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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not Any Dream Will Do

The following quote is taken from Francis A. Schaeffer's book How Should We Then Live?

"Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state."

The Romans had a system and the system was based on structure. In the short run most any structure with some semblance of inner integrity can survive. That is, persistence and consistency together can provide a certain momentum. But is the firm belief of many, including me, that organizational structure is not amenable to relativism. That is, given the nature of mankind, not any and all systems will do. And not only the nature of man is at issue here, but the nature of man within what can only be called a context of organizational physics. These principles of organizational structure are indeed in the end ineluctable.

Whether one is a believer in God or not (or as some would fancy a grandfather in the sky) is in this sense quite beside the point. A people I suppose do not have to believe in a supreme being so long as they humble themselves before the sanctity of structure – not any structure, but the only tenable structure with long-term durability for human interaction – a structure built upon love. For the human being, not just any nest will do; for nurture has its requirements.

As a Christian I must revert in this discussion to my concept of a God of love. Now love has implications – an ineluctable set of disciplines. Throughout Scripture we see repeated failures of societies that forgot this and erect idols of their own choosing. In other words, they forget the disciplines of love that require structure imposed by organizational physics and in one form or another try to escape the inescapable. They strive to escape the hard fact that only organizational structure based upon the disciplines of love can long endure.

All addictions are at base attempts to escape reality – to escape the truth. In the Bible we learn that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil. Likewise the Romans desire for affluence was commendable for it represented a society that wanted to achieve a good measure of material abundance. But never must affluence be lusted after at all costs. For then affluence becomes an idol that supersedes and usurps the unsentimental necessity and requirements and disciplines of love. An obsession with sex rather than love is one of the oldest forms of escapism seeking to flee from bedrock emotional reality and human responsibility. Likewise, the fundamental basis of art is creativity (and by art I refer not only to the fine arts but to the scientific and industrial arts). People can become so recalcitrant vis-à-vis creativity that they substitute for creativity its very opposite – disorder, death and destruction. Mankind has certainly had its share of nightmares in this regard.

I have written elsewhere regarding the persistent attempts of mankind throughout history to escape the plain fact that the doctrine of man’s own devising regarding the distribution of wealth – namely, that possession is 9/10 of the law – is a craven and reprehensible form of escapism. (The Bible teaches us that in the last analysis we don’t possess any material thing.) The undeniable reality is that wealth has widespread sources but tends to be filtered into a relatively few hands. Mankind will never ascend beyond the plagues of war and social upheaval until it looks this fact squarely in the face and deals with it within the resources supplied and required by the disciplines of love. I have said it before and I will say it again with some national pride, that America will be the one to transcend this Gordian knot for it is a nation in which love and respect is extensive and persistence and patience embellish goodwill. It has not yet “grown-up” and cynically given up its earnest desire for justice – both social and economic. But it must turn from escapism in all its forms (which can be quite sophisticated and intimidating in appearance) and humble itself before Providence – the Providence that was instrumental in the nation’s initial creation. Will government play a role – a big role – in the redistribution of wealth to more clearly reflect its sources? Of course it will; it is its sacred duty to do so. Controversy will swirl aplenty for the idol of capitalism will always tempt us with the excesses, delusions, and the overreach of doctrinaire egocentrism.

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