prison under them for all that. And also, though Jesus Christ told Pilate, that he had no power against him, but of God, yet He died under the same Pilate …
— from John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
I am (obviously) much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals.
— J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to the Houghton Mifflin Company, June 5, 1955
Nothing ever written goes so far as the devil’s words to Christ in Saint Luke concerning the kingdoms of the world. “All this power will I give thee and the glory of it, for that is delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will give it.” It follows from this that the social is irremediably the domain of the devil. The flesh impels us to say me and the devil impels us to say us; or else to say like the dictators I with a collective significance …
… I am well aware that the Church must inevitably be a social structure, otherwise it would not exist. But in so far as it is a social structure, it belongs to the Prince of this world …
… I do not want to be adopted into a circle, to live among people who say “we” and to be part of an “us,” to find I am “at home” in any human milieu whatever it may be … I feel that it is not permissible for me. I feel that it is necessary and ordained that I should be alone, a stranger and an exile in relation to every human circle without exception.
— Simone Weil, Letter II from Waiting For God, pp. 12-13
“In a larger sense, it is, I suppose, impossible to write any ‘story’ that is not allegorical in proportion as it ‘comes to life’; since each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien, letter to W. H. Auden, June 7, 1955
“A modern state can function only if the citizens give it their support, and that support can be obtained only if privatization is erased, if propaganda succeeds in politizing all questions, in arousing individual passions for political problems, in convincing men that activity in politics is their duty. The churches often participate in campaigns (without understanding that they are propaganda) designed to demonstrate that participation in public affairs is fundamentally a religious duty.”
— Jacques Ellul, Propaganda,
“The sheep-like tendency of human society soon makes inroads on a child’s unsophistications, and then popular education completes the dastardly work with its systematic formulas, and away goes the individual, hurtling through space into that hateful oblivion of mediocrity. We are pruned into stumps, one resembling another, without character or grace …”
“Schools are a menace, and city life is canned.”
— Painter and Illustrator N. C. Wyeth