by Frank Muller
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I recently finished listening to the book “Fortitude” by Dan Crenshaw. This book was recommended to me by a dear friend in the context of a conversation about the empowerment or more sadly disempowerment of human nature and character.
There are two primary divisions within humanity, both of which subscribe to faith. It is in my view that there are very few, if any, true atheists or agnostics. Everyone, at least in my view, subscribes to faith in some sort of way and attributes to that way power.
Let me attempt to illustrate. One camp believes in the authority of human power. This camp places faith into the hands of the rugged individualist who seems able to cure all ills or to the hands of an all-powerful government that can eliminate human suffering and sin. This camp takes as an article of faith that “if only” the right policies were enacted (as promulgated by the rugged individualist or government or company…) then poverty, despair, sin, crime, homelessness and every other social problem could be fixed.
As we think about this sentiment, we certainly detect the Christian ethos. Love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, thou shalt not kill…… This camp sees in human institutions or select people the ability to condemn or forgive and to save and bring about material peace and happiness to the victims of the world.
In some ways, this should sound pretty familiar to the Western ear so long accustomed to the Christian world view. This world view leads to the powerful individual who can promise to stop the evil and bring about healing. Every fresh wound or tragedy becomes the food to sustain righteous anger and create the energy to place into secular power a person who will affect those promises.
Of course, this philosophy encounters an uncomfortable truth. Not everyone will agree on the solutions and not everyone will want to pay. This creates the next path that the all-knowing individual or government can then blame those of another view and demand more power and censorship of those who dare to disagree. This creates an ever-widening circle of ever-growing promises by the powerful railing against the evils in the world and demanding more and more power.
Let me be clear in my suggestion. This camp is corporate, political, it is human. Humans of any political persuasion fall quickly prey to believe their candidate or politician or leader will keep their promises and if they cannot then it is because of those terrible people who disagree. Politicians are elected because of the boldness of their promises regardless of whether they are actually achievable or will even work.
This camp of humanity has been trying for more than five thousand years to get this to work and well, it does not namely because it destroys a person’s belief that we are each responsible for our own lives. Further, any attempt to fix the effect but ignore the cause is doomed to not only fail but usually makes the effect worse. The tyranny of good intentions baffles its’ purveyors as the evidence mounts about its’ failings so the next steps must become more and more extreme and power more and more concentrated.
The other faith camp is the one that believes in an all-powerful Creator who calls all to abide in the natural and moral law. This camp believes the world is indeed fallen and sinful and that it is only the reformation of the human heart to the created moral order that can restore our internal dignity and fortitude to persevere. This is the camp of fixing ourselves back to the moral order and helping others do the same and from this work the social ills and effects are slowly and inexorably improved.
It is precisely this effect that slowly turned a violent and barbaric world of atrocities, rampant evil, slavery, subjugation of women and on and on…. These things have been made better by the reformation of hearts that led to the reformation of institutions and the more just use of power.
This camp rejects that any human person is capable of “saving” the world or forming a new utopia on this Earth precisely because all people are sinful and from that sin division, blaming, victimhood, outrage, hate, bigotry, judgement, sexism and every other moral failing stems. This camp believes that only an all-powerful God can perform that miracle and He does it one heart, one soul at a time through his faithful. This camp believes that striving for holiness is the best way to contribute to the world and the second-best way is to help our families and friends and colleagues to do the same.
Politics and government cannot solve a sin and morality problem, only God working through the hearts and minds of people can do that. In our world, the secularization of society has led to many great material blessings but at the cost of our souls it increasingly seems. Prosperity has not stopped wars, invasions, rapes, murders, theft, greed, abuse of power, lying, cheating and stealing. In fact, the more government tries to eliminate one form of disorder it unintentionally creates others.
However, the evidence is clear and abundant that despite headlines the world is a better place today than ever before. We walk backwards in the direct proportion that we reject the moral order and demand the political power to enforce our will on others because of the consequence of the damage done by our rejection of that natural moral and created order.
Republicans and Democrats, Socialists and Communists, Anarchists and Fascists all subscribe to the ability of people and their created institutions to create the new Eden. They still keep trying and they still keep failing.
What has made the world a better place started 2000 years ago and is still alive and working today. We must repent and struggle against our sins and work to so order our lives to the created moral order our God made and revealed. This is the choice we each can make and the more of us that make that choice to love our Creator and his created more than ourselves the better world will slowly become.
Do we want to subscribe to the faith that government and the best of our people can create a utopia on Earth? Or do we want to subscribe to the Faith that says with God’s help we can create moral and righteous saints who will help to form a better world one soul at a time and perhaps, just perhaps, be judged in the end as worthy of eternal communion with the Creator because of that Faith?
Respecting peoples free will to choose the good works far better than taking their free will so as to enforce someone else’s subjective view of the good. However, that freedom to choose a lesser good or an evil has consequences, and it is here that the rubber hits the road. We must allow the consequences to occur but hurriedly be there to show them the way to peace and happiness by pointing them and ourselves always to the way of Truth.
Mr. Crenshaw writes an excellent book about how hard the path is to personal holiness and sanctity. First expressed in his service as a Navy Seal but refined most directly through the suffering of that training and ultimately the loss of one of his eyes in combat. Yet, through it all remains hope and courage, faith and forgiveness and perhaps a role model to consider in a personal and spiritual sense. When we learn to take our sins and tragedies and use them as lessons to see and do the good, our lives and others lives begin to transform.
May Peace be with us all.