GK Chesterton was and is and will be until kingdom comes, right about that.
As any sense of sin and evil and wrongdoing has receded into the background of our collective consciousness, I’ve noticed an alarming uptick in the propensity for people to sling vicious mud at one another all the while maintaining that notions like wrong, evil, and immoral fade into antiquity.
How can a culture embrace atheistic secularism wholesale, jettisoning any shared code of moral ethics, and expect to remain cohesive? How, if there are no objective standards of reality, of common decency, of truth tethered not in fads and feelings but in time-tested knowledge about reality and human nature, can we go forward?
The past several months have seemed increasingly insane. Because the world is going mad.
How can we converse in earnest about women’s safety, bemoaning the rise in rape culture while all the while continuing to protect the “rights” of hardcore pornographers and pimps in the entertainment industry?
How can we pontificate on the horrors of modern day slavery and sex trafficking while continuing to champion – and publicly fund – Planned Parenthood, perhaps the largest corporate enabler in the West of underaged victimization?
How can we champion inclusivity and acceptance for some disabled persons, while actively campaigning for the deaths of others?
Easy. Because we’ve jettisoned our individual consciences.
When human beings outsource morality, which was designed to operate in accordance with a well-formed conscience, we get the tyranny of the now.
When we allow the larger culture to dictate morality back to us rather than speaking wisdom and life into the culture from the knowledge contained in our own soul, meant to be the dwelling place of Wisdom, then we are met with chaos. An anarchy of opinions and competing worldviews, and an utter lack of consensus on what it means to be good, to do good, and to refrain from evil.
If you carry relativism to its logical conclusion, you arrive at a world so totally unmoored from reality that there is hardly room for a conversation about anything of substance.
When we stop informing our own hearts and forming our own consciences with something – Someone – greater than ourselves, we become enslaved to sin. Even if we won’t admit sin exists.
And only a world bereft of properly-formed consciences and selfish, small hearts (raises hand) could produce times such as those we are living in.
Rejecting the notion of sin has not liberated us, as was promised.
Plugging our ears and closing our eyes to the reality of evil has not rendered for us a more humane planet on which to dwell. If anything, the less religious our society becomes, the more cruel and the more brutal – however masked by convenience and technology – our lives become.
Jettisoning traditional religious practices and a stodgy, smothering Deist worldview was supposed to make us more free. So why then is our society coarsening as we strip away traditional values and reject moral norms?
Because we weren’t made to work this way.
Because original sin.
Because everything that’s wrong with the world we’re living in, past, present, and future, has its locus in human frailty. And the moment I forget that and try to remake myself in some benign, secular post-modern image is the moment I begin to lose sight of my neighbor’s humanity.
Of her needs and her pain. Of her fundamental orientation to love and to be loved, in her entirety. Of the truth that certain rights belong to her, utterly separate from my opinions or ideas about her, by virtue of her human nature itself, created in the image and likeness of a Creator.
Otherwise, if her rights depend upon my capricious appetites and ideas? Quite frankly, she doesn’t stand a chance.
Listen, I believe people can be good and just and noble apart from practicing a traditional religion. But only when they behave accordingly: justly, nobly, and with goodness. And noble pagans such as these are practicing the essence of Christianity, whether or not they acknowledge it as such. And that’s how civilizations flourish. Because without it, there is only suffering.
Plato, in his Republic, said as much: “In all of us, even in good men, there is a lawless wild-beast nature,” and “there is no conceivable folly or crime which . . . when he has parted company with all shame and sense, a man may not be ready to commit.”
This thing we’re giving a go right now here in 2016, with individual “rights” rooted in appetites and passions and personal opinions unmoored from reason or reality, is not gonna fly. And to the extent that I can properly form my conscience and then (the hard part) behave accordingly, I can help to save the world.
Because we each of us, simultaneously, both “what’s wrong with the world,” and also the antidote.
Chesterton was right, And Plato was too. We are what’s wrong.
And we can become what is right, to the extent that each of us makes the effort to form and then follow our consciences, based not in passing trends, but in timeless truths, which are far less likely to be persuaded that some lives, after all, may be more valuable than others.