Christ's Resurrection Basis of Social Doctrine
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
Christ’s resurrection changes everything.
We have heard this before. Every Easter we commemorate Christ’s resurrection. We acknowledge that He conquered death and gives everlasting life.
The life of a Christian, however, is not just about commemorating and acknowledging. A Christian life means constantly discovering and living the truth that Christ’s resurrection radically changes everything.
We are accustomed to thinking about what the resurrection means for us on a personal level, especially the destiny of our souls. We are less accustomed to thinking about what the resurrection means to how we relate to the rest of humanity. Yet Christ’s resurrection has implications for everything, including politics, economics, business, and public affairs. For that reason, the church’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church devotes several foundational paragraphs to explaining why God’s plan of salvation radically changes relations among humans and why it is the basis of the Church’s social teaching.
Christ’ resurrection means hope. This hope is more than a personal optimism that we will someday escape the pains of this world. It is an affirmation that God is with us on our journey and that His plan for salvation was accomplished by the cross and resurrection.
A life of hope means a politics of hope. The church teaches that our social life should “flow” from hope. Politicians, advertisers, and prognosticators of technology have, unfortunately, appropriated the word “hope” and diminished its true meaning. True hope is not found in people, products, or technology, but in God. Nevertheless, hope must shape how we engage with people, products, and technology.
This means that fear should not shape politics. Too much political rhetoric appeals to our fears rather than our hopes. I have seen, for example, people interpret benign legislation in the most negative light out of a pervasive fear of how the law might be used. In a life without hope, paranoia replaces prudence.
Closely related to politics of fear is politics of opposition and politics of resignation. There exist times, of course, when we must oppose something, such as threats to human life. There exist times when we must acknowledge our limits, both in human behavior and natural resources. Politics shaped by hope, however, cannot not begin and end there.
The resurrection also means that we should not make politics personal. Christ’s death and resurrection offered salvation “for all people and the of the whole person: it is universal and integral salvation.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 38.) Even creation shares in the resurrection. (Rom 8) This universality (catholicity) made possible by Christ lies at the root of the church’s social doctrine.
In some respects, the popular phrase “Jesus as my personal savior” has had unfortunate implications. It is true that being Christian means an encounter with “a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Deus Caritas Est, 1) The phrase “personal savior,” however, can have the tendency to reduce Christ’s act of salvation to a solely personal matter. This, in turn, fosters a destructive form of individualism.
Rather than individualism, the church teaches solidarity. The church’s emphasis on solidarity in social relations does not just come from the recognition that every human person is bestowed with dignity or the fact that all lives are interconnected. Although both statements are true, it is the binding of all humanity, and indeed all the world, in Christ’s death and resurrection that provides the foundation of church’s social teaching. The resurrection means that it will never be “just about me.”
Christ is risen. Indeed, He is risen.
And nothing is or ever will be the same.