George Handley on Remaining Engaged

by Jason A. Kerr

It’s been very interesting to read George Handley’s letter to a student (part 1, part 2, part 3) as I’ve been trying to write over here about mere catholicism and my own flawed efforts at implementing it. Handley seems, among other things, to be attempting a rationale for continued engagement amidst the manifest imperfections in society and its institutions (including the LDS church), as well as in oneself. In the final installment, he quotes Wendell Berry to the effect that these engagements ought to be humble and small. Berry—and by extension Handley—urges us to avoid the tendency to see total or near-total revolution as the answer to problems of societal magnitude. Within my own framework, the temptation to revolution rests on the problematic belief that I possess sufficient wisdom and clarity of understanding to re-order society in a way that will not ultimately prove destructive. My resistance to this belief produces my skepticism of the ideological will to power—including with respect to mere catholicism itself.

I find Handley’s letter very helpful to my own thinking. Still, I wonder what you, dear readers, think about his rhetorical stance toward the student. What can we learn from it, by examples either positive or negative, about putting mere catholicism into practice? The point in asking this is not to judge Handley, who obviously wasn’t setting out to be a mere catholic per se, but rather to give whatever community has gathered around this blog a chance to think about the practicalities of being a mere catholic. (Ok, so maybe I’m trying to crowdsource my own education here, since I feel like I still have a long way to go before I can really manage to practice what I preach.)

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