I admit it. I’m stumped. Back in 2004 I was in full agreement with Alasdair MacIntyre over the issue of voting.

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives.

But now, with the 2012 election underway, I came across this very proactive piece by Luke Bretherton, “To vote or not to vote? Bipartisan culpability and the defence of society.”

Contrary to MacIntyre, Bretherton states, “to refuse to vote in the face of such basic choices is to refuse to live in history, and the necessary and inevitable ambiguity of life in the earthly city.”

From what I can gather, Bretherton argues for a radical Augustinian stance when it comes to engaging politics, whereby the coordinates for sorting through the issues at hand are the two cities, judgment and the ability to discern the common good despite liberalism’s drive to occlude any such notion. This later reason alone is enough for Brethereon to make the case that American Christians must vote. For the election – at least ostensibly – is between the common good and the reality of society vs. a political vision that privileges atomistic individualism (which, as Phillip Blond argues, turns out to be another form of collectivism all over again). Again Bretherton: “another issue at stake is whether or not to vote for a party that thinks there is such a thing as society. The GOP seems vehemently committed to the idea that the only ontological reality there is, is the individual and the choices he or she make. These choices are then aggregated by means of a market system, and the outcome determines what should be done and what counts as true, good and beautiful.” This “revolutionary programme,” Bretherton continues, entails “a fundamental re-shaping of society, it also signals the abolition of social relations, tradition and customary practices as having any public force. Paul Ryan’s upholding of Ayn Rand as a major influence signals this loud and clear.”

How would MacIntryre respond to this? Bertherton, by the way, is no liberal theologian, but works with the grain of radical, decentralized politics, promoting a political vision fundamentally rooted in the Anglo-Catholic social tradition.

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