I have recently accepted the honor of becoming a contributing editor at Ethika Politika, and I begin my contribution in that role today by launching a new channel (=magazine section): Via Vitae, “the way of life.” In my introductory article, “What Hath Athos to Do With New Jersey?” I summarize the goal of Via Vitae as follows:
Via Vitae seeks to explore this connection between the mystical and the mundane, liturgy and public life, the kingdom of God and the common good. While I value technical discussions of public policy and believe that the work of advocating for civil laws that reflect the law of God constitutes a true vocation, I see a lacuna in our discourse when it comes to the habits necessary to enable persons to live morally in the first place, however just or unjust the law itself may be.
To give an example, I briefly explore how a more enthusiastic embrace of the ascetic, spiritual disciplines of simplicity, almsgiving, and labor could benefit those among us who are in need:
For example, do you want to fight poverty? Who in your communities—whether friends, family, church, or otherwise—are in need? In the spirit of simplicity, do you or anyone in your community have anything that could help them that you could part with? Better yet, do you have the time or resources to give to others not simply to help them once, but to help empower them to stand on their own two feet in the future? In accord with the traditional, ascetic affirmation of the goodness of human labor, can your community help them find a job? Do you have any projects around your home you could pay them to do? More importantly, do you have the self-control and virtue necessary to make such sacrifices, or do you feel your heart within you shrinking back from such a challenge? If the latter, what you need is the way of life.
“The goal of Via Vitae,” I conclude, “is to explore the ways in which such otherworldly living can transform our hearts and communities for the life of the world.”
Reflecting on our government’s fiscal sequestration, I touched upon a very similar point yesterday here at the PowerBlog as well, writing,
The way out of this crisis, just like the way in, is not a matter of public policy alone but of the moral integrity of our culture. Certainly, our representatives need to find ways to cut spending, save what programs are truly needed and effective, and embrace more fiscally responsible and just policies, but we all could make it easier for them if we heeded the caution of one second century compendium of the Christian life: “Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving” (Didache 4.5).
While I intend to continue developing this line of thought at the PowerBlog as it pertains to Acton’s core principles, I would encourage anyone who is interested in a broader application of this idea to also take a look at Via Vitae. It is my conviction that a renewed emphasis on the way of life of the kingdom of God holds great potential for the common good as well.