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WHEN IS POLITICS WORTHY OF OUR ATTENTION AND WHEN IS IT A DIVERSION TOWARD WORLDLINESS?

From The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis):

How much should we be concerned with politics? To what extent should we indulge in the intense debates that pervade the "airwaves"?

If we adhere to the teachings of Thomas Kempis, the monk who -- quoting reputed locutions from the Lord -- penned the classic Christian work The Imitation of Christ, not very much; at any rate, less than we may think.

As you have almost certainly noted, from time to time, we ourselves carry political stories (when they have a spiritual or eschatological ramification). There are searing issues like abortion. People like Sister Lucia of Fatima made sure to vote!

But we wonder about it all. We can justify political talk to a degree but to what degree and at what price?

Says Imitation, which some describe as the most read Christian work outside of the Bible itself:

"SHUN the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity.

"Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men.

"Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another's conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and Divine consolation. Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly.

"When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify. Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God.

"WE SHOULD enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?

"Blessed are the simple of heart for they shall enjoy peace in abundance. Why were some of the saints so perfect and so given to contemplation? Because they tried to mortify entirely in themselves all earthly desires, and thus they were able to attach themselves to God with all their heart and freely to concentrate their innermost thoughts.

"We are too occupied with our own whims and fancies, too taken up with passing things. Rarely do we completely conquer even one vice, and we are not inflamed with the desire to improve ourselves day by day; hence, we remain cold and indifferent. If we mortified our bodies perfectly and allowed no distractions to enter our minds, we could appreciate Divine things and experience something of heavenly contemplation. The greatest obstacle, indeed, the only obstacle, is that we are not free from passions and lusts that we do not try to follow the perfect way of the saints."

[Resources: The Imitation of Christ]

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