Friday, July 29, 2011

It Seemed Like a Good Idea

The moral dimension lost its evidential quality with the crumbling of the fundamental Christian consensus. All that remained was a naked reason that refused to learn from any historical reality but was willing to listen only to its own self… This isolation [of reason] necessarily leads to cynicism and to the destruction of man. The real problem that confronts us today is reason’s blindness to the entire non-material dimension of reality.”

Values in a Time of Upheaval, 66

Reflection – Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Casting off the shackles of dogma and tradition, standing in the light of pure reason, pursuing free inquiry into reality unfettered, rejecting the obscurantist, superstitious, priest-ridden, hag-ridden, narrow-minded medievalism of our ancestors.
It seemed like a really really good idea. Surely we’ll get on better without all that nonsense, and come to a rational consensus about reality based on clear scientific principles and solid research!
Except that hasn’t happened. We have ideologues, for sure, who are working very hard to impose their particular view of a radically de-natured and de-gendered humanity on society, particularly through the time-honored method of indoctrination of children. We have a rather large population who do not accept this ideology, but who have scant rational argumentation against it, just a feeling that there’s sumpin’ wrong with it.
We have a great deal of sentimentality and emotion-driven arguments on all sides of any question. We have a large number of people (I suppose we’ve always had) who just do whatever the heck they want in any given situation—practical if not ideological relativists.
Through all of this two things happen. Moral life is increasingly privatized, driven solely to the sphere of personal decision, largely made on emotional reasons, since there is no clear way to reason about these questions. But since moral life is essentially social life, and different individual ethos come into conflict on a daily basis, more and more frequently governments, usually under the influence of the above-mentioned ideologues, have to regulate any and all public discourse and conduct.
And so we have the phenomenon of atomized individuals holding whatever private beliefs they ‘feel’ are true, but finding themselves increasingly controlled in their public actions and speech by ever-expanding government regulations.
It seems that this is what happens when we shut out of our moral reasoning any reference to a higher reality, to the non-material aspect of reality. To God, ultimately. When the kingdom of God, the sovereignty of God is wholly excluded from the calculations of man, then we are left with the kingdoms of the earth, clashing, grappling, fighting for power, for who will control, who will make the rules, who will make their own will prevail.
For Christians, the response is not to take up a gun and start blasting away (literally or figuratively) at whoever differs from us, like that Norwegian lunatic. Rather, it is to show forth the goodness and beauty of the kingdom of God, to show by our lives that it is a kingdom not only of truth and justice, but of mercy and tenderness. It is thus (and, I believe, only thus) that we can slowly re-introduce into our post-modern chaotic world the notions of law, truth, objective morality, and all that other stuff that it seemed like such a good idea, once upon a time, to throw away.