Summer 2004

How Christians Should Think About Politics. Reflections in a Time of War

Roberto Graziotto

“The real reality, the ‘natural’ form, of politics reflects the figure of Christ.”

There is a phrase in Holy Scripture that I think we should always bear in mind. The phrase says that Jerusalem was built “in angustia temporum.” We must labor our whole lives “in angustia temporum.” Difficulties are not a passing phase. We can’t wait for them to end as we would wait for a thunderstorm to calm down before getting to work. No, difficulties are the norm. We have to realize that we will spend our whole lives “in angustia temporum” in order to bring about the good we hope to accomplish.1

In angustia temporum: with these words, Charles de Foucauld attempts to express the difficulties that the Christian inevitably encounters in his apostolic work. But they also express, on a spiritual level, the core intuition of the present article. It is an intuition that is borne out by even the most cursory glance at the newspapers: whether we consider the domestic or the international scene, it is obvious that difficulties are not a passing phenomenon in the history of nations and of the world. Rather, they represent a state of affairs that we could call “historical” tout court, a state of affairs, in other words, that characterizes historical existence as such.2


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1. Charles de Foucauld, Der letzte Platz (Einsiedeln, 1957), 42.

2. For the category of “historical existence,” see Ernst Nolte, Historische Existenz. Zwischen Anfang und Ende der Geschichte? (Munich/Zurich, 1998). Needless to say, space constraints prevent me from discussing Nolte’s work in all its complexity. To do so would require discussing the distinction between history and prehistory, the concept of the end of history, the definition of Nazism as the enemy of historical existence in Europe, and the categories Nolte uses to express the unity of history: religion, power, the Left, etc. I cite the book only as a source for the idea of historical existence, the core idea that I try to articulate in the present article.