Too heavenly minded to be of earthly use?
In some Christian circles, and indeed many canonised saints, there is the view that the affairs of this world are not worth the bother. Some have no interest in public policy, business, economics, popular culture or sports. They advocate a 100% attention to Christ, at the expense of any time, effort or thought on other "worldly" matters.
For many years I was under this kind of influence, starting with a church youth group and extending through to a Bible college for missionaries. To be a top-notch Christian, one had to be dedicated wholeheartedly to certain sanctioned "spiritual" causes, such as prayer, church and missionary work. Other activities were really second-rate.
The reality however is that the problems of this world still have an impact, even on heavenly minded individuals. One still has bills to pay, employment to gain and votes to cast.
I later discovered that some of these heavenly minded people had little opinion to express about worldly matters, they were often ignorant of the issues that were affecting the "normal" people around them. Obviously this wouldn't apply to all saintly people, but I observed it enough to no longer think that they were people worthy of emulating across all spheres of their lives.
I thought to myself, why couldn't one be a prayerful person, but still be aware and interested in the daily things that affect our lives?
To this end, one of the problems I've found trying to come to grips with how the world ticks is that the information the mass media broadcasts or publishes is not helping me understand what's going on.
Often what's needed is an historical appreciation of the issues that crop up in the news so that you know where current conflicts and debates fit into the scheme of things.
One source of useful information I recently discovered for geo-political news and analysis is Stratfor, which some people refer to as the 'private CIA,' but they seem to be more right than their government counterpart!
To give one example I found helpful, a recent Stratfor report concerned the insurgency in Iraq, where they analysed how the Sunni and Shia groups lined-up across ethnic and political divides, which provided a complete framework by which to view and appreciate American and Iranian foreign policy.
If one doesn't have a framework (philosophy, politics, economics, etc.), then all the tid-bits that appear on the evening news are disjointed sound-bytes of entertainment.
The goal of all this understanding is to enable me to be a more responsible citizen, and where appropriate, respond in ways that are more advantageous politically, economically and even spiritually.
B.T.W. I recently read the life story of the patron saint of Switzerland St. Nicholas von Flue. Here was a man who seemed to get balance between earthly and heavenly affairs, even though these significant events occured at different points in his life. "At the age of 50, after a successful political career, Nicholas decided to live the life of a hermit. With a reputation for being a holy and wise man, Swiss leaders of the day sought out this hermit's advice. In 1481 he helped Switzerland avoid a civil war by negotiating the inclusion of Fribourg and Soleure in the Swiss Confederation."